In Italy, fall is the most magical season of the year when fruits and vegetables are still kissed by the sun, providing foodies with a variety of flavors. The warm-colored woods offer fragrant mushrooms, chestnuts and mixed berries; while the fields yield grapes, apples, pumpkins and prickly pears. Italians love to celebrate the flavors of each season with delicious food festivals called sagre (singular form: sagra).
A sagra is not only a simple festival where food is sold: there are tastings, contests, dedicated menus, music and activities for children. Some food festivals, such as the Alba International Truffle Fair and Eurochocolate, have become famous at international level, attracting large crowds. But in most cases, the sagra is an event that reunites the resident community and some visitors eager to learn about local traditions and products. In fact, this kind of event offers a fantastic learning opportunity for those interested in history, harvests, seasonality and even folklore – as many sagre have their roots in old country fairs or pagan festivals.
If you would like to enjoy some experiential tourism in Italy – tasting its authentic seasonal delights while also interacting with the local culture – we have some fun ideas in store for you!
Between truffles, ancient crafts and fairytales…
Looking for the famed white truffle? If you would rather avoid the crowds of Alba in Piedmont, you can actually enjoy this prized treasure in a hidden gem, making your Italian foodie experience extra “precious”. In Emilia Romagna, the medieval hilltop town of Sant’Agata Feltria hosts the National White Truffle Fair every Sunday throughout the month of October. Food stands sell truffles and other fall products offered by the Apennines, such as mushrooms, chestnuts, honey and medicinal herbs. Specialties made with truffles and mushrooms can be savored in the restaurants and at the stands, while several exhibitions and shows are held throughout the event.
Sant’Agata Feltria is home to an interesting Country Crafts Museum, which takes you back in time and makes it easy and fun for you to understand the local history and traditions. Housed in the sixteenth-century convent of San Girolamo, the Museum owes its existence to a group of local inhabitants who were anxious to discover their roots. Among its treasures is an altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Jerome, Christina, Francis and Antony of Padua, commissioned by the Fregoso family who ruled the town.
As well as an exhibition with articles of local crafts, the Museum holds workshops where anyone may acquire manual skills and learn the ancient rural crafts passed on by the oldest inhabitants. Skills taught include cabinet-making for furniture restoration in “Arte Povera” style; pottery, weaving and iron-working. There is even a bookbinding school that uses local paper made with natural products. The Museum pays special attention to children and adults with disabilities, who can also join the workshops. In fact, it intends to continue the teachings of Olinto Marella, a priest who gathered and helped educate orphans, disabled people and the destitute in the former convent in the 1950s.
If you are traveling with children, they will most certainly love putting their creativity and skills to the test at the Crafts Museum. They will also love another place that Sant’Agata Feltria treasures proudly… a place where their (and your) imagination will run wild! The Fortress of Fairy Tales (Rocca delle Fiabe) is a museum that preserves and highlights positive values through the world of fables. Each room brings tales to life through books, videos, animations, multimedia devices and a virtual library. The museum is located inside the Fregoso Fortress, an imposing building dating back to the 10th century.
Sustainability among wine and cheese itineraries
Have you ever heard of Morbegno? Probably not. It is a little town in the Valtellina Valley, near Lombardy’s border with Switzerland. In 2007, it started a project to become a leader in sustainability, by involving the population in a participatory design process called “Morbegno 2020”. The objective is to design a vision of what the people living in Morbegno want to create in the long term, and to choose the strategic path to move towards that vision from the present reality.
If you are enthusiastic about sustainability, about visiting places far from mass tourism and about savoring strong flavors… there is no better place than Morbegno!
During fall, specifically in October, the town hosts two amazing food festivals. One is called “Bitto in Centro”, and celebrates the local cheese produced only in the summer months when the cows feed on the high alpine meadows of the Valtellina. The Bitto cheese received the DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) recognition in 1996. During the sagra, you can also learn about how it is produced according to traditional methods promoted by the Slow Food Movement. Make sure not to miss the most typical dish, or bitto melted over pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta)!
We recommend full-bodied, aged red wines to along with your bitto tastings. But to find out all the possible combinations for yourself, then there is another perfect foodie initiative for you! “Morbegno in Cantina” involves a series of wine itineraries inside the ancient cellars, wineries and vineyards of the Valtellina. This event was created more than 20 years ago by three locals, and has become one of the most popular appointments in the province of Sondrio.
Experiential Travel for Foodies in Italy
What kinds of flavors do you dream of tasting in the foodie paradise that is Italy? What are your passions and interests? What would you like to learn from locals when visiting a particular territory? We love to create experiential journeys crafted from scratch in hidden gems off the beaten path. Contact Italian Special Occasions DMC and, together, we can create your bespoke experience based on your own wishes and needs!