Arguably this is the best time of year to visit Italy for days are hot like summer but nights are cold, and in the mountains of the Apennines there is a refreshing breeze even in the heat of the sun.
Italy is perhaps the country most famous for food, and if you like harvest festivals it is a paradise in autumn.
The most important festivals for Italians are generally the truffle festivals. The season kicks off with the white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) festivals in October and November.
The white truffle is the most prized and commands the highest prices -- in 2006 it is reported to have sold for the same price as gold. The taste is subtle but lingering and summons the musty and savoury associations of Italian harvest such as wild boar, nuts, wine, porcini and even sensations of bright autumn leaves with rich, decaying vegetation underfoot. All this and an indescribable "more" factor, is packed into the taste experience.
Tourists flock to the most publicized festival in Piedmont, the Alba White Truffle Fair.
Yet discerning visitors will find the same quality of truffles with lower prices and an all Italian, non-commercial experience in Central Italy, at festas like Diamanti a Tavola -- Diamonds on the Table -- the white truffle festival in Amandola, now in its 19th year.
Few people realize that most truffles are cultivated now. This is primarily due to change of land use or degradation of land and malpractice harvesting in the wild.
Central Italy, where Amandola is located in the Sibillini Mountains, has the most expertise cultivating truffles. Apparently, the Marche region of the Sibillini Mountains was the first place where truffles were cultivated in Italy, beginning in 1932 and then blossoming in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to Mannozzi Torini, a regional inspector belonging to the Corpo Forestrale dello Stato, according to La Tartuficoltura nelle Marche (ASSAM 2012).
What is important today is how these mountains represent a hub or a heartland of truffle culture. The Central Apennines is singular for offering truffles fresh all year round, as S. Fioravanti (2015) relates, in a wonderful book, Piceno Terra di Tartufi, Guida alla conoscenza, wherein he describes there are nine indigenous varieties which can be consumed fresh in every season. Although famous for the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) a significant percentage of white truffle (Tuber magnatum) is both cultivated and harvested wild here.
Notice how these wild truffles in photo are less "perfect" in their shape and texture than cultivated ones. The taste is still great. Professional truffle hunters, like Roberto sell these wild truffles in his food shop on the main street in Amandola.
The real advantage for visitors is the joy of participating in an authentic Italian experience without tourism with lower prices than northern Italy for food, accommodation, truffle excursions, etc. The perfect setting in the Monti Sibillini National Park offers a very high level of environmental equilibrium. Amandola, like all of these mountain villages, has a history of habitation beginning long before the Romans and Christianity. The mountain views from the pinnacle of this hill town are outstanding and create an evocative backdrop against the medieval bell tower and ancient palaces.
It's all the more beautiful because there are no buses of tourists, no highways and the mountains around Amandola are without ski lifts and roads everywhere.
For the first time Diamanti a Tavola is combined with the annual Philosophy Festival.
As testimony to the uniqueness of this village -- because every town has food festivals -- Amandola is the only mountain village in Italy to offer a festa of philosophy. Here you can learn about the philosophy of food and meet contemporary Italian philosophers.
Mountains, philosophy and white truffles with great local wines -- what combination could be better?
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This small medieval village is the home of the National White Truffle Fair held every Sunday in October. Sant'Agata Feltria also houses the oldest wooden theater in Italy and an 11th century walled castle that make the town look like the setting for a fairy tale. Photo: Dr. Irene S. Levine
Students prepare their recipes with foie gras and truffles, on January 15, 2011, in Sarlat, southwestern France, in a competition for the Jean Rougie gastronomic trophy. This event takes place during the Sarlat Truffles Festival. (Romain Perrocheau/AFP/Getty Images)
Bill Collins of Oakland, Calif., shows off his truffle hunting dog, Enrico Caruso, a Lagotto Romanglo, at the newly-planted Robert Sinskey truffle orchard during the inaugural Napa Truffle Festival in Napa, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. Second from left, leading a tour, is Robert Chang of the American Truffle Company. The three-day event combined some the best chefs and truffle scientists to showcase truffles which have been treasured for centuries. Soon, chefs in North America will be able to get black truffles farm-to-kitchen in a matter of hours, instead of days as is the case currently with imported European truffles. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A woman smells a 750-gram white truffle sold for €100,000 on November 8, 2009 during an auction in Grinzane Cavour, at the end of the 79th White Truffle Festival of Alba. The Piedmont region, where Alba is located, is considered to have the best 'tartufo bianco' (white truffles) in the world. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)
Auction organizer Giselle Oberti shows off an Italian white truffle, weighing 338 grams (0.74 lbs.), the largest truffle ever to be found in Tuscany, during the yearly truffle auction held by the International Auction of Italian Truffles, held in a Rome hotel in December 2009. In 2008, the organizers auctioned off Italy's largest white truffle, weighing 1.08 kg (2.37 lbs.), to a Hong Kong businessman for $200,000. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Acqualagna Mayor Bruno Capanna, right, and Bruno Urbani show a white truffle weighing 700 grams on sale at the Acqualagna Truffles Fair in 2007. Experts say that 2007's harvest of the fungus fruit was one of the poorest in recent years, pushing costs up for a product already known for its extravagant price tag. In 2007, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of white truffle could cost between $432 and $864, some 60-70 percent more than in 2006. (AP Photo/Comune di Acqualagna, h.o.)
Catholic priest, Father Gleize, left, smells a truffle from the basket of an unidentified member of the Knights of the Brotherhood of the Black Truffle after mass in the village of Richerenches, southern France, Sunday January 21, 1996. For the last 40 years, every third Sunday of January village parishioners have given truffles instead of money in the weekly church collection. The truffles are later auctioned off and the money goes to the parish. A parish priest started the tradition. (AP Photo/Patrick Gaudin)