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.
Roberto in his food shop, just back from the mountains, showing some of what he found Tuesday morning.
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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