Autumn and early winter is a time for Italians to return to their roots. Towns and villages across the country come together to make historic dishes to celebrate ancestral harvests and ancient traditions. These sagre (festivals) are held up and down the length of Italy and are open to the public. Get involved and experience the true Italian way by heading to any one of our picks of the best festivals.
Alba White Truffle Fair
Perhaps the most famous of Italy's autumnal festivals, the Alba White Truffle Fair brings together the world's truffle lovers to appreciate one of the finest and rarest treats Italy has to offer. 2015 is the 85th year Piedmont will celebrate the tartufo bianco, currently selling for €2500 per kilo (a steal in comparison to the normal €5000 per kilo).
In addition to the beloved fungi, the fair celebrates wines from the Langhe and Roero districts; local confectionery, cheese, fresh pastas and cured meat; and medieval traditions such as a parade and a donkey race.
11 October-15 November, Alba, www.fieradeltartufo.org
All Saints and All Souls Day
Follow up Halloween with these traditional Italian festivals. Across all of Italy, All Saints Day honours the Catholic patron saints and martyrs of the church, while All Souls Day serves to connect the living. Both days involve a morning church service, but following the All Souls Day service, families clean and visit the graves of their loved ones, often leaving chrysanthemums and food, and celebrate the lives of the deceased with dancing and lots of sweet eats.
Each region celebrates a bit differently: small cakes are served in Umbria, fave di morte biscuits are prepared in Trieste, and dulce de membrillo (apple sweets) are made in Venice. All Saints and All Souls Day are fun for outsiders to view and experience in any region.
1 and 2 November
Related: A film lover's guide to Italy
Festa del Torrone
This festival celebrates nougat, and specifically torrone, a type of nougat made with almonds, honey, egg whites, and sugar. Hundreds of stalls will line the centre Cremona, near Milan, all displaying their twist on the Lombardian treat. Choose from torrone with pistachio, chocolate, coffee, limoncello, and many others. Last year, 270,000 people attended Festa del Torrone and participated in the tasting events, watched the performances by the locals, and listened to Lombardian music. This celebration of the traditional Christmas treat will certainly get you in the festive spirit.
21-29 November, Cremona, www.festadeltorronecremona.it
Merano Wine Festival
Helmuth Köcher began organising wine tastings in 1989, and in 1992 he and two friends with the same passion for the beverage decided to organise a five day long event dedicated to wine tasting. Thus the Merano Wine Festival was born. Köcher and the other officials hand pick the 500 winemakers for the festival strictly based on the high quality and rarity of their wines, ensuring that you will taste some of the world's best wines.
It doesn't just stop at tasting: there are opportunities to take master classes which teach you the subtleties of fine wines. The Merano Festival is not just a spectacle for those who appreciate wine, but is rather a place for those who are truly dedicated to the art of tasting. If you are passionate about a good glass, the Merano Wine Festival is not to be missed.
6 October-10 November, Merano, www.meranowinefestival.com
Related: How to order wine like an Italian
Roma Food and Wine Festival
This festival, organised by Eataly Rome and Helmuth Köcher (coordinator of the Merano Wine Festival) is a chance to try some of Italy's highest quality food and drink. This particular festival originated in Milan in 2011 and has now spread to other large Italian cities.
60 winemakers are hand picked by Köcher, and 20 of the country's best chefs are picked to pair their dishes with said wine. Learn not only what the finest dishes and cuisine are, but about the creation process behind them with demonstrations and classes. This is a chance to experience Italian cuisine at the highest level--your tastebuds in the hands of Italian connoisseurs.
29 November-1 December, Rome, www.meranowinefestival.com.roma
Bacco nelle Gnostre
A celebration of Saint Bacchus, a Roman soldier and martyr, Bacco nelle Gnostre combines traditional Puglian food with the region's best wines. Enjoy orecchiette hand rolled right around the corner while you watch street performances, concerts, and local art. There is even the possibility to join in the festivities by learning the pizzica, one of the region's folk dances. Puglian dishes are some of Italy's most underrated eats, and we promise you'll leave with a full (and happy) stomach.
7 and 8 November, Noci
Rome's celebration of contemporary performance: RomaEuropa includes 50 dance, music, and theatre exhibitions over the course of the festival. From a burlesque opera, rhythmic percussion-based tap dancing, and choreographers from around the globe, including Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, and of course Italy, the festival is very heavily dance based, so be ready for a not-so-typical night at the ballet.
23 September-8 December, Rome, romaeuropa.net
Bologna Jazz Festival
As one of the most important Italian jazz events of the whole year, the Bologna Jazz festival will draw in jazz enthusiasts from all over the country. See a range of acts, including The Mediterraean Blues, the Miguel Zenon Quartet, and even a special performance from jazz students at the Conservatory of Bologna. The festival lasts for over a month so surely there is at least one concert for every type of listener.
24 October-28 November, Bologna, www.bolognajazzfestival.com
Luci d'Artista is a celebration of light and art coming together to illuminate the city of Salerno. Twinkle lights serve not only as decoration for buildings, parks, and streets, but as a medium for the city's local artists to sculpt with. This year, the Luci d'Artista will exhibit enchanted gardens, brightly lit fairy tales, and larger than life constellations. There's no better way to get yourself into the winter spirit.
7 November-24 January, Salerno, lucidartista.comune.salerno.it
Festa della Madonna della Salute
In the 1630's, when Venice was bombarded by the Bubonic plague and lost over a quarter of the population, citizens prayed that their home would survive the horrible disease, and promised that if they did they would build a church in honour of Mary to thank her for their salvation.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute stands as a reminder of the adversity the city overcame during that time, and every year on November 21, the city comes together for both a somber remembrance and a joyful celebration. After a procession along one of the city's many bridges, lead by the Archbishop of Venice, the streets are lined with food vendors selling traditional Venetian food and sweets, including castradina, a cabbage and lamb stew (which is much better than it sounds!).
21 November, Venice