Wine has been a part of the Italian culture since the Romans and the Etruscans before them. Wine festivals are held year-round in the various regions of Italy, but the traditional harvest time in late September leads to a selection of wine-centric celebrations in the month of October. The regions of Tuscany and Umbria hold their wine festivals during the summer months, but October wine festivals elsewhere in the country combine regional culture with good food and wine in ancient, authentic and scenic, small-town settings.
Each October, on the first weekend of the month, the Latium hill town of Marino welcomes over 100,000 people to its Grape Festival. The festival originated in the early 20th century as a celebration to commemorate the defeat of the Ottomans by Christian Europeans at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The town is decorated with all things grape; leaves and fruit are hung from balconies and placed on statues. The festival consists of a costume parade which reenacts the return of the war hero MarcAntonio Colonna, followed by a religious ritual. The main event occurs at 5 p.m. when the fountain in the town's main square stops spraying water and "miraculously" starts producing wine. For the rest of the evening, wine is handed out to the crowd and the celebration begins with food stands and yes, more wine. Marino is located in Castelli Romani about 13 miles south of Rome and is reachable in less than an hour by car or train.
The region known as Trentino or Alto-Adige in the north of Italy is near the border with Austria. Trentino has a split personality with a blend of Italian and Austrian cultures, and an alpine landscape. Each October, the Southern-Tyrolean town of Tramin holds not one but two wine festivals: the Wine Alleyway and the Festival of the Autumn Days. The Wine Alleyway takes place in late October when the town converts its main street into a pedestrian alley lined with local cuisine, wine and live performances. The Autumn Days takes place from noon to midnight on the last day of September, and consists of a celebration of music, food and wine held in the town square, which is decorated in harvest regalia. The current year's vintage is distributed to the crowd as part of the festivities. Tramin is located about 86 miles north of Verona and is reachable by car or train within two hours.
The Last Load of Grapes
About 10 miles to the north of Tramin and just south of the regional capital of Bolzano, the town of Girlan welcomes wine lovers to its central square for a mid-October wine tasting event. The Last Load of Grapes, as the event is called, is held during the same period as Tramin's Wine Alleyway festival and can make for a fun and easy day trip if you should wish to attend both events. During the festival, local winemakers and vineyard owners bring their latest vintages to the square and offer them for sampling. At the same time, ancient wagon-wheel grape presses are displayed and chestnuts are roasted for the crowd.
Merano is another picturesque small town in the foothills of the Austrian alps near the Italian border with Austria. Each year in mid- to late October the town holds its Grape Festival. The festival attracts thousands of tourists who partake in a celebration of the harvest. Events during the three-day festival include a parade, marching bands, musical performances, displays of traditional costumes and market goods. Visitors can sample the results of the harvest with local wines and culinary specialties. At the time of publication, there was a fee of about $10 for the final day's events to cover the cost of concerts and food during the grand finale. Merano is reachable by car and sits about 110 miles north of Verona.
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- Frommer's: Fruits of the Vine and More Importantly...; Charis Atlas Heelan; 2005
- Sued Tirloer: Tramin Wine Alleyway
- Sued Tiroler: Traminer Autumn Days
- Sued Tiroler: The Last Load of Grapes
- Greve in Chianti: 2011 Chianti Classico
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- Meraner Land: 125 Anniversario della Festa dell'Uva
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- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images