Autumn is a great season to visit Rome in because the city is fresh, crisp and relaxed. The weather is a perfect and steady 24 degrees with sunny, blue skies. The blistering heat has finished, the colder months have not yet started, and the rain of spring is far away. Romans have returned from their summer holiday months and are tanned, cool and refreshed; ready for work, and if that includes the tourist trade then the service is much better than you would get in the baking hot and crowded summer months. There are also fewer tourists as most of the Northern hemisphere has taken their holidays and have returned to work. Airline tickets cost less; everything is open, and the city is back to business.
Here are my top ten tips for how to enjoy a Roman Fall/Autumn.
1. Plan to walk a lot.
Autumn is perfect for walking (as is the city of Rome). It rarely rains, is not too hot, and the sunshine and blue skies set off the rich colours of the city and its monuments perfectly.
2. Visit a park (Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, Villa Pamphili)
Sunshine will filter in through the green foliage of the summer growth making any park seem cool, lush and shady. But there will also be evidence of the season, with colours changing to yellows and browns and crunchy leaves underfoot. Tracks will be dry and easy to walk on, summer mosquitos will have gone and the air still warm and balmy. A Park is the perfect accessory for autumn.
3. Visit the Municipal Rose Gardens of Rome.
Internationally acclaimed and featuring over 1,000 varieties of roses they are still blooming ferociously in autumn. Although not publically listed as open in autumn (they are only open officially for a few weeks in May and June), I was walking past the other day and they were definitely open and being visited.
4. Don’t go to the beach.
As tempting as it maybe for some of you from colder climes who don’t get much opportunity to go, the beach will generally be shut in autumn in Rome. Romans are seasonal creatures and will finish going to the beach at the end of summer (21st September), no matter what the temperature. Most beaches are privately run and are fenced in and will be closed due to lack of clientele.
5. Don’t look as though you are going to the beach.
Likewise if you are still wearing shorts and sandals in autumn it will be noticed. My summer clothes were noted and commented on a few weeks ago in my neighbourhood in an unfavourable manner by a fellow customer at my local café. There is a season for everything in respectable Roman society, and in September to December it is autumn, and the attire that represents that (closed shoes, longer trousers, jeans, layers, light cardigans, cotton scarves, etc.).
6. Shop for last season’s cloths.
Many shops, though not in the trendiest parts of town, will still have remnants of their summer stock, from cloths to bags. As no self-respecting Roman would be seen dead in the colours, fabrics, or shoes of summer, the prices are rock-bottom and on offer to the tourists who are the only people that will buy them. Stock up! Rome’s last seasons’ stuff is what the rest of the world will be wearing in a years’ time.
7. Eat seasonal delicacies – Funghi Porcini, Puntarelle, Carciofi alla Romana, Roasted Chestnuts.
Funghi Porcini are large flat mushrooms that taste earthy, nutty and quite unique. They are one of my favourite things to eat, made all the more special by the fact they are available for only a few months of the year. I recommend eating them grilled and as a stand-alone dish. They don’t require any other accompaniment than bread and the fresh green olive oil, parsley and garlic they will be cooked with. Most people are hooked after one taste. If you are a bit shy and need to dilute your first experience then I recommend ordering the Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini, a thick egg noodle/pasta delicately flavoured with fine slices of Funghi Porcini.
Puntarelle (little points) is a vegetable dish. They look and taste a little like celery but come in the shape of a small squid or octopus (the ends are all curled up). They are served with olive oil and flavoured with a few anchovies, vinegar and garlic. They are fresh, tangy and divine to eat. They are found only in Rome, in autumn, and are the ends of a vegetable that no one, not even a large amount of Romans I asked, knows the name of. They are notoriously difficult to prepare and are therefore best eaten at a restaurant where someone else has had to chop, scrape, soak, slice, and marinate them.
Carciofi, artichokes are a Roman speciality in general but prepared alla Romana is even more typically Roman. Again it is ordered as a vegetable dish and will come as a single, large artichoke soaking in its own cooking juices of lemon, mint, garlic, parsley and boiling water and garnished with olive oil. It is magnificent!
Roasted chestnuts will be available on every street corner in the centre of the city. Roasted over a coal fire you can buy them in small paper scoopfuls. They are warm, nutritious, richly filling and slightly sweet. They make a perfect snack or an excellent (and very cheap) breakfast along with a coffee.
8. Sit in the sun.
It is one of the best recreational activities of the year. Winter it is too cold to sit still outside, summer it is too hot to sit in the sun, spring is unpredictable. Autumn has long, lovely, warm days full of a sunshine that caresses without burning, stimulates and sooths, tans and smooths, gently washing away negative and stressful thoughts.
9. Watch the sun set.
The sunsets of autumn fill the sky with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows that blot out clouds and pollution and linger on for hours. It is as though the sun needs to go out with a bang in its last season of dominance; that it needs to remind us all of its majesty so that we don’t forget its importance and power as we live through the winter months.
10. Go to a Vineria.
If Parks are the perfect accessory for autumn and sun sitting the perfect recreational activity then the Vineria is the perfect resting place. The evenings that darken early, and the slight chill in the air when they do, force you inside at a time usually too early to eat but perfect for the partaking of a little wine, cheese and salami – the trifecta of the Vineria. Vinerie serve only that (although some can also entice you with dinner once you have settled in), and from around early evening (just before sunset). They specialise in an exhaustive range of wines and usually have shelves of bottles that line the walls from floor to ceiling as part of their decor. Cheeses and salamis will be offered that match the wine you choose, and the small, cosy and intimate nature of these establishments will make you glad that you chose your sojourn to Rome to correspond with the magnificent season of autumn!