Joyce Falcone

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Fall in Italy is when food gets serious.

Both in terms of work load—it’s wine harvest time!—and in terms of flavors.

The richest produce that comes out of Italy, from olive oil to truffles to figs to the deep purple grapes that flavor schiacciata, makes its appearance in the fall.

So it’s little surprise that some of the most important food festivals on the Italian calendar fall at the same time.

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walking in barolo piedmont

Image © Italian Concierge

If you’ve seen the flyer for our upcoming Puglia and Basilicata tour in May 2014, you know that in addition to custom travel planning, the Italian Concierge also runs luxury walking tours.

With fall and la vendemmia (the harvest), nearly upon us, I’ve been reminiscing about visiting my favorite wineries in Italy.

One of the best ways to do that is to walk through Piedmont, stopping in castles for lunch, visiting the wine archives, and tasting the other rich bounties of Piedmont’s famous soil, like truffles.

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Image © Italian Concierge

Travel + Leisure’s announced this week that Italian Concierge has made the Travel + Leisure A-List for the fifth year in a row (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and now 2013).

Travel+Leisure had some questions for me about my experiences in Italy that I wanted to share with you here.

Over years I've led tours and worked as a travel specialist, I've logged approximately 12,000 hours in Italy planning and leading groups. In the last year alone, I've visited Rome, Florence, Venice, the Dolomites, Puglia, Emilia Romagna, Toscana, and Piemonte.

I do not consider myself a travel agent. My desire is only to see and experience everything in Italy. I could not answer one travel question about another country. My goal is to know Italy inside and out from every perspective, be it on foot, train, car, bike, skis, or boat.

The four most important milestone of my time in Italy have been:

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Image © Italian Concierge

In Spain, you can get tapas anywhere, but the south is where the movement began and continues today in top form.

Italian aperitivos are similar.

Every city has its bar with small plates of food on the countertop at happy hour, but Venetian cicchetti (often called Venetian tapas or small places) are singular.

Many locals consider the Venetian cicchetti crawl, or giro di ombre (stroll of shades—a local term for small glasses of wine), the last hold out of Venetian cuisine in a city flooded with twice as many tourists as residents each day.

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venice san marco

Image © Italian Concierge

This month, Italians celebrate the biggest holiday of the year: Ferragosto. Literally meaning "august vacation," the August 15 holiday coincides with the Feast of the Assumption, celebrating the Virgin Mary's ascension into heaven, but the religious celebration has taken a backseat to the beach in modern times.

In August, businesses shut down, Italians head to their vacation homes on the coast, and cities empty eerily of residents. You can have Italy's greatest cities to yourself for a "golden day" like the day trip I recently wrote about for Susan van Allen's "Golden Days in Italy" blog.

If you're stuck at home, follow the Italian summer on our Pinterest board or through our summer-focused August newsletter:

  • Tis the Season for . . . the Mare!
    To Italians, summer is practically synonymous with the seaside. Many beaches in Italy - usually the sandier, better looking ones - are private beaches or called bagni or stabilamenti. Here's how to navigate them.

  • Events this Month: Aman Resort Opens in Venice
    In a 16th-century palazzo in the San Polo quarter, near the Rialto Bridge, the new hotel is composed only of spacious suites with garden or canal views.

  • Traveler Tip: Italian Gestures
    When I saw a wonderfully tongue-in-check short documentary on Italian hand gestures in the New York Times last month, I couldn't help but smile. Our quick guide will help you learn these gestures at home.

  • Things We Love: In Piazza della Signoria B&B
    Sometimes my favorite things are as simple and stunning as the view from a hotel room window. This luxurious boutique hotel lies right on the corner of Florence's Piazza Signoria, where nearly a century of Florentines have gathered to party, protest, and parade.

  • August Recipe: Panzanella
    Tomato, basil, and old bread -- the most basic ingredients find a surprisingly new life in this summer Tuscan peasant dish.

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