With the heat of the summer months behind us, the early autumn is a perfect time to take off in search of a perfect holiday home in Mediterranean Europe and enjoy some of the local harvest festivals being celebrated throughout southern France, Tuscany and Andalusia.
Best for wine harvest festivals: Bordeaux and Provence
There are 750,000 hectares of land under vines in France, so the annual grape harvest is eagerly anticipated by all. It doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that the wine harvest (known as le vendange) is utterly dependent on the weather: late frosts will delay it and heatwaves in the summer can bring it forward.
Provence tends to be the first region to begin picking as it’s the warmest region but it is followed by many other celebrations including the Fête de la Pressé in Burgunday, the Harvest Festival of Montmartre in Paris, and the Fête du Beaujolais Nouveau which takes place at midnight on the third Thursday of November when the first bottle of the new wine is uncorked.
As a rule, October tends to be very lively in Bordeaux as property owners both local and long-distance arrive to take part in the harvest. The city also boasts its own Cité du Vin museum, which opened on the banks of the Garonne in 2010. Anyone investing in a property in Bordeaux should take into account the popularity of the wine festival (next one will take place in June 2020). The biannual festival welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to a 1.5-mile 'wine road' along the waterfront to try wines from such renowned local vineyards.
Best for olives and truffles: Tuscany
Wine tourism is big business in Italy, it exceeded US$2.7 billion in revenue last year, according to the latest statistics. La Vendemmmia—the grape harvest—is a popular time to visit and get involved and many of the larger wine festivals—in places such as Greve in Chianti, for example—take place in September.
A little later in autumn, however, heralds the start of further harvest seasons: olives, chestnuts, mushrooms and truffles. Olives are normally harvested in winter—from December onwards—but in Tuscany, where valleys can be affected by frost, they start earlier. The slightly under-ripe olives give Tuscan oil that distinctive, peppery taste and festivals will take place throughout the region once the season for harvesting has arrived.
The Fiera Mercato del Tartufo Bianco (the main white truffle market) is held on the first weekend in October at Corazzano, on the outskirts of San Miniato which is widely considered to be the most important town in Tuscany for truffles. Other events in October include La Castagna in Festa—celebrating the special chestnuts of Monte Amiata in Arcidosso, taking place on the 2nd and last week. Another similar festival takes place in the birthplace of Michelangelo, between Arezzo and Florence, and at the Sagra delle Castagne in Marradi, near Pistoia. Meanwhile, every year throughout November, the inhabitants of Montemurlo, near Florence, organise a feast to celebrate the first pressing of their olive oil.
Best for all-round gastronomic festivals: Andalucia
Throughout October and November, the province of Andalusia in southern Spain hosts a multitude of fiestas celebrating local produce. The Day of the Chestnut is celebrated in Alcaucín in early November when locals, expats and tourists come together to enjoy everything related to chestnuts; it’s now one of the most popular fiestas in the region. Fans of mushrooms should look to take part in the mycological days in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla national park where you can collect various kinds of fungi, under supervision of experts.
Wonderful hams and other cooked meats are the main focus in Aracena during the third weekend of October where visitors are invited to taste various local specialties as well as take part in ham slicing contests. In early November, a similar fair takes place at Campillos, near Malaga. Over the last weekend of October, the village of Zagrilla in the district of Cordoba hosts the annual Quince Festival, selling various products including membrillo (quince paste), and accompanying cheeses.
Properties for sale
Perfection in Provence
This four-bedroom house is within walking distance of St Remy de Provence—a beautiful town in the round which celebrates a number of traditional country fairs each year. There’s a large swimming pool in the landscaped garden.
€2.48m through Winkworth International.
Rural retreat in Ronda
Explore the national parks of Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves and Los Alcornocales from this typical Andalusian house which has six bedrooms and boasts original Arabic walls. In the garden are fruit trees include apple, plum, almond, quince, fig and pomegranates.
€595,000 through Winkworth Spain.
Make your own Tuscan olive oil
This five-bedroom villa in a hilltop village outside the walled city of Lucca has been tastefully renovated and comes with a mature olive grove boasting 350 trees.
€1.85m through Winkworth International.