This is fall?


The first day of autumn came and went as decreed by the cosmos, but around here summer didn’t get the memo.  The heat wave that began some two months ago is still enjoying itself thoroughly, lolling on the beach, gleaming on the Alpine peaks, bringing  joy to the daring hoteliers who risked staying open and not unconsiderable damage to the farmers.

It was the hottest September on record; on average, nearly 3 degrees above the norm. In Piemonte, Torino registered 30 degrees C (86 degrees F), a September temperature it hasn’t felt since 1753. Rainfall has become a distant memory.

The farmers are not amused.  Not only are the crops lollygagging along for lack of rain and excess of heat, but the harvest, whenever they manage to make it, is going to be puny. Ten percent fewer grapes, and they’re already fermenting — unheard of.  Tomatoes and olives and rice are down 20 percent.

No matter where you go, there will be some business named for Venice. In Conegliano Lino paused in front of the Trattoria "Citta' di Venezia," but I discovered a Cafe Venezia in Casablanca. Anyway, there isn't a Trattoria Citta' di Conegliano in Venice, which I think is narrow-minded.

But one crop is still going strong: The Adriatic beaches continue to pullulate with tourists even though the kiosks are closed and the lifeguards have all gone home.  Some wag had his picture taken under his big umbrella holding a batch of chestnuts, two seasonal icons which have never met and probably never even heard of each other.

But let’s make the proverbial hay while the proverbial sun is still proverbially glowing.  Even though school started two weeks ago, Gianni Stival, vice-mayor of Caorle (a beach town) is dreaming of a bumper crop of late vacationers and has proposed — not for the first time — that the Veneto postpone the first day of school for two whole weeks.

“It would be good for tourism,” he explains, “because now when the first school bell rings at the middle of September, families are compelled to go home.” And take all their money with them.  Never mind if little Bepi never learns the names of the European capitals or the definition of plankton or that when a girl says “no” she’s pretty likely to have meant “no” (oh wait — they don’t teach that). Whatever is good for tourism is, by definition, good for everybody, assuming that little Bepi has somehow learned to count past 20.  Or maybe that doesn’t matter either, now that cash registers calculate the correct change.

Last Saturday we decided to become tourists, in our own small way, so we took the train to Conegliano, a small but prosperous provincial town just 58 km (36 miles) from Venice.  Conegliano is  famous for Prosecco and a painter named Giovanni Battista Cima (1460-1518), nicknamed “da Conegliano,” or “from Conegliano,” so we don’t confuse him with all those other Giovanni Battista Cimas.

I ate cappellacci di zucca, or "big straw hats stuffed with pumpkin," which were bestrewn with smoked ricotta and drenched with butter. This is a typical autumn dish -- note the pumpkin -- of the area around Ferrara, but it tasted fine here too. Three of these will give you the strength to harvest another five acres, if you can manage to stay awake.

It was a heavenly day — sorry for the farmers, but we loved it, even though we were thwarted in our intention to browse the weekly market, which spreads along the main street and its tributaries offering everything from socks to handmade baskets.  Don’t assume that Saturday has been ordained by God, or the mayor, as the perfect day for a big market.  Turns out they hold it on Friday. In case you ever need to know.

Members of a local mycology club were setting up an exhibition of just-collected local mushroms ranging from delectable to fatal. The drought made a serious dent in this harvest, as well; there ought to have been several times more than these.

But we didn’t care.  We wandered around enjoying the sun, sat outside the duomo watching the guests arriving for a big wedding, we ate too much, we sprawled in the garden of the ruined hilltop castle. If it sounds like we did nothing, I want to tell you that nothing was exactly what we needed and we did plenty of it.
As far as I’m concerned, if this is autumn, it can stay like this forever.



The backdrop of tiny wild apples and unshelled chestnuts (the green spiky ball) made a very attractive arrangement


The chestnut squad at work: One man roasting them, two others sitting by bags of chestnuts from Cuneo, slitting their shells, one by one, to prevent their exploding in the heat.


A classic autumn assortment (though no pumpkins). Clockwise from bottom left are walnuts, plums, chestnuts, giuggiole (jujubes), persimmons and grapes.

Mirtilli, or wild blueberries, at only 12 euros a kilo ($8 a pound). Pretty cheap, considering these are all picked by hand in the woods.


These mushrooms, on the other hand, are absolutely for eating: "Galletti" and "finferli," also uncultivated. Delectable.




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Categories : Food, Tourism


  1. Maité says:

    Belle balade et appétissante ! Buona giornata, a presto !
    Maité recently posted..Arrivée à Fusina, ses retraités, ses bronzés, sa vue

  2. Yvonne says:

    Now, you have whetted my appetite for a little jaunt to this town.

    On another site, I found a couple of sayings about the weather in October. let’s see if they are accurate for this coming winter.

    Tuoni d’ottobre, verrà un inverno caldo – Thunders in October, the winter will be warm

    Caldo d’ottobre, farà freddo in febbraio – Warm October, it will be cold in February
    Yvonne recently posted..If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium

  3. Erla says:

    Interesting sayings, I’ll try to keep track of their accuracy as the year proceeds. These sound like countryside/farmer knowledge — anyway, I’ve never heard them here. The way things are going, though, it may turn out to be warm in the winter even without the “tuoni d’ottobre,” which considering the recent hike in the already unconscionable cost of gas here would be a great thing. I’m sorry for the Arctic ice and the polar bear but any break I can get on the cost of living would make it almost worth global warming. “Santa Lucia, il freddo crussia” *St. Lucy’s day, the cold is crucifying” has long since been retired as a useful truism.