The Best Place to Go Apple Picking in Italy

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 03:03
apple picking

As summer turns into fall, Italy’s harvest season begins. Experiencing it in first person, be it olive picking, grape picking or apple picking, is a wonderful opportunity to go hyperlocal and to immerse yourself in longstanding rituals that are still a way of life in some parts of the country.

The olive harvest and the vendemmia are the most popular harvesting activities in Italy, but if you find yourself in the northern Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige, then you should try apple picking!

And there is no better place to experience apple picking than Italy’s Val di Non, in the northern mountainous region of Trentino, the valley synonymous with apples. (The Trento province is Italy’s largest producer of apples along with neighboring Alto Adige).
Mela Val di Non is the only apple with the DOP recognition in Italy (the DOP trademark is given to foods whose characteristics depend exclusively on the territory on which they are produced). The DOP Val di Non apples include three varieties: Golden Delicious, the most famous of all, yellow and sweet; Red Delicious, also known as ‘Snow White’s apple,’ red and crunchy; and the Renetta Canada, the best for cooking local sweet treats such as strudel and frittelle.   

Other varieties from Val di Non include the Royal Gala, Evelina (a personal favorite) and Fuji, the last one to be picked, and the sweetest.

Melinda Italian apples of various qualities

As a longtime visitor of Val di Non and a recent new resident, I’ve personally experienced the ‘frenzy’ that takes over the valley during apple picking season. From mid-September to mid-October, the farmers of Val di Non are at work from dawn to dusk. The valley teems with tractors carrying large green boxes from the apple groves to the local collection center; many residents take time off from work to help their family with the harvest. Indeed, for most families of Val di Non, autumn is the busiest time of the year. It is when they literally reap the fruits of the previous months of work.

Consorzio Melinda, which gathers most of Val di Non’s apple producers, most of them small, has 4,000 members for 6,500 hectares of cultivated land; when harvest season comes, an average of 1.6 billion of apples are harvested every year (!), strictly by hand.

I’ve partaken in apple picking a few times and it’s a rewarding experience, certainly something most of us, whose job takes place at a desk, are not used to. It is just nice to be out in the sun on a crisp fall day, doing manual labor, and talking to locals whose dedication to their work is inspiring. 

If you too want a fresh taste of fall, a change of scenery, and an hyperlocal experience, and you find yourself in northern Italy this time of the year, know that some farms in Val di Non welcome guests to their orchards and let them pick apples directly from the trees. You will get to meet a local farmer who will explain to you the secrets of apple farming and harvesting and teach you how to pick apples correctly. You will also enjoy an apple-based merenda (snack) after the hard work, such as apple juice and strudel. And you get to bring home your own basket of freshly picked Italian apples. 

Here’s the list of participating Val di Non farmers.