October in Rome can be so pleasant weather-wise, with the likelihood of sunny days and warm temperatures, that the Romans have a name for it: ottobrata romana.
Originally, with the phrase ‘ottobrate romane’, people referred to the Sunday trips out to the countryside surrounding Rome that the Romans used to go on until the first decades of the 20th century.
These day trips took place during the time of the vendemmia (grape harvest) and often turned into celebrations linked to it. People dressed up, hopped on small carts and headed to the countryside, where they would find music, games, and lots of food and wine.
The Ottobrate seem to descend from the Bacchanalia and Dionysia feasts of the ancient Romans, which were related to the cycle of the seasons.
Traditional destinations of the Ottobrate were monte Testaccio, the countryside around Ponte Milvio, the vineyards between Monteverde and Porta San Pancrazio, or outside Porta San Giovanni and Porta Pia.
If you happen to be in Rome in October, why not relive the tradition of the ottobrata romana by going on a day trip to the countryside? You’ll have to go farther than the destinations mentioned above as the countryside was once much closer to the city than it is today.
A perfect destination for ottobrata romana today is the area of Colli Albani/Castelli Romani. The Alban Hills, inhabited since prehistoric times, are the site of a quiescent volcanic complex, located 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Rome. In Roman times, the wealthy built villas and country homes in the area to escape the heat and crowds of Rome.
The towns and villages in the Alban Hills are known as Castelli Romani. They include Castel Gandolfo, which overlooks Lake Albano, Frascati, Rocca Priora with the Savelli Castle, Albano Laziale.
What makes a fall trip to these villages even more appealing is the number of sagre, food festivals, that take place in the autumn season.
For example, the ‘Sagra dell’Uva di Marino’, which this year is scheduled from 29 September to 2 October and is in its 93rd year. In Marino, the third Sunday of October, there is the ‘Sagra della ciambella al mosto’, a delicious cake prepared with must, flour, olive oil, sugar, raisins and brewer’s yeast.
In Ariccia, the ‘Sagra della Porchetta’ usually takes place early September, so you’ve missed it this year, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be heading to this lovely borgo to try Italy’s most famous porchetta (spit-roasted pork) in the typical fraschette (osterie), with a bounty of other typical local dishes, such as amatriciana, gricia, cacio e pepe, all washed down with Romanella, the typical wine of Castelli Romani.
In Rocca di Papa, the ‘Sagra delle Castagne’ is dedicated to a typical product of the fall, chestnuts. The sagra usually takes place mid-October.
There are many more pretty villages to visit in the area of Castelli Romani, even when a sagra isn’t happening. So if you wake up one October morning in Rome and the sun’s out, hop on a Vespa and head to the countryside, you won’t regret it!