What does September mean to you? In Piemonte, this glorious transitional month between late summer and early fall means national wine competitions, grape harvest festivals, traditional horseraces, Medieval parades, and endless platters of Piemontese food.
With so much going on, we've gathered some of the biggest and most traditional events in the region for this month. That way, you won't miss a minute of seasonal celebrations.
Douja D'or, September 12-21 - Palazzo Enofila, Asti
For wine lovers, the Douja D'or is one of Piemonte's most important wine events. This national competition confers awards to hundreds of DOC and DOCG wines from all the regions of Italy. Only the best are admitted, and the "Oscars" of the Douja are coveted, indicated with the golden pitcher symbol (you may see this in osterie and restaurants around Italy). This year, an expert commission of over 200 trained wine tasters from all over Italy tested 982 DOC and DOCG wines. 550 were selected for admittance to Douja D’or, and just 45 won an Oscar. All 550 wines will be the protagonists of ten days of tastings inside the Palazzo Enofila in Asti.
The food choices leave little to desire. Every evening, a new, local master chef and master pastry chef will serve unique and traditional Piemontese dishes and desserts. Dinner is €16, including wine (Barbera d’Asti and Asti DOCG) and a bracing sip of grappa at the end. Don't forget to reserve a spot. And finally, between one glass of wine and the next, don't forget to perk up your ears: During the Douja D'or week, musical shows, concerts, theatrical productions, and children's events will enliven the atmosphere, including wine discussions and debates at the Cortile dell'Enofila in the evenings. Entry to the Douja D'or is free, and so are shows. Find out all the details on www.doujador.it / Read the program
Festival of the Sagre of Asti – Sat.-Sun., September 12-13 - Piazza Campo del Palio, Asti
If food is the great unifier, don't miss this union of food and history: the Festival of the Sagre (now at its 42nd edition) is a mecca of endless food, a grand parade, and period costumes. In each piazza of the city is an unprecedented amount of food and drink. The atmosphere of long ago is revived as visitors can indulge in delicious dishes prepared on site with strictly local ingredients. Thousands of people from all over Italy come to celebrate, and the number of food dishes offered is staggering: over 40 different townships serve several dishes, from appetizers to dessert, for over 80 menu choices. We bet you won't leave without a full, happy belly.
What really sets the festival apart is the historical parade. Every city and town of the Asti territory and display traditional work occupations and daily Medieval life, including farming, religious rites, grape harvests, baptisms, and milling grain. They march through the main streets on foot, in carts, and on extravagantly decorated tractors. All about the Festival of the Sagre on www.festivaldellesagre.it
Palio of Asti and events leading up to it – September 17-20 - Piazza San Secondo, Asti
1,200 participants in Medieval costumes, 21 racehorses, great feasts, and 1 city bedecked in banners: these are the ingredients that make up the Palio. The Palio of Asti is a traditional horserace, but the event-filled days preceding it make it so much more.
At Asti during the Palio, competition fever runs high. The Palio of Bannermen takes place on Thursday before the race, with athletic bannermen representing their towns and horseracers in a “battle” with their respective banners. Next are the propitiatory dinners. Did you think your belly would get a break this September after binging on the great food from the Festival of Sagre? Loosen your belt, because we suggest you participate in the traditional propitiatory dinners. Organized by the districts of Asti the evening before the Palio, expect rivers of wine, endless lines of food, and best wishes to horses and their riders for the glory of winning.
Finally, it all ends in the piazza. The celebrating, events, and food that animate the city before the 20th of September are, in reality, just an appetizer for the event of all events: the great horserace, the Palio! On Sunday, the entire city gathers in Piazza Alfieri to take part in and watch the ultimate race. After a parade of over 1000 people dressed in Medieval costume and carrying banners, it begins.
Grape Harvest festivals – The entire month of September (often on weekends)
In Piemonte, where grape growing and winemaking have defined the lives of countless generations and indelibly shaped the landscape and cuisine, September is synonymous with vendemmia – the grape harvest.
Expect nothing less than a month brimming with festivals from all over the region. These often include bare foot grape stomping, contests, and – always – abundant food and wine. And because wine is so central to many areas of Piemonte, nearly every town will celebrate it in some way, from the northern reaches of Alto Piemonte to the wilds hills of the Roero and lovingly-curated vineyards of the Langhe. See our September grape harvest article here for some of the more well known events: September Means Grape Harvest Festivals; and don’t forget to check on our Events page regularly for updates.
Slow Food Cheese – September 18-21, Bra (CN)
Discover a world of cheeses at this biennial international cheese festival. Hundreds of Italian and foreign artisan cheese producers line the streets and fill the piazzas of Bra, selling and giving out tastes of their treasured cheeses.
The Cheese Market is the heart of the experience (Mercato dei Formaggi), where the majority of artisans have set up shop. In the main piazza of Bra, it is impossible to miss. A unique section that stands out is the area for Slow Food Presidia cheeses, or those that represent traditional production methods and cultures but are in danger of fading away; dozens of new Presidia from all over Europe and Africa will be present this year. Slow Food Cheese is not just about buying and tasting cheese (as much as we love that!), but has a full calendar of events and areas for cheese, wine, beer, pizza (and more!) workshops, tastings, street food, and so many other events. For the workshops, be sure to book a spot during the many different demonstrations, lessons, and tastings over the course of the weekend. See online for more info and booking: cheese.slowfood.com/en/
Canelli, City of Wine – September 26-27, Canelli (AT)
Every year, during the fourth weekend of September, the capital of spumante in the Monferrato hosts the event Canelli, Città di Vino: the best of Monferrato’s sparkling wine meets the top in gastronomic traditions of Piemonte.
Canelli’s grand weekend of wine tasting will celebrate Bacchus’s favorite bubbly and the centuries-old enological history of the town, opening the doors of many wineries and historical palazzi. Walk from door to door to enjoy samples of delicious cuisine served alongside the best wine labels of the area. Beyond the food and wine extravaganza, dozens of associated events will take place: food and wine stands along Via Roma, musical shows, costumed spectacles, exhibitions, and fun and games for children. The most fun part (in our opinion) is the guided visits and tastings to the UNESCO World Heritage Underground Cathedrals (Cattedrali Sotterranee). These unique caves are a must-see for visitors: starting in the late 17th century, producers began excavating caves from the calcareous tuff rock underneath Canelli to store their wines. Today, the casks and pupitres (A-frame wine racks) line the tunnels and fill large rooms, reaching a depth of 30 m (98 ft) for a total extension of more than 18 km (11 mi). They maintain a constant temperature of 12-14 degrees C (54 -57 degrees F), ideal for aging great wines.