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Everyone loves a food festival. Come on, what’s not to love? Dining to your heart’s content, usually on the finest food of an area, directly from the source - and all in a jovial environment! Then there’s the adventure - exploring the larger surrounding area from whence the grub came, combining your twin passions of travel and cuisine. These are just a few features that make visiting such an event worthwhile, and across Europe there’s no shortage of options. The finest of these are held in the autumn months, ideally poised after the peak holiday season has dissipated and before the snowy onset of Christmas.
Whatever your favourite cuisine, the chances are that - somewhere out there - there’s a festival devoted to it. With such a rich and diverse range of dishes stemming from across the Continent, you’re guaranteed to trip over a tablecloth or fall face-first into a plateful of food that will take your taste buds to the next level. Equally likely is that you’ll find your perfect rental accommodation for the trip with a quick search on HomeAway: but before you find the perfect pad, read our guide to the best autumn food festivals that Europe has to offer.
Top five autumn food festivals in Europe
The Italians are world famous for their mad pizza-making skills, and nowhere is that immanent gift more apparent than in the town of Naples. The Campanian capital hosts Pizzafest each September, inviting tourists and locals to sample the finest examples of its most famous export. As well as trying the pizzas from an endless procession of stalls, you can watch how they’re made using traditional methods - and even try your hand at tossing the dough around yourself! If your appetite is sufficient, you can compete in one of the contests, but you might prefer to indulge at a leisurely pace against the backdrop of Italian folk music.
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Great British Cheese Festival, Cardiff
Nothing screams “quintessentially British” quite like a rural get-together, but cheese wouldn’t necessarily be the first foodstuff you’d associate with our own fair isles. Nonetheless, the stunning grounds of Cardiff Castle provide the settings for this wonderful curiosity, where cheese lovers from across the country flock each September. Aside from the quite frankly astounding array of brie, cheddar and stilton, you can try a variety of nationally-brewed ales and ciders, as well as enjoy the quirky musical entertainment provided. Moreover, the city of Cardiff itself is a fantastic place to absorb when festival closes its gates.
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The ultimate in culinary satisfaction for those with a sweet tooth, visiting this Italian event is like stepping into a Roald Dahl dreamland. And the best part is that you won’t require a golden ticket to gain access to the October extravaganza. Well, not to the best part. A copious amount of free samples are dished out to all and sundry around the squares of Perugia over the course of nine days, as the town relaxes amid the irresistible aroma of cocoa. You can also try your hand in the many workshops, cooking classes and contests exhibited. It will require iron will and mighty self-control to refrain from filling your suitcase with mouth-watering souvenirs for the journey home.
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Lugano Autumn Festival, Lugano
In the first week of October each year, the Swiss town of Lugano celebrates its fine local produce with a three-day bonanza showcasing every last bit of it. In a style true to its country’s heritage, the town centre is transformed into a realm of tents, stalls and folk music. Local gastronomic delights include polenta, mortadella, roast pork and risotto, but the main attraction is the grapes harvested in the area at this time of year. The town prides itself on this crop: do as the locals do and indulge your palate in the peerless wine produced from them in a cheerful and relaxed environment.
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Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival
The annual September Oyster Festival is an Irish treasure, an event second only to the incomparable St Patrick’s Day in popularity and prestige. A bold statement, but when you attend it’s easy to see why. The history attached to the feast - it’s the world’s oldest oyster festival - and the traditional Irish craic come together to create a truly memorable occasion. Attending the Saturday Night Ball will cost you the princely sum of £150 to attend. It’s worth it, but even if you don’t want to splash out, you can still put away a few oysters with the locals over a Guinness or two. Elsewhere, there are foodie talks, cooking demos, taster sessions - and even a Mardi Gras-style gala through the streets of Galway!
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