Fall visitors can hear music, watch films, mix with literary greats, admire art, see opera or taste prize-winning cheeses at annual events in September and October.
Women writers and hopefuls gather from all over the world, cheese lovers sample contenders for the highest industry awards and travellers revel in all kinds of music, art and performance at five top events held in southern Europe this fall. These festivals are scheduled for one of the best times of year to travel in Spain, Italy and Portugal.
World Cheese Awards in the Canary Islands
Gran Canaria, in Spain’s Canary Island archipelago, hosts the 7th annual World Cheese Awards, the world's largest international cheese competition. On October 2 and 3, the public is welcome to sample and learn the nuances in fine cheeses in an exposition honouring the prize winners and competitors. Best known for its white sand beaches and UNESCO – acclaimed sand dunes, Gran Canaria is easily reached by air from Madrid.
Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy
From September 24 to 27, women and publishers from several continents attend the 6th annual gathering dedicated to women’s fiction. It is the only international writers' conference where writers learn about the market, sell their books, find agents and talk with successful authors. Erica Jong is a special guest in 2009 and representatives from major US, British and world publishers attend to meet prospective authors.
San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain
September 18 to 26 marks the 57th annual gala of international films, featuring concerts, performances and fireworks, in addition to film screenings. Events during the week, known as Semana Grande, take place in the seaside provincial capital in Spain’s Basque region.
Romaeuropa Festival in Rome
Lasting from September 23 through December 2, the 23rd annual contemporary art event features world-class music, dance and theatre performances as well as art exhibitions and installations in Rome. The international art event opens with Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
The Angrajazz International Jazz Festival, Azores
At the westernmost edge of southern Europe, the Azores islands are part of Portugal, although they are in the middle of the North Atlantic, far from its mainland. The 148-square-mile island of Terceira hosts the annual Angrajazz Jazz Festival in Angra do Heroísmo from October 2 through 4. Featuring performances by some of the world’s best-known jazz musicians, the festival is followed by the Ramo Grande Festival of world music at the end of October, into the beginning of November. The island’s charming villages of stone-paved streets and small chapels have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. The Azores are easy to reach by direct flights from Lisbon (Portugal), Boston (Massachusetts) and elsewhere via SATA Internacional, the Azorean airline. Short hop flights connect the islands.
Although no traveller needs an excuse to visit southern Europe at its best season, any of these festivals would make a good focal point for a trip.