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You Might Not Expect This European Country to Be Perfect for Leaf Peeping

A rainbow of warm-hued tones awaits at these incredible places.

Italy during the peak of summertime is majestic. And Italy during the ski season offers endless days of fun. But those in-the-know visit in that little period between when nature across this country is at its most beautiful. That’s especially true if you’re heading to Italy’s northern or mountainous regions, which experience a stunning transformation from green to golden, red, yellow, and orange tones as far as the eye can see. There’s plenty to explore throughout this country’s top half, whether you’re searching for intrepid hiking trails, gastronomic delights, a cultural look back at the past, or a mixture of all of the above. The best part? They all come with gorgeous fall foliage views included. Read on for all of the best spots.

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Val Brembana

Val Brembana’s ski resort is covered with a thick layer of snow in the winter. But visit during fall for something even more beautiful: a picturesque coating of red and orange tones spanning the entire valley. An underrated part of the Italian Alps, Val Brembana’s heavily forested setting is one of the best places to see fall foliage in northern Italy away from the crowds. But it’s not just landscape views here: in one direction, you’ll see gushing rivers, while in the opposite, you can admire towering mountains. With a relaxed culture and a penchant for comforting dishes full of cheese and meats, Val Brembana is a top spot for foodies and photographers alike.

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As well as being truly stunning with its falling leaves and ashy tones during fall, Franciacorta is a top spot for vineyards. Home to over 100 wineries with a particular focus on sparkling wine, it’s one of the best areas in Lombardy to spend a few days gazing at nature all around with a glass in hand. This small but densely packed province is Italy’s equivalent to the Champagne region in France and is home to stunning landscapes in every direction. Close to Milan, it’s a breath of fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the hills at the foot of Lake Iseo.

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Domodossola may be a city, but it has a distinctly village-like feel. This scenic spot sits close to the border of Switzerland and is surrounded by picturesque mountains and an almost medieval ambiance. Charming buildings and a peaceful atmosphere accentuate gorgeous natural views and a friendly, slow pace of life. While the foliage here is indeed magical, you’ll get the full effect when you leave Domodossola by train. Catch the Centovalli Vigezzina between Italy and Switzerland, and you’ll be greeted by some of Europe’s most impressive fall views. This little blue train carries you through woodland, wild mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. Fall is the best time to see it all.

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Monte Beigua Park

Monte Beigua Park sits in the largest nature protected area in Liguria and comes to life during fall. This UNESCO-awarded spot is a top pick for nature lovers who can spend hours wandering around without too many crowds. The park gets its name from the highest mountain in the area, Monte Beigua, and if you’re prepared to hike a little, you’ll be treated to panoramic views spanning a rainbow of warm tones from higher up. If you’d prefer to stay on ground level, you’ll have over 39,230 hectares to explore. There are plenty of differing hiking trails all around the area, as well as history to explore in the form of tropical fossils and interesting rock formations.

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Aosta Valley

Another spot mostly appreciated during its ski season, Aosta Valley in northern Italy, is a haven for spectacular fall colors and is best appreciated earlier in the year. As well as hiking sections of the long-distance Cammino Balteo trail, the Aosta Valley is home to ancient castles, vineyards, delicious food, and lots of history. Bordered by France to the west and Switzerland to the north, it offers a fusion of each country’s unique culture with amazing views to match. It’s hard to beat the scenic surroundings at the Aosta Valley: it’s virtually impossible to walk anywhere without seeing turquoise waters down below, Roman ruins to one side, and spectacular mountains to the other. During fall, villages here seem to light up with red, amber, and orange tones.

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Colli Piacentini

If we had to sum up the region of Colli Piacentini in one word, we’d say “red.” Colli Piacentini is the epitome of that cozy, almost-winter feeling known for its rich red wines, its dark, brooding vineyards, and its forests and hills covered in rust-colored leaves. You can’t walk too far without stumbling upon one family-owned vineyard or another, and most of this region has something to do with wine. While some areas of northern Italy spring to life with fall foliage earlier in the year, Colli Piacentini in the Emilia Romagna region is a little further south. Visit during October or even November to see all the colors in their prime.

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Fancy fusing those nature views with a side of impeccable Italian food? Head to Alba, Piedmont: the world’s white truffle capital. As well as the magical views of the trees all around, this is the best time of year to sample truffles at one of many nearby festivals. Take your experience one step further by heading out on a truffle hunting experience or simply watch the days go by, one incredible meal at a time, with the trees waving in the breeze behind you. It’s undoubtedly one of the most unique ways to admire the fall foliage here.

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Lake Como

Lake Como is one of Italy’s best sights any time of year, and that’s a fact. But visit during fall to see gorgeous red, orange, russet, and yellow leaves reflecting off the surface of the water, and you’ll get a whole different experience. There’s plenty to explore throughout this part of Italy, no matter whether you’d rather spend your time aboard a boat experiencing the magical views from the water or via Vespa, scooting your way through the forests. The Gardens of Villa Melzi d’Eril close to Bellagio–about halfway up the lake–offer some of the best fall foliage views, while the seventeenth-century Villa del Grumello fuses nature with history and culture.

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Piedmont isn’t all about truffles, and this expansive area has lots to admire. You could say that the birds have the best view of Piedmont during fall as, from above, the golden-toned rolling hills seem for miles with a kaleidoscope of warm tones. Known especially for its huge vineyards, Langhe, in Piedmont, translates to “a long, low-lying hill,” indicating exactly what sort of landscapes to expect here. The gorgeous scenery comes accompanied by tiny medieval villages, more ancient castles, and handmade pasta. Langhe was also made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 for those incredible cultural landscapes.

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Forest of Bagni Masino

The Forest of Bagni di Masino is one of the most picturesque forests in Italy, and fall is undoubtedly the best time to visit. Offering everything a postcard-perfect forest should, this is a place to wander for hours under the leaves, exploring its riot of colors and tranquil setting. An experience for all the senses, you’ll hear nothing but the rustling of leaves as you head deeper into the forest, admiring the ever-changing leaves all around. Take a sip of fresh water from one of the natural hot springs and smell nature’s earthy, mossy aroma. This beautiful walk is one of the most relaxing places in Italy, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed.

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Trentino is known as the “land of castles,” with more than 300 spread across the area. These majestic provincial spots, including Beseno Castle, Thun Castle, and Stenico Castle offer a vibrant contrast of deep blue skies, ancient crumbling brick walls, and stunning warm tones on the leaves all around. A top spot for lovers of history, Trentino has plenty to offer with castles featuring medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. As well as its castles, Trentino is home to 297 lakes, more than 5000km (3100 miles) of hiking trails, and a vast 500 million trees per 1000 inhabitants: that’s a whole lot of foliage to admire.

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Foreste Casentinesi National Park

Casentinesi National Park is one of Europe’s largest forests spanning both Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, and is rife with spectacular flora and fauna. This breathtakingly beautiful spot is popular with hikers and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Italy’s nearby cities. There’s a year-round schedule of nature-infused events at the forest, from workshops on edible herbs to mushroom picking. Or, you’re free to explore the park of your own accord, taking a dip in its waterfalls, admiring its mountain peaks, stopping by the sacred lake, and admiring the Camaldoli monastery. Listen out for deer, venison, wild boars, and colorful birds as you delve deeper into this natural oasis.