Autumn Wildflowers in Italy – Real and Fake Crocus

One of the first autumn wildflowers in Italy is the sternbergia lutea with its bright yellow flower that has a crocus-like shape. In fact, it is often erroneously referred to as Autumn Crocus. It is actually more close related to the narcissus (daffodil) in the amaryllidaceae family.  The easiest way to spot the difference is by noting the number of stamens in the flower- a crocus has just three, while the sternbergia lutea has six.

autumn crocus wildflower

Soon after the the sternbergia is finished blooming, the lovely purple saffron crocus crocus sativusappears. If you are a patient person with a hankering for risotto alla milanese, you can gather the tiny amounts of saffron from the flower’s stigma.

Autumn in Italy is also the time for beautiful walks, when the summer haze lifts to reveal splendid clear skies and far-reaching views. In my backyard in Sicily, the peak of the Mt. Etna volcano appears, while in the Chianti area of  Tuscany the craggy Appenine mountain range suddenly comes into view.

And a walk is always a good excuse to taste.  Crisp autumns days in Tuscany invite the walker to explore pathways through golden vineyards, stopping in one of the delightful hilltowns in Chianti for a taste of the vino novello, the season’s new wine.

In Sicily, its still warm enough by the sea to have a picnic, and I love to go to the oranges from SicilyVendicari coastal oasis, and follow the ancient Greek road to a rocky overlook.  This is a good place to sit in the sun, watch the changing colors of the sea, and slurp up the juice of the season’s first oranges.

Read similar stories about the seasons in Italy:

Have Sausage, Will Travel- Regional Food Exchange

Encountering The Magical Mandrake Plant

Autumn Traditions – Thank San Martino for Warm Weather

Top Places to View Wildflowers in Italy

4 thoughts on “Autumn Wildflowers in Italy – Real and Fake Crocus

  1. Thank you for your information re Sterbergia Lutea, spotted these in Malcesine, Lake Garda, September, 2018, while out walking and no one could provide me with the name of these beautiful yellow flowers. Found your site and the answer to my search. Many thanks, Mark

  2. I, too, am grateful for the name of these beautiful yellow flowers. I have a couple growing in a pot on my deck here in Northern California along with another pot of Crocus sativus. I have already collected three stigmas; a long way from making a paella but one can hope!
    I look forward to exploring your website in anticipation of a future visit to Italy!

    1. I am glad to hear that you share my love of these beautiful yellow flowers. I have also collected saffron from crocus – first of all make sure that you have crocus sativus bulbs, as other types of crocus are poisonous. After discovering how tedious it is to remove the stigmas and slowly dry them, I appreciate why saffron is so expensive! Hope to meet you in Italy one day. Ciao for now!

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