Maybe it seems silly to say, but one of the most notable changes I have seen in Rome since I moved here is how widely Halloween is celebrated. In 2010, I remember being the only person dressed up as I made my way to a party – and now the stores are already filled with decorations and costumes. Of course, it remains mainly geared at children so there are also lots of activities that start to pop up in October, including a pumpkin patch.
We hopped in the car for a 30 minute drive out to Torre in Pietra Carandini – a farm in Fiumicino that has transformed itself for the Halloween season into a pumpkin patch near Rome. The ranch was founded as a dairy farm in 1926 but now hosts two major annual events to connect city dwellers to agriculture: the tulip picking in spring, and jack-o-laterns or “zucche di Barbabianca” every October.
The pumpkin patch experience is not really about going to pick one out on the vine, but it is well organized for young Halloween lovers. First, you buy your tickets online (€12) and are given a two hour range when you can enter the main area. Note: children under 100 cm are free, but that means that they don’t get their own pumpkin and will have to share with mom or dad.
The kids pick up tiny wheelbarrows and head out the field that has been dotted with pumpkins. Every person with a ticket can pick one pumpkin to decorate. You can actually stay at Torre in Pietra Carandini all day – but the two hour window is when you are allowed to use the tables and materials to decorate your pumpkin. You can either paint or carve the zucche, and since my children are 3 and 5 this year, we opted to paint them.
We left our pumpkins to dry in the sun and walked up to the picnic area. I had packed a few things but quickly decided to save my homemade sandwich for later when I saw the fire-grilled sausage panini on offer at the farm were only €5. We also grabbed a large piece of pizza rossa and a glass of wine for €2.50 each. No apple cider donuts in sight…
In addition to the pumpkin picking and decorating, there were activities for the kids to enjoy as well: hay bales to climb, a simple ‘maze’ to navigate, sack races, and donkeys and goats to admire.
On our way out, we bought some decorative gourds as well as pumpkins that are better for roasting and eating than for ornamental touches – really rounding out the day of zucca.
The only thing that we were not super well prepared for was the weather: it was 30C/85F in October! I should have packed sunscreen because shade was somewhat limited.
Enjoy the ottobrata romana!