For all you wine lovers, (and I’ll take my chances of assuming that most of you are ;)), a vacation in Italy sounds pretty promising. Italy is considered to be the world’s oldest wine-producing region. In the historic sense, you definitely will not be let down. If you’re heading there for the first time, consider visiting the more popular wine spots, as they are popular for some (many) reason. If you’re an avid wine fan and have already been to Italy’s finest wine destinations, I dare you to be adventurous and try one of the less common wineries.
The area around Alba in the Piedmont region of northern Italy is a delightful area to visit – especially if you’re into wines. The hills surrounding Alba are home to some of Piedmont’s – and Italy’s – biggest flavored and most famous red wines and best white wines. This is where the legendary Barolo and Barbaresco and other noteworthy wines like Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and Nebbiolo are produced. Within a relatively short distance of one another lie some of Italy’s most famous wine towns such as Barolo, La Morra, Dogliani, Serralunga d’Alba and Barbaresco.
And to top it off, the wines are not only plentiful and good but are downright bargains compared with retail prices.
Although a very scenic and tourist-friendly destination, it is not on most tourists’ radar screens. The area is replete with vineyards, castles, medieval towers and unpretentious but scenic towns lying in repose on crests of gently rolling hills. It is also home to some of the Piedmont’s greatest restaurants where the local cuisines, while distinctly Italian, incorporate French culinary influences. The area around Alba is also renowned for its white truffles, chocolates, hazelnuts and artisanal cheeses.
Situated in northern Italy, the province of Emilia-Romagna is a food lover’s haven. Aside from its wines, visitors can make the most of the time to try the traditionally made produce of Parma ham and Parmesan. These are best paired with the red, Lambrusco – a highly sought after vino with a zesty, aromatic profile. Stay in the city of Bologna and admire the medieval architecture before treating yourself to a dish of authentic Italian pasta at one of the street-side cafes.
If you’re looking to sample wine while you’re in Italy, go straight to the source: These Tuscan wineries are excellent spots to learn about-and, of course, sample-wine.
You might want to set aside an entire weekend for Castello Banfi, a family-owned vineyard estate and winery in Brunello di Montalcino. Though it’s famous for its award-winning Brunellos, syrahs, merlots, cabernets, and blends, you’ll want to stay long after the wine tasting to soak in the spectacular surrounds (the estate boasts 7,000 acres of vineyards, olive groves, and cypress trees – yup think we’ll stay!).
Many say that you won’t get a better Chianti than one from Barone Ricasoli-a pretty lofty claim, but highly probable considering that Baron Bettino Ricasoli himself invented it in 1872. Ricasoli is Italy’s oldest winery, producing some of Tuscany’s finest wine since 1141. To this day, the family continues to produce more than three million bottles a year. The winery offers an excellent tour of its cellars and grounds, including the majestic Castello di Brolio, capped by a private wine tasting.
While you’re in the Chianti region, stop by this small, family-run winery in the medieval village of Montefioralle, near Greve. Unlike Barone Ricasoli, this winery produces only 10,000 bottles of wine a year (it’s one of the smallest wineries among the Chianti classico producers) but that’s where its charm lies. A member of the Sieni family, who own the winery, will personally take you on a tour through the vineyards and cellars, followed by a tasting of all six wines produced.
The arid heat and fertile soil of Sicily provides perfect wine-producing conditions. The largest of the Mediterranean islands is home to the popular Marsala dessert wine which can be sampled in the region of Marsala on the western coast. After exploring the historic wineries in neighboring Alcamo, be sure to take a sightseeing tour. From Greek amphitheaters to temples and churches, it’s sure to impress.
The Veneto Region of Italy is a fascinating section of the country to visit packed tight with wine country, gorgeous cities and hamlets, and some stunning natural scenery. The area is the perfect destination for wine lovers, gourmets and honeymooners as the region is romantic, picturesque and some fabulous wines are produced here. Easily reached via a day trip from Venice, this wine region is responsible for some of Italy’s most popular exports. Head to the wineries in the charming town of Valdobbiadene and you can enjoy the finest Prosecco in the world. Reds are equally impressive where you can enjoy the full-bodied Amarone and the smoky Valpolicella. If you’re seeking some added luxury, travel to nearby Lake Garda. Lakeside hotels offer five-star service and lavish spa facilities.