Wine and Travel: Italy

Italy is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, with regions that have produced wine at least as far back as the 2nd Century B.C. It is famous for having a wide range of grape varieties – nearly 400 in total! Let’s look at five of the most popular wine regions in Italy.

Read all of our Wine and Travel blogs in the series including Spain, Portugal and California.

Veneto

The Veneto region is in the north-east of Italy, along the Adriatic Sea. The regional capital is Venice and whilst most travellers head straight there, the region also contains other popular tourist destinations, such as VeronaPaduaTrevisoLake Garda and the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Verona, with its Roman ruins is a lovely town to wander around. Opera lovers can attend the famous outdoors opera season there in the Roman arena and you will be spoiled for choice with numerous art galleries and fine architecture. Treviso is a quiet and prosperous town near Venice with picturesque canals of its own. Padua, a beautiful, ancient walled city situated between Verona and Venice, is the oldest city in Northern Italy.

The Veneto’s principal ski resort is Cortina d’Ampezzo. It boasts 140 ski runs and over 50 miles of cross-country pistes, along with some great après-ski! Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes. There are many beautiful towns, villages, and beaches along the lake shore, all with their own unique charm and breath-taking scenery.

Known as the city for lovers, artists and poets, Venice is beautiful all year round. Although it can get very cold in winter, the sheer beauty of the place makes it magical even out of the peak holiday season; there’s never a bad time to go to Venice.

The Veneto wine region is one of the most important of the Italian wine regions. While not as large as most of the other wine regions of Italy, this region is famous for producing more wine than the rest of the country. The region produces many styles of wines including the sparkling Prosecco, which can be sampled in vineyards along the so called ‘Ring of Prosecco’, Soave and the red, Valpolicella.

Top Tour: Valpolicella Day Trip from Venice: Wine Tasting and Verona –  Escape to the beautiful winemaking valley of Valpolicella on this small-group tour from Venice. Drive through rolling vineyards and stop in at a winery to taste a selection of distinctive regional wines. See an altar that dates to the 8th century at the Church of San Giorgio, and enjoy leisure time to wander the streets of Verona.

Piedmont

Piedmont (Piemonte) occupies most of north-western Italy, bordering Switzerland in the north and France in the west and almost reaching the Mediterranean coast. Described as the new Tuscany without the crowds, it is often an overlooked tourist destination meaning you can enjoy Michelin starred restaurants, gorgeous scenery, fairy-tale style castles and great activities all without the hustle and bustle of tourists. The main areas of Piedmont are Langhe and Roero which are located about an hour from the main city, Turin.

Alba is a charming little town most famous for white truffles and Nutella at the Ferrero factory. If you visit Alba between October and the middle of November, you can visit the International Alba White Truffle Fair that is held on the weekends

Other unmissable destinations here in Piedmont are Cherasco, known as the town of star-shaped walls, Savigliano, home to many ancient monuments rich in history and the Sacra di San Michele, an ancient sanctuary with religious aspects of architecture and natural environments.

Piemonte is known for two of the best wines in Italy, Barolo and Barbaresco, along with the white Gavi, and sparkling Asti. Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, it is sweet and low in alcohol, and often served with dessert.

Top Tour: Taste of Life Day Tours – Unique day tours and custom tours focused on the Barolo region of Piedmont. Prestigious wine tastings, truffle hunts, long wine paired lunches at local restaurants, visits to artesian chocolate and cheese producers. The hosts are passionate wine and food lovers who can provide you with an amazing insight into and behind the scenes of the best cantinas and vineyards of the region, as well as the best, but not necessarily best-known, restaurants and bars as well.

Abruzzo

Abruzzo is a region in central Italy. Its western border lies 80 km east of Rome. The region is divided into the four provinces of L’Aquila, TeramoPescara, and Chieti. The west of the region is mountainous whilst the east has beaches on the Adriatic Sea. Abruzzo is known as “the greenest region in Europe” as almost half of its territory, the largest in Europe, is set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves: there are three national parks, one regional park, and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of Europe’s living species including rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, the Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf, and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.

L’Aquila is the capital city of the Abruzzo region. It was devastated by an earthquake in 2009, however the province that surrounds it includes 13 of the villages designated as the “Most beautiful villages in Italy”. Teramo, in northern Abruzzo, is an excellent walking town There are two great monuments to visit, the Cathedral and the Roman Theatre. Pescara is Abruzzo’s largest city. It is a popular seaside resort with one of the biggest marinas on the Adriatic and 16km of sandy beaches. Chieti is an ancient medium-sized town on the Pescara River. near the Adriatic Sea. It has an 11th century Romanesque cathedral, a 14th century tower, and a university.

Most vineyards in Abruzzo are found in the hilly areas, 75% of which are in the Chieti province and the remainder situated in Pecara, Teramo and L’Aquila. The primary red grape in the region, Montepulciano, makes a dark, rich wine with high tannins and an herbaceous character called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and is like Cabernet Sauvignon. The main white wine produced in the region is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.

Top Tour – Wine tour and Tasting in Nocciano – An extraordinary tour of the wine history of Abruzzo. The winery is one of the oldest in Abruzzo located in Nocciano, between the Gran Sasso and the Majella mountains. The tour includes a visit of the underground tunnels where hundreds of thousands of bottles are stored for ageing and to the museum of viticulture. Tasting of wines and typical appetizers follows the tour.

Sicily

Sicily is the largest of Italy’s islands, and is in fact the biggest island in the entire Mediterranean. The island’s history is one of Greek, Roman and Arabian origins, so you’ll see a unique blend of traditions that have formed the Sicilian culture today. Sicily is also home to Mount Etna, an active volcano on the east coast, offering a steep but rewarding walk for anyone up to the challenge.

The island’s capital, Palermo, has ornate architecture, bustling back streets and beautiful beaches. The coastline is lined with small beaches. These are located either directly in the city of Palermo or within an hour’s drive from the city itself. Mondello is the largest beach in Palermo and is the closest to the city while Cefalu and San Vito Lo Capo are both about an hour away from the city centre.

Six miles west of the city is a headland above the sea with sweeping views and stunning Roman ruins, Solunto is the most-excavated site on the island, and it is possible to wander an entire town – there are courtyard villas with painted walls and mosaic floors, a marketplace with columns and shops, the old baths still holding water, and an amphitheatre overgrown with weeds.

With consistently bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, Sicily’s classic Mediterranean climate is ideally suited to the production of wine grapes. Red wines from Sicily are dark, rich, and fruit forward because of the warm climate. Nero d’Avola is one of Sicily’s most famous wines, though the grape has only been imported to the island in the last century. It’s joined by the light, herbal Frappato, and Grillo and Fiano are some of the top white Sicilian varieties.

Top Tour: Sicilian Cheese and Wine Tasting in Palermo – Treat your taste buds to the delicate flavours of Sicily’s finest wines and cheeses with a gourmet tasting experience in Palermo. Soak up the ambiance of a historic, 17th-century building while sampling a hand-picked selection of six Sicilian wines paired with regional artisan cheeses. While you sip and nibble, learn about the island’s wine appellations and traditional cheese-making processes from a knowledgeable foodie guide.

Tuscany

Of all the wine regions of Italy, none are as renowned as the Tuscany wine region. With its romantic landscape of rolling hills, country roads, and picturesque villages, and a whole host of historic cities to explore including FlorenceSiena and Pisa, it’s a wine-lover’s paradise.

Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region, and home to one of the country’s finest collection of Renaissance art. Head to the Galleria dell’Accademia and set eyes on Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, or visit the Uffizi to see works by the region’s most influential artists. Florence’s skyline features the famous terracotta dome of Florence Cathedral, placing this city firmly on the map of Italy’s most recognisable places. Enjoying good food and excellent wine is not hard to do in this city. Just take a stroll down any street in Florence and you will come across many different restaurants that will seem appealing to you – from Michelin starred to traditional Florentine cafes and places for a quick bite.

Siena is likely Italy’s loveliest medieval city, and a trip worth making even if you are in Tuscany for just a few days. Siena’s heart is its central piazza known as Il Campo, known worldwide for the famous Palio run here, a horse race run around the piazza two times every summer. Siena’s vibrant streets are full of boutiques, sweet-smelling pastry shops and tempting restaurants. It’s an essential stop on every Tuscan itinerary.

Pisa is one of the most famous cities in Tuscany, and with a population of just 91,000 it is one of its smaller cities too. The city has a fantastic array of beautiful historical buildings and boasts over 20 historical churches…along with its legendary leaning tower! Pisa has some world class museums and beautiful scenery along the banks of the River Arno. This historical city is worth much more than just a fleeting visit and serves as a great base for those wishing to explore this region of Tuscany.

Most of the wine produced in Tuscany is red wine, made above all from the Sangiovese grape. The best known name is undoubtedly Chianti, but this is only one of the many types of red wine produced in the region. Brunello di Montalcino is considered by some to be one of the finest wines Italy has to offer. The region produces a few whites using mainly the Trebbiano grape.

Top Tour: Chianti Half-Day Wine Tour from Florence – Leave the driving to someone else while enjoying Tuscany’s famous wine on this Chianti tour from Florence. Get a comprehensive introduction to the region’s wine by visiting two different wine estates and medieval village. Your guide takes you past picturesque Tuscan countryside to wine estates in Chianti Fiorentino and Chianti Classico to taste local wine and food. The tour includes time to explore the winery cellars, and the villages themselves.