Sure France is a great place to visit for a wine lover, but we’d argue that no place is more magical and transporting than a trip to Italy. The food, wine and people are a combination that can’t be beat, and it’s a must for any lover of wine and culture. And while you could spend a lifetime traveling Italy, most of us only get a week or two for a visit – after that it’s back to working for the man or woman – so these are the must sees, the spots that any lover of wine has to put on their bucket list.
1. DINNER AT TRATTORIA DELLA POSTA IN PIEDMONT
While Tuscany may get all of the press, since it is so close to Rome and Florence, Piedmont is truly Italy’s finest wine region and this is one of the region’s best restaurants. We’ll get to some of the Barolo and Barbaresco wineries that are must visits in a second, but right now, let’s focus on the food. Piedmontese cuisine draws inspiration not only from Italian culture, but also French, due to its close proximity to the French border and this influence shows. While you’re here, get the classic Vitello Tonnato, a tender piece of veal accentuated by a rich and creamy tuna sauce. And who knows, you might even see Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon while dining since this is one of the restaurants they visit in their recent movie, The Trip: Italy.
2. A VISIT TO ANY OF THE GREAT BAROLO OR BARBARESCO WINERIES
Barolo and Barbaresco are called the wine of Kings and Queens and the label fits. You can’t go wrong with a visit to any of the great wineries of the region, but if you are looking for specific recommendations, check out our travel guide.
3. A TOUR OF THE BANCA DEL VINO AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GASTRONOMIC SCIENCES
Italians take their food and wine very seriously, and it is here in Piedmont that the international Slow Food movement was born. While a visit to the heart of Slow Food, The University of Gastronomic Sciences, is cool enough, as a wine lover you can’t miss a tour of the University’s epic wine vault. They hold tours and tastings daily.
4. ORVIETO, UMBRIA
Umbria is often said to be a less touristy version of its Tuscan neighbor to the north. The region is just a short drive from Rome and is filled with ancient hillside towns and amazing red wines made from the age-worthy Sagrantino grape. But the most famous of these towns is that of Orvieto, whose city center is dramatically perched on the top of incredibly steep cliffs and who makes what most consider the region’s best wine, not a red, but the white Orvieto blend. The white wine made here can be either sweet or dry, depending on the style preferred by the winemaker, and is considered one of the best whites made in all of Italy – it even has a history of being the preferred wine of the Pope and his papal court.
5. DINNER AT THE TOP OF MONTE SUBASIO
While in Umbira there’s a good chance that you will also visit Assisi, located on the slopes of Monte Subasio, but you don’t want to hang out on the mount’s slopes, you want to head for the peak. At the top of Monte Subasio is a small campground and in typical Italian fashion this campground has a restaurant, Fontemaggio. It looks like a quaint hunting lodge with the wood fired grill in plain sight right in the middle of the dining room, but you are in for an incredible meal. The menu focuses on traditional Umbrian fare and takes full advantage of the grill, plus the house wine flows.
6. A PIZZA AND A CARAFE OF WINE IN NAPLES
Let’s be honest, most people aren’t just traveling to Italy for the wine, they’re headed there for their other love, pizza. And there is no better place to have a delicious pie than Italy, just remember, don’t eat the pizza with your hands, you’ll look like a barbarian — make like the Italians and attack your pizza with a fork and knife. To wash it all down, order a carafe of the house wine, nothing will taste better.
7. A GLASS OF PROSECCO IN VENICE’S URBAN VINEYARD
On the Island of Mazzorbo sits the Venissa winery. The vineyard is part of a larger development which includes a fancy hotel and restaurant, but you’re here for the wine. Owned by the Bisol family, who are prominent makers of Prosecco, grab a glass of bubbly and toast to the good life. If you’re feeling adventurous, order a bottle of Dorona, a white grape favored by Venice’s aristocrats, long thought to be extinct, which was rediscovered here. The Venetian government partnered with the Bisol family to redevelop the Dorona vines on Mazzorbo.
8. A TRIP TO CHIANTI FOR FAVA BEANS AND A GLASS OF WINE
A visit to Italy isn’t complete without a visit to Tuscany. Much has been written about the beauty of the region’s rolling hills, and the deliciousness of its wine, and it’s all true. Head to a simple trattoria for a delicious lunch of Panzanella – Tuscan bread salad – and Fagioli Con Salsiccia – beans with Sausage – with a nice glass of Chianti, of course!
9. A GLASS OF FRASCATI IN ROME
This is a wine that goes back to the Roman Empire, as far back as 5,000 B.C. Referred to as Golden Wine by ancient Romans, at one time all the taverns in Rome were owned by Frascati producers. The wine is made in either a dry or sweet style and sparkling or still. It’s the perfect glass to drink as an Aperitif before beginning an epic night of dining and merriment in one of the world’s greatest cities.
10. CONSUME A BOTTLE OF WINE AL FRESCO
There is nothing quite like drinking outdoors, and in Italy it’s a birthright. Head to any of the small shops, grab a simple sandwich of mozarella and proscuitto and a bottle of wine. Then head to the nearest park or even comfortable curb. Pop the bottle, pour a glass, and enjoy.
11. A GLASS OF WINE AT ONE OF ITALY’S EPIC AUTOGRILLS
In Italy, even their highway rest areas take wine and food seriously. Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you should not take time for a proper lunch and glass of wine. You eat, you drink, you eat a bit more and then you have an espresso before hitting the road.
12. VISIT THE FAMED WINE REGION OF VITTORIA, SICILY
Sicilian wine is having a moment right now. The wines of Mt. Etna seem to be everywhere and people are beginning to rediscover how special this unique island’s food and drink really are. But the only wine region on the entire island to receive DOCG status – which is the government’s strictest regulation reserved for its most celebrated wines – is Vittoria. The wine is a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato and it is known for its finesse – if you like light wines like Pinot Noir and Gamay, this is your jam. The wine does well with a slight chill, and is perfect for sipping while sitting under the warm Mediterranean sun.
13. A GLASS OF WINE ON THE CLIFFS OF CINQUE TERRE AT SUNSET
The five villages of Cinque Terre are some of the most picturesque places in all of Italy, and nothing goes better with their incredible beauty than a sunset and glass of wine.