Touring the Vineyards of Italy
Too Numerous to List, Too Picturesque to Miss...
Since antiquity, the Italians have woven the finer things into the fabric of everyday life: exquisite art, sumptuous food and a seemingly endless supply of wine. Until recently, travelers have reveled only in the taste of the wines while the magnificent wineries of Italy remained elusive to all but a lucky few.
Italian Wine Regions
Due to its temperate year-round climate, Italy claims twenty major wine-growing regions, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and over 2000 indigenous grape varietals. Wherever you park your bags in Italy, there's a winery nearby providing a scenic backdrop of rolling hills and endless rows of grapes beckoning you to visit for at least a day. Selected wineries offer accommodations, and we're talking medieval castles, complete with state-of-the-art conveniences and five-star dining!
How to Visit an Italian Winery
There are four ways to visit the wineries:
- Day trips
- Movimento Turismo del Vino annual events
- Wine and food tours
- Rent a car and spend several days wine-estate hopping on your own.
Unlike the United States, you'll find wineries within easy access wherever you call home while vacationing in Italy. City: Wine Region
- Rome: Lazio
- Milan: Lombardy
- Naples: Campania
- Pisa or Florence: Tuscany
- Venice: Veneto
- Genova: Liguria
To strike out on your own, it's best to plan your visit in advance. Contact the winery to arrange a visit before you leave home. Some wineries limit the days and hours that they receive guests. For a day trip to a winery, you'll usually need to rent a car or hire a driver.
To find a winery close by, visit the wine web Click a region. When you see a smaller map with the subregions, click a subregion. When you arrive at the page with the list of wineries, you'll find a link to the Web site for each winery that appears in bold. E-mail the winery to request a visit.
Castello Banfi Estate
If you're going anywhere near Siena or Florence, consider a day trip to the award-winning Castello Banfi Estate in Montalcino. One of the largest and newest wineries, it boasts an 11th-century Etruscan castle on 7100 acres, most of which were covered with forest and brush less than twenty years ago. The estate is open six days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with tours scheduled Monday through Friday at 4:00 p.m., and you can drop by for the tour without calling ahead.
Two resident restaurants provide casual and formal dining six days a week. Stop by the Enoteca (wine cellar) before your departure to procure a few bottles of wine for the rest of your vacation as well as olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, and other take-home indulgences. The estate is open year-round, except for two weeks in mid-August when it closes for vacation. The castle will welcome overnight guests within a few years, but for now you can visit the glass and wine museum housed in this historical structure and daydream about a repeat trip with an overnight stay.
Italian Winemakers Welcome Visitors:
Movimento Turismo del Vino (The Tourist Movement of Wine—MTV) was conceived in 1993 to encourage winemakers to open their wine cellars and vineyards to visitors and to welcome them as family. MTV's initiatives have not only increased Italy's stature in the global marketplace, but they have also opened a whole new dimension of Italy to travelers, enabling them to leave the beaten path in search of lesser known treasures. Comprised of 900+ prestigious wineries, MTV has also succeeded in bringing the wineries to the people through several grand-scale annual wine tastings and festivals. If the marriage of art, food and wine spell the ideal vacation for you, plan your trip to attend one of MTV's annual events.
- Vinitaly for You - Alongside the annual Vinitaly trade exposition that consumes the city of Verona for four days and
- Cantine Aperto - Since 1993, the last Sunday in May each year, most of the MTV wineries open their doors to visitors. This year's 800+ "open wine cellars" enthusiastically received more than a million visitors for the festivities.
- Calici di Stelle - Each August 10th, in honor of San Lorenzo, MTV sponsors a wine tasting festival held in the finest piazzas throughout Italy, showcasing the finest Italian wines. If you happen to find yourself in Italy on August 10, find your way to the closest participating square and soak up the wine, the music, and the atmosphere. E-mail the MTV for a list of locations.
- Benvenuta Vendemmia - Once again, at the end of September, participating MTV wineries throw their doors open to the public on a Sunday—this time in celebration of the grape harvest. Same fun as Cantine Aperto, different excuse. E-mail Movimento Turismo del Vino for information about any of their wine events or participating wineries.
If you live to eat (and drink wine, of course), consider a vacation built around the food and wine specialties of Italy. You won't find two-week tours herding you like cattle to a different region each day of your trip. Instead, you'll find shorter, 3-4
day, total immersion, VIP tours, serving up quality rather than quantity and allowing you to savor the experience rather than rushing you around the vineyards in 14 days. To experience wine tours at their finest, visit the Orient Express Hotels site and select from among tours such as the Vineyard with a Butler and the Chianti Full Immersion tours for a first-class wine tour. Events and packages change frequently. Check the Web site for current tours.
On Your Own in Wine Country
If you've had enough of city life, rent a car and take to the road—the Via Chiantigiana, that is. Spend a few days making a leisurely journey along this scenic road winding through wine country. The Via Chiantigiana connects Florence, in the North, with Sienna, in the South. Along the way, you'll pass through the Chianti valley, rich in history, with its production dating back to the 1300s, and richly saturated with vineyards and wineries. Put together your itinerary any way you like. The Black Rooster Consortium presents the sights and tastes of the Chianti winegrowers on their site. Beyond listings of all the wineries, you'll find articles of interest in their online Chiantico Classico Magazine. As savvy wine drinkers from the four corners of the world gain an appreciation of Italy's superb range of wines, travelers' appetite and fascination with Italian wineries will continue to increase. Discover the treasures of Italian wine country while they still possesses their quaint and picturesque charm.