What are the best places in Italy for a wine lover to visit?
Since we’re talking Italy here, if you like wine, odds are wherever you land is going to be a Mickey Mouse shy of Disney World. Though it may not be the largest country on Earth (it’s actually #71), Italy is long and lean with three distinctive zones (north, central and south) and 20 unique regions that are all vying for your precious palate.
Assuming this is your first visit, there are books and websites aplenty that will go into way more detail than I can here regarding all that Italy has to offer a wine tourist, so take my broader suggestions and dig deeper as you plan your trip.
Thanks to a rail system that runs pretty much with military precision (especially if you forget to punch your own ticket), you can pack a lot of eating and drinking into one tour of the peninsula.
While it might not be everyone’s first choice, if you can go to only one place, my pick is the region of Veneto in the northeast. Home to Valpolicella (with its Amarone and Ripasso wines), Bardolino (and the beautiful Lake Garda) and the awe-inspiring walled city of Soave, it’s a cornucopia of liquid fun. Plus, if there’s a more attractive, wine-centric city than Verona (think restos and enotecas that come with a view of a majestic Roman arena), I’ve yet to visit it. Then, of course, there is its capital of Venice.
You can drive west to Piedmont (where Barolo, Barbaresco and the Nebbiolo grape rule) in under three hours. Look “beautiful” up on the Internet and you’ll see a picture of the Langhe, the hilly area in the heart of the region. Want to try wines you can’t get at home? Piedmont’s exports are a drop in the bucket of what it produces, which makes it Valhalla for anyone who loves discovering boutique beverages. And don’t get me started on the food.
The triad of Italy’s most famous wine hotspots is complete with a few days in Tuscany, arguably Italy’s most well-known plot of juice-pressing geography thanks to its subregion of Chianti. Taking the old-route drive between Florence and Siena is like stepping back in time.
Been to the big three? Head south to Campania. As a super fan of the Aglianico grape I’m a tad biased, but the region is still so undiscovered (even with all the culinary wonders invented in Naples) that it needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Marche, on the country’s central backbone, is another hidden treasure, especially if you love white wine.
Just off the coast of the tip of Italy’s boot, Sicily looks like the mainland is about to give it a swift kick. Don’t let that deter you. The island is a true gem, especially if you’re a fan of unique, indigenous grapes. You could easily spend your entire time abroad tasting its wonders. And I didn’t even mention Rome. Oh, I just did.