In Italy, vineyards worth traveling across half the world
By Elise Fu
The snow-capped peaks of the Apennine Mountains zip past us as we
speed through the cities of northern Italy by train. Warm sunlight
imbues the mountainsides and the small valleys, and between the hills’
changing green shades, one vineyard is followed by the next. The flow of
the landscape’s green shades here is uninterrupted. It’s the result of a
warm and stable climate, unique to this little part of the world. The
beautiful vines and the colorful village mansions, the romantic aroma of
wine, all reflect a culture that goes back thousands of years, and a
love for wine that is now deeply anchored in local tradition. The green
valleys and vineyards are among the most charming sceneries in Italy,
and have rightfully become a place that tourists love to return to.
our trip to Italy, we avoided the bustling urban destinations that draw
hundreds of thousands of tourists and opted to stay in Valpolicella, a
wine-growing area in the province of Verona. The hilly agricultural and
marble-quarrying region is only 20 minutes from the city of Verona, the
scene of most of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The popular Lake Garda,
surrounded by mountains, is also nearby.
Wine is an intricate
part of Italian culture and history. Nowadays, the country still
produces about 15 percent of the world’s wine. Many of Italy’s top
wineries are in the northern part of the country. Here, the soil
nurtures many grape varieties, some of which have been grown here for
hundreds of years. Similarly, the knowledge and techniques of wine
making have been passed on from generation to generation.
the Roman Empire, the sweet grapes typical of Valpolicella have been
renowned across the country. The area is situated in Veneto, one of the
three biggest wine-growing regions in Italy, which is also Italy’s most
productive. Veneto has 14 DOCG — controlled and guaranteed designation
of origin — and three DOC — controlled designation of origin — wine
regions. The three DOC regions are Valpolicella, Soave and Bardolino,
all located in the western part, around Verona, making the city the
center of Veneto’s wine industry.
Olga Bussinello is the managing
director of the Consortium of Valpolicella wine region, which, founded
in 1924, includes the growers, producers and bottlers of the
Valpolicella region and oversees and regulates almost every aspect of
cultivation and wine making, up to the promotion of the finished
Originality, identity and indigenousness of these wines
are what distinguishes them from other, more famous wine regions,
“Originality because each valley in Valpolicella
has a ‘terroir’ and microclimate that is different from the others.
Identity, because the smells, scents and roundness of Amarone
Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, Recioto della Valpolicella and
Valpolicella may absolutely be distinguished from other red Italian
wines. Indigenousness because only in Valpolicella may the Corvina,
Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara grapes yield such a unique product,
pleasing the most disparate of tastes,” she explained.
Memorable agri-tourism at winery
a large number of holiday farmhouses in Valpolicella, many of which are
linked to wineries or agricultural enterprises that grow grapes.
Staying at these facilities often means living in the midst of farmland,
enjoying the simplicity and familial catering to one’s needs and the
human relationship that is key to area’s overall atmosphere.
place that became our short-term home is called Agriturismo Fioravante.
It is a family-run business, neither big nor luxurious, but warm and
cozy. My room was large, clean and comfortable. When I opened the
window, I could see the distant hills and the clear blue sky, the
endless wineries, and parts of the farmhouse — a scene that can simply
be described as peaceful.
Both mother and son, who run the family
business, spoke no language fluently other than Italian, but their warm
hospitality broke down barriers. The first morning was wonderful as I
woke up to the smell of homemade pancakes, prepared by the mother, while
the son served us coffee. As we walked outside, we were greeted by
three black cats and two playful big dogs in the garden.
the day, it’s best to just explore the area. I went for a morning run
and, just about 10 minutes from our accommodation, I encountered an old,
charming chapel; a walk around the vineyards will also give you a
glimpse into the history and culture of this wine region.
At night, we were served homemade wines, espresso, cheese and ham, all authentically Italian.
you want a more luxury experience, head to Villa Cordevigo at Cavaion
Veronese that belongs to Vigneti Villabella. The company’s vineyards
span 220 hectares and produce all the major classic wines of the Verona
area, such as Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone.
an eighteenth-century manor house complete with a consecrated chapel, is
now a five-star hotel with a fine dining restaurant that holds a
Michelin star and features a large swimming pool. Guests can visit the
cellar, join a wine tasting and learn about the beverage’s rich history.
Or you can rent a bicycle and tour the valley’s villages. In any case,
the natural scenery is definitely rewarding.
Food and wine
be worried if you don’t know too much about wine, or if you aren’t
familiar with all the terms, the grape varieties or the regional names
and quality standards. Just feel the passion and persistence that every
winery owner shows when you are in Valpolicella.
You may visit a
lot of wineries here, and they may differ in size or production
quantity, but the spirit of each owner is similar: They are very proud
of their work, careful about the way their wines are produced and
passionately express their love of wine. This impressed me a lot. No
matter if the winery is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, like
the Tinazzi winery, or if it produces only a few hundred bottles a year,
using ancient wine-making methods, their dedication to their work is
When you are in the wine region, wine tasting events
must be on your agenda. I can recommend SalvaTerra, a company that was
founded in the 1990s. The company has rapidly grown through the
acquisitions of several vineyards in Valpolicella Classic area. Villa
Salva Terra, their headquarters, offers wine tastings and guided tours.
Guests can choose from three types of tasting, which can be customized
on request. Cheeses and cold cuts from the region are also included.
winery worth a visit is Santa Sofia. The winery was founded in 1811 and
is centered around a noble villa designed by Andrea Palladio in the
sixteenth century. Since 1996, Villa Santa Sofia is listed on the UNESCO
World Heritage along with other villas built by the same architect. The
winery produces an average of 550,000 bottles per year.
produced wines are based on the red Corvina variety. Other important
contributors are Corvinone and Rondinella, while a small percentage of
other native varieties are also allowed.
When you are in the
countryside of Italy, you will become familiar with not only wines, but
also cheese and hams. One day, we came across a very authentic deli that
displayed the best food of Valpolicella, Benedetti Food Boutique.
Cheese refined in Verona’s red wine, mild salami, salamino sausage made
with red wine, and preserves like jam are highly recommended. If you are
interested, you can also visit their cheese and meat storage, and learn
how they are made. The boutique shop is also popular among locals and
is run by a family.
– Romeo and Juliet, the town of Lazise and Lake Garda
city is only 20 minutes drive from Valpollicella, so a trip to the
romantic city can be a great extension of the journey to Valpolicella.
Verona is a small and charming city, considered a more pleasant and
relaxing destination than the nearby Venice. The cobblestone streets
lined with medieval pink-hued buildings, well-preserved Roman gates and
churches are popular among visitors. The house of Juliet Capulet and the
balcony on which she stood while Romeo promised his eternal love are
visited by hundreds of thousands each year, although the whole story was
made up by Shakespeare. There are two things you shouldn’t miss in
Verona. The first is to visit the Castel San Pietro, which lies on top
of a hill that offers a beautiful night view of Verona. Second, book a
show in Verona’s most famous landmark, the vast Roman amphitheater. Many
wineries offer wine tasting events with the show, such as Sartori Di
Lazise is situated on the east side of the famous
Lake Garda, about 25 kilometers from Verona. Just about 7,000 people
live here, at the foot of the moraine hills, where the lake reaches its
maximum width of 17km. The old city wall takes visitors back to the
medieval time, and after you pass the main gate, you feel transported
into another world as you see the beautiful Lake Garda. People jog and
ride their bicycles around the lake while swans and ducks swim in the
clear, blue water and seagulls fly above. Archeologists have found
remains of a settlement around the lake that dates back to prehistoric
times. The name Lazise derives from the Latin word “lacus” which means
If time permits, jump on a train, and head to Milan, Venice,
or Florence. But no matter how many places you get to visit during your
trip, once you’ve been to Italy, you will always want to return for
more — more of its food, its wine, its people and its charm.