Every region of Italy, from the Veneto to Sardinia, produces wine. Many Italian wines are consumed locally; you won’t find too many wines from Le Marche, for example, in grocery stores near Naples, let alone across the Atlantic. Touring Italy’s wine regions is an excellent way to sample wines you will never find back home.
Italian vacation farms, called “agriturismi” in Italian, are wonderful places to stay if you’re interested in wine. An agriturismo is a farmhouse or large estate home that offers both guestrooms and information about the products grown or made on the property. You might find a few chickens running about, but you’re much more likely to see how wines, cheeses or olive oils are produced. Many agriturismi also have a restaurant on-site. You’ll probably need a rental car if you plan to stay in an agriturismo, as, by necessity, most are located in rural areas. Pick up a map of the region you plan to visit in a local bookstore; Italian travel brochures and websites tend to be long on photographs and descriptions, but short on practicalities.
Let's look more closely at some of Italy's most renowned wine regions.
When you see the bustling city of Turin (Torino), it’s hard to believe that Italy’s best wines come from this area – the city sprawls across a valley floor and practically vibrates with energy. There’s nothing agricultural in sight. As you travel southeast, however, you’ll find yourself in a wine lover’s paradise. Piedmont is home to 33 Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita wines. Many of Italy’s most prestigious wines, including Barbaresco, Barolo and Asti, are made here.
If you’re looking for the best of the best Piemont wines, head for the Langhe district near the town of Alba. Made from nebbiolo grapes, Barolo wines have graced the tables of kings, popes and connoisseurs for centuries. You can spend a night or two at a Barolo winery; consider booking a stay at the agriturismo of E. Pira e Figli, where Chiara Boschis makes Barolo, Barbera d’Alba and Dolcetto d’Alba wines (website in Italian only).
To visit a tasting room on a daytrip, stop by the Regional Wine Cellar of Barolo in the town of the same name. The wine cellar is closed on Thursdays and from mid-December to mid-February each year.
Many Barolo wineries also offer tastings and tours, usually on a pre-arranged basis. Azienda Vitivinicola Damilano, which produces the award-winning Barolo Cannubi Damilano 2003, accepts reservations for tastings and tours by telephone, fax or email.
For a taste of the real Italy, rent a Vespa motor scooter from the Langhe Tourist Office and zip around the countryside. Your Vespa wine excursion includes an overnight stay, cheese tasting, dinner and a winery tour. If you prefer to take a slower approach, pick up a hiking and trekking map from the Langhe Tourist Office.