In a country where the concept of ‘wine tourism’ is relatively recent, Le Città del Vino (www.cittadelvino.it) is a national association that numbers among its members some 540 wine communities. The association was created in 1987 with the aim of promoting wine towns throughout every region in Italy by highlighting all that they have to offer for the wineloving visitor.
Le Città del Vino publishes an extensive and detailed guidebook that highlights each città del vino together with details of its wines (hectares of vineyards, grape varieties cultivated, DOC and DOCG wines), prodotti tipici (typical food products and specialities) and piatti locali (the local dishes that must be tried) as well as details of recommended hotels, agriturismi, enoteche and
restaurants and wine estates that welcome visitors.
Le Città del Vino also produces a monthly magazine, Terre del Vino, and a number of other publications, while its web site is the source of much useful information (in both Italian and English), including a database of wine museums, festivals, signposted wine roads and itineraries, local foods and books about wine.
The organisation is furthermore involved in a number of activities and initiatives. For example, one of the most popular is the Calici di Stelle, a sunset-to-dawn celebration that takes place in town squares throughout Italy around the night of San Lorenzo (August 10th) with local wines offered for tasting alongside local specialities, to enjoy in the warmth of a summer evening under a canopy of stars (and, if you are lucky, falling stars).
Here are a few of my favourite città del vino.
PROVINCE: Verona - REGION: Veneto
FESTE E SAGRE: Festa del Chiaretto (end of May); Festa dell’Uva e del Bardolino Classico (end of September/early October); Festa del Vino Novello (early November);
WINES: Bardolino, Bardolino Classico, Bardolino Chiaretto (a light red or full rosato), Bardolino Novello (new wine released just weeks after vinification).
PRODOTTI TIPICI: Olio extravergine d’oliva Garda Veronese DOP
MUSEUMS: Museo del Vino di Bardolino; Museo dell’Olio di Oliva
STRADA DEL VINO: Strada del Bardolino (www.stradadelbardolino.com)
The town of Bardolino, nestled on the southern flanks of Lake Garda, is as charming as the wine to which it gives its name.
Bardolino is a popular lakeside resort, especially with Austrian and German tourists who descend here to enjoy the local wines, typical foods, and gentle countryside and climate. The vineyards begin virtually on the edge of the town and extend through neighbouring communities.
The typical range of Veronese grape is cultivated including Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella, Negrara and others. In addition to wine, olive oil from Bardolino and surrounding communities is equally highly prized and is entitled its own DOP. Come in autumn to enjoy the particularly heady atmosphere of its wine festivals.
PROVINCE: Cuneo - REGION: Piedmont
FESTE E SAGRE: Palio degli Asini (1st Sunday in October); Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba (last three weeks in October);Vinum (end of April, early May)
WINES: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo delle Langhe, Dolcetto d’Alba, Moscato d’Asti, Roero.
PRODOTTI TIPICI: Tartufo bianco d’Alba; tajarin pasta; torta di nocciole
Alba, quite simply, is one of the great wine towns of the world. What Beaune is to Burgundy and Haro to Rioja, Alba is to the surrounding wine country of Barolo, Barbaresco and the Roero: both the hub of rich and prestigious wine country and a centre of rural economy and commerce. For lovers of food, Alba is a centre of gastronomy based around the fabled, rare and highly sought white truffle.
Gastronomes descend here in October during the Fiera del Tartufo to visit local restaurants to sample this amazing and fragrant rarity, as well as to enjoy the great wines of Le Langhe and Roero. There are sign-posted percorsi that lead from Alba through the vineyards, so a walking tour in summer is an equally enjoyable pursuit.
PROVINCE: Prato - REGION: Tuscany
FESTE E SAGRE:Antica Fiera di Carmignano (December); Cantine Aperte (end of May);Cena Etrusca (end of May); and many others.
WINES: Carmignano; Barco Reale Rosso and Rosato; Vin Santo di Carmignano; Colli dell’Etruria Centrale Rosso, Bianco, Rosato and Novello
PRODOTTI TIPICI:Ficchi di Carmignano
MUSEUMS: Museo della Vite e del Vino di Carmignano
PROVINCE: Bari REGION: Puglia
FESTE E SAGRE:Sagra dell’agnello (August); Sagra del Vino Novello(second Sunday in November)
PRODOTTI TIPICI:Burrata cheese
STRADA DEL VINO: Strada dei Vini DOC Locorotondo e Martina Franca
Carmignano, located to the west of Florence, is one of Tuscany’s smallest and least visited wine zones. In a region that is sometimes overrun by foreign tourists and visitors, this alone is reason to visit.
The area was once a favourite hunting ground of the Medici, who built villas at Artimino and Poggio a Caiano, as well as a hunting lodge at Bacchereto. Carmignano itself is little more than a small, charming wine town in the midst of the vineyards that serves as a rallying point for the tiny communities that surround it: Comeana, Artimino, Bacchereto.
Come here to enjoy its numerous festivals, to visit the wine museum, to view the famous and bizarre Visitation by Pontormo in the Pieve di San Michele, and to strike out into the wine country in search of Medici villas and classy red wines made from Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Few come all the way to Puglia simply in search of wine, but for the intrepid there are rich rewards. The Salentine peninsula is the source of outstanding and still undervalued reds such as Salice Salentino and Primitivo di Manduria, while sound (if not world-beating) whites come from the attractive area of the Valle dell’Itria centred on the town of Locorotondo and its surrounding trulli countryside.
Indeed, the possibility of renting a trullo from which to explore the wine country is one of the biggest attractions here, alongside the chance to enjoy stunning, simple foods made from the freshest and most flavourful ingredients and accompanied by the honest and tasty local wines.
Locorotondo itself is a magical hill village overlooking the vineyards, its historic centre a circular maze of tiny alleys and tall, narrow whitewashed townhouses. Visit nearby Alberobello, centre of the trulli country, and the Baroque town of Martina Franca.