Off the Beaten Track in Lombardy: the Oltrepò Pavese

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 04:00
Oltrepò Pavese

Ever heard of the Oltrepò Pavese? Located in the province of Pavia, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, it takes its name (meaning beyond the Po, near Pavia) from its geographic position, to the south of the River Po.

Sometimes compared to Tuscany, the Oltrepò Pavese has indeed much to offer when it comes to rolling hills, medieval villages and castles, panoramic views, delicious food and wines. The Oltrepò is the largest wine producing area in Lombardy, famous especially for sparkling wines, and for the Bonarda and Pinot Nero in particular.

The Oltrepò Pavese is dotted with medieval villages, some of them included in the list of Italy’s most beautiful borghi (historic hamlets). Such is the case with Zavattarello and Fortunago.

The quiet, almost stuck in time, atmosphere of Fortunago is best enjoyed by exploring its alleys paved with porphyry cobblestones that climb up the hillside, lined with quaint stone houses with wooden doors and windows.

Some of the local delicacies include the ‘salame di Varzi’ (a cold cut) and the ‘malfatti alle erbette’ (a type of pasta), to be accompanied with a glass of red wine.

Not far from Fortunago is Zavattarello, one of the most ancient villages of the Oltrepò Pavese. Its name derives from the Latin savattarellum, which means "place where slippers are made". The old town is still partially surrounded by walls, and features a stone castle with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

Porana, in the quiet heart of the Oltrepò Pavese countryside, has several historic buildings, and, thanks to its location, offers many chances for trying genuine local products, among them potatoes, peppers (try the risotto with peppers and tripe), onion, pumpkin (try the torta di zucche, pumpkin cake), and of course the wines made in the vineyards of the surrounding hills.