With year-round sun, a warm Mediterranean climate and a relaxed pace of life, Italy offers some of the simplest and the finest things in life. To mention one from its varied list, wine tops the chart. Wine and Italy go hand in hand. With much of the Italian countryside given over to vineyards, and several varieties of grapes grown here, Italy provides several choices when it comes to the best wine sampling.
While in Italy and looking at your options for some of the best places to visit in Italy, you’ll never be far from a vineyard or a cellar. Below we’ve chosen 5 of the top cities in Italy big on wine tasting.
The city of Verona is famous for its love of wine, and it is here that the annual Vinitaly (annually held international wine competition in Verona) is hosted, showcasing the best of Italian wine through competitions and exhibitions. The city lies in the Veneto region of northern Italy, the largest wine producing area in the country. It is an enchanting city with much to offer visitors.
- Highlights: From Verona, it is possible to visit a multitude of vineyards in the surrounding area. Valpolicella, to the north of the city, is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the country. The name itself derives from the Latin for ‘valley of many cellars.’ Today it’s famous for its Amarone, a dry red wine. Custoza, to the East of Verona, is famed for its light white wine and the city is also close to the growing regions of the now universally popular prosecco.
- What to expect: Verona is one of the top wine destinations in Italy. You can expect a city packed not only with culture, but also a multitude of restaurants and wineries with extensive and unusual wine lists, particularly during the festive period of April.
- Best time to visit: Verona is enchanting at any time of the year but for wine lovers the Vinitaly Festival is a must. It’s held annually in April.
Palermo, the capital of Sicily, sits close to many of the island’s most well-known vineyards and is a good base from which to explore this wine producing region. With its picturesque charm alongside a vibrant city atmosphere you’ll find extensive wine lists, attractive wine bars and some of the best vino in southern Italy close by. Since this enchanting city offers more than just wines, you can shuffle through your options on Palermo tours.
- Highlights: Sicilian wine is fast becoming known as something special. The Vittoria region on the island is a highlight producing a wine which has received DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, an Italian government classification for notable wines). A blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato grape varieties, it is a light red wine perfectly suited to Sicily’s warm Mediterranean climate. The island’s most famous white is a Chardonnay from the winery at Planeta.
- What to expect: Sicily is producing a wide variety of wines from sweet Marsala to dry whites and high end reds. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to wine lists with varieties to suit all pockets. With Palermo as a base it is possible to visit much of what the island has to offer though you’ll need your own transport if you intend on visiting specific vineyards and wineries.
- Best time to visit: Sicily is blessed with a year-round temperate climate, however, visit in January when the north of Italy is colder and it’s possible to sample the wines of this fascinating island at a more relaxed pace.
Though a village, rather than a city, Montalcino is the perfect base for exploring the vineyards of Tuscany. Lying at the heart of one of Italy’s most famous wine producing regions, this picturesque Tuscan village is a mecca for wine lovers––and despite its small size it’s one of the best places to visit in Italy for discerning wine connoisseurs. More on Tuscany and trips to wineries is listed in Tuscany Tours and Holidays.
- Highlights: The local red wine is known as ‘Brunello di Montalcino’ and has received DOCG status. It is only released after 48 months of ageing making it a sought-after variety, though a lighter version called Rosso di Montalcino is also available.
- What to expect: Montalcino is a popular destination for wine lovers with many of the vineyards and cellars open to visitors through appointment.
- Best time to visit: The third weekend in February sees the ‘Benvenuto Brunello’ (welcome Brunello) which marks the release of new Brunello wine on to the market and is a must-attend for those wanting to stock their cellar with this prestigious vintage.
The town of Barolo lives for wine. Situated in Piedmont’s Langhe wine region, this medieval gem sits in the Cannubi valley surrounded by vineyards. The castle houses a wine museum and one of the finest cellars in the country.
- Highlights: Made with the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo is considered one of the finest wines in the world earning it the nickname ‘The king of wines and the wine of kings.’ A pilgrimage here should be on any wine lover’s bucket list if only to sample this most prestige of varieties.
- What to expect: Almost every business in Barolo is dedicated to wine, with wineries, wine shops and restaurants all set to entice the visitor with their cellar list. Marchesi di Barolo cellars offer tours in English, though it is always advisable to plan for visits in advance.
- Best time to visit: Wine and food are natural siblings and the region is also famed for its truffle production. Visit in the autumn months of October and November to pair the king of wines with the king of mushrooms.
The renaissance city of Florence is not only steeped in history, but also in wine and is one of the top cities in Italy for wine lovers. Lying at the centre region of Tuscany the city is one of the most picturesque site in Italy and it has been a centre of wine production since 200 BC. Should you be interested here's some information on the best wineries in Tuscany.
- Highlights: It is the Chianti wine which dominates the local scene with Chianti Rufina, Classico and Colli Fiorentini produced in the surrounding countryside. The main grape variety in this area is the black Sangiovese variety, a name meaning ‘blood of Jove’ a reference to the Roman god Jupiter and a demonstration of just how ancient the art of wine production is in this area.
- What to expect: Florence is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Italy with much to attract the visitor. You will find extensive wine lists and the opportunity to make excursions from the city to the many wineries in the surrounding countryside such as Badia a Coltibuono which translates as ‘Abbey of the good harvest’ and is one of the best Chianti producers in the region.
- Best time to visit: Florence wine fest takes place each March and includes over 100 different shops and restaurants showcasing the best of the region’s wines. The city is a good base at any time of the year for exploring the numerous wineries this region offers.
When it comes to wine and wine tasting, the above list is just a small selection of the best places to visit in Italy. With every region of this country producing unique and unusual varieties of wine, wine lovers across the globe have more than plenty of options to choose from. Whether your preference is white or red, dry or sweet, sparkling or still, light or something with depth, the possibilities for discovery are endless and the experience you take home is beyond measure.