Italy is famous the world over for its wines, so even if you’re not a serious wine enthusiast you’ll surely appreciate the scenery and tradition of a trip through Italy’s vineyards. Almost every region in Italy produces wine – in fact, the country claims 20 major growing regions, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, and more than 2,000 grape varietals. Some are certainly better known than others, but no matter where you are in Italy you’ll not be far from a vineyard or two.
Visiting an Italian winery can be arranged in advance through a tour company or done on your own. There are many companies which offer tours – from a few hours to a few days – through Italy’s wine regions and many wineries which open their doors to visitors. Unlike in the United States, however, not every winery has a tasting room with regular opening hours. So even if you’re planning to hit the road on your own you’ll want to check in advance to map out a route where you’ll be able to do more than just stand outside the winery gates and look at the vineyards from afar.
Italy Wine Regions
A list of Italy’s wine-producing regions reads like a regular Italian map – from Lombardy to Puglia and every region in between (and including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia), there are vineyards.
Some regions are more famous than others – like the Chianti region in Tuscany or the Barolo-producers of the Piedmont area around Cuneo – but unless you’re really into wine the names will matter less than the experience.
For a list of wineries grouped by region (warning, it’s just long lists, so will require an investment of time to sort through) see this page.
>> Learn more about how to read Italian wine labels
Organized Wine Tours
If you don’t already have a rental car, taking an organized tour of area wineries is probably your best bet. You can arrange anything from a day-trip to a tour of several days which includes meals and accommodations along the way.
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There are lots of providers offering these kinds of trips, many of which you can find just by doing a search for “Italy wine tour” in your favorite search engine. Many of the multi-day tours tend to be slow-paced and highlight not only fine wines and nice views but also top-notch accommodations in beautiful Italian villas and five-star meals – in other words, they’re not cheap. If you’re a real wine lover, however, this is a great way to create a truly memorable trip to Italy.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to see what’s available when you get to Italy, check with the tourist information office in the city you’re visiting to see if there are any organized trips to local vineyards. Day-trips can be a great way to get a taste of Italy’s wine culture without spending a fortune.
Here’s a video of what an organized wine tour of Chianti can look like:
Do-It-Yourself Wine Tours
As mentioned above, most Italian wineries don’t have regular open hours or the kinds of tasting rooms you might be familiar with from trips through places like California’s Napa Valley. Instead, you’ll want to make arrangements in advance of a wine tour – even one you’re organizing yourself.
In 1993, a new group was created to help tourists connect with wineries who are willing and able to accept visitors – this Movimento Turismo del Vino, or the Tourist Movement of Wine (MTV for short), provides lots of great information on its website, although some of it is in Italian only. For instance, this page lists all the wine-producing regions in Italy and actually has links for suggested itineraries visitors can follow in each one – including wineries to stop at. Just click on the “itinerari della ragione” link under the region you’ll be visiting, and you’ll find a few options for self-guided tours of wineries in the area.
If you don’t speak Italian, you can get a pretty good approximation of the tour by using an online translator like Google or an online dictionary like WordReference – just double-check any driving directions with the tourist information office before you set off, or, if you’re really planning ahead, send an email to MTV before you leave. MTV also has several annual wine-related events and festivals which you may want to plan your trip around.
>> Learn more on the official Movimento Turismo del Vino website
Open Cellars Day
One thing to keep an eye out for if you’re a wine enthusiast is the annual “Cantine Aperte” event, or “Open Cellars” day. It’s one day every year when wineries throughout the country throw open their doors in a kind of open house. Visitors can see how the wine is made, sample the goods, and even taste other local products like cheeses and olive oils. It’s also a great chance to get a peek at Italian country life – especially fun if you’ve mostly stuck to the Italian cities during the rest of your visit.
Cantine Aperte takes place on the last Sunday in May each year, and you can learn more about it on the MTV Open Cellars website. The regional MTV associations’ websites are listed here, and each of those websites will let you find out what wineries are part of the MTV association and therefore participating in the Open Cellars event.