The greatness of Italy’s fine food and wine is in its astounding diversity, due primarily to the variety of the Italian landscape. The Alpine areas are closer in history and customs to Northern Europe, while Sicily and the smaller islands represent the heart of the Mediterranean. The two largest cities, Rome and Milan, complement each other in their atavistic distinctiveness. The Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas are worlds apart. And we could go on and on, finding contrasts that manifest on the table as well. This is the real charm of Italy.
LANGHE, THE LAND OF TRUFFLES (AND WINE)
Rolling hills covered in vineyards, villages surrounded by fields, medieval churches and castles, the scent of wine and truffles in the air (in season). It is a feeling of tranquillity mixed with awesome beauty that permeates the land spanning across the provinces of Alessandria, Asti and Cuneo, a microcosm of landscapes where humankind and nature have been going hand in hand for centuries. UNESCO named the wine landscapes of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero a World Heritage site in 2014. It is classified into to six specific areas across 29 different municipalities: Barolo Langa, Grinzane Cavour Castle, the Barbaresco, Nizza Monferrato and Barbera hills, Canelli and Asti Spumante, Monferrato of Infernot. Each one has its own specificity. It takes lengthy explorations of the vineyards, with tastings and visits to the cellars, to discover them all to the fullest. Strolling through nature from place to place, from timeless osterie to world-famous Michelin-starred restaurants, all focused on local produce, traditions and top-level wine cellars.
GARDA, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LAKE
Garda is a great lake and not only because it is the largest inland body of water in Italy. It is the vastness of its horizons that surprise new visitors to the area. It is one and triune spanning across the provinces of Brescia, Trento and Verona in regions that are also very different from one another. The real charm is to approach it with your soul and enjoy the continuous changes, its contrasts (like a seaside beach in the lower area and an Alpine lake in the upper part), the diverse vocations and the different architectures. Upper Garda, a temple of sailing, was under Austrian rule until 1918. There are beautiful Scaliger castles, some with restored ancient lemon houses. The legacy of the “Most Serene” Venetian Republic, which ruled for almost 400 years, can be felt everywhere, in the buildings, in the place names and the traditional dishes with lake fish as the main ingredient. There is something for everyone. You can venture out to the middle of the lake in a boat by yourself or spend time in one of the famous amusement parks, try your hand at free climbing or stroll along the endless lakeside promenades, like the one in Salò. Garda never gets boring.
THE VENICE LAGOON, A WORLD OF WATER
Saying Venice is enough, no introductions are needed. It is quite simply the most famous and most visited city on the water in the world, always offering unprecedented views. But for once, it makes sense to go beyond San Marco and set off to discover the unusual and unexpected side of the city at a slower pace, even better out of season. The perfect way to venture out into the Lagoon, this vast expanse of water and semi-submerged land dominated by stillness and silence, is aboard eco-friendly boats equipped with an electric motor. But you can also choose to sail on a colourful typical Venetian fishing boat called a bragozzo. There are about fifty lagoon islands around Venice and more than half of them are to the north. Murano, famous for its glass-blowers and ateliers, Burano, the land of fishermen and their colourful houses, Torcello, loved by Hemingway, with its thousand-year-old basilica and Certosa surrounded by greenery are just some of the islands waiting to be reached, visited and cherished for their beauty. We recommend stopping for dinner at an osteria to sample unique lagoon fish dishes.
THE SUN-KISSED COAST
Crystal clear sea, secluded coves and fishing villages filled with the scent of the best lemons in Italy. The Amalfi Coast is a siren call, a bucket-list place for a trip to soak up the sunny beaches and affluent villas, winding along the 50-km-long coast on the Panoramica 163 road. There are famous places everywhere, such as Positano, Ravello or Amalfi, but also lesser-known and beautiful ones, such as Furore, nicknamed “the town that doesn’t exist” that boasts Italy’s only real fjord, or Cetara, set in a valley among vineyards and citrus groves, with its ancient seafaring traditions, starting with the renowned colatura di alici anchovy sauce. The Amalfi Coast means spectacular hotels but also gourmet restaurants, with Michelin-star excellences and colourful osterie that serve dishes made using the best Mediterranean produce, bursting with flavour and colour. Other towns are worth a stop, like the elegant Minori, the pretty little beaches of Vietri sul Mare, the tiny Atrani for art lovers or the splendid walks and nature trails of Praiano.
SALENTO, THE ELEGANT HEEL OF ITALY
It is a region within a region, a land that in recent years has earned the cover of international magazines for its picturesque landscapes, beaches, a thousand products, traditions (such as the Taranta), and the important presence of art and culture. Salento offers countless facets, spread over an area that covers the entire province of Lecce and parts of Brindisi and Taranto. It is the “heel” of Italy, a peninsula bathed by both the Adriatic and the Ionian seas with many fantastic places, such as Torre dell’Orso, Baia dei Turchi, Porto Badisco, Cala dell’Acquaviva on one side; Marina di Pescoluse, Lido Marini, Baia di Porto Selvaggio, Torre Chianca on the other. But the inland towns, like Lecce and Otranto, are well worth a long visit. While summer in Salento is a buzz of traditional festivals and opportunities for fun, autumn is the ideal season to appreciate the region to the fullest, approach its most authentic character and enjoy the pleasure of its decidedly Mediterranean fine food.