Sparkling Bubbles in the Hills of Veneto
Explore the beautiful landscape of the famous home of Italian prosecco!
In the undulating hills between the cities of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano in Northern Italy, vineyard after vineyard link up to create a patchwork quilt in shades of green that most of all resemble colorful waves rolling down the slopes towards picturesque villages and farms in the valleys or on the hillsides.
Farmers in this particular corner of the planet almost exclusively grow the “glera” grape. And with good reason. We are in Italy’s DOCG the highest classification for italian wine, a area of the delectable prosecco sparkling wine.
In the middle of May each year, the area of Valdobbiadene Conegliano celebrates itself with a festival, Vino in Villa, at the beautiful Castillo di San Salvatore castle, where visitors can sample prosecco from many of the region’s more than 180 producers.
Vineyards surround the castle, creating a stunning backdrop for the tasting of the local produce under big, white parasols spread out below the castle walls during the festival. Apart from prosecco, local specialties like cured ham, dried cheese, mozzarella; and honey are on offer.
For 250 years, the prosecco sparkling wine grape has been grown here, but it wasn’t until the ‘70’s that local farmers became full-time winemakers in their own right. Up until then, they had solely grown the grapes and sold them either to winemakers outside the area or to locals who made their own still or sparkling wine.
Today there are 183 prosecco winemakers in the DOCG area. All the grapes are handpicked, and every year the winemakers produce 75 million bottles of prosecco, which are sold to 80 countries.
The winemakers’ vineyards and fields are spread throughout the landscape along the wine route, Strada del Prosecco. A handful of them offer farm stays, letting you take in the full beautiful, rural charm and warm, food-passionate people that define the Italian countryside.
At vineyards offering “agriturismo” you will stay with the family behind a prosecco brand, and enjoy long, warm afternoons on boulder-paved terraces, snacking on homemade local delights and enjoying a glass of the prosecco made right there on the premises.
One particular treat in Valdobbiadene Conegliano is standing on Ristorante Salis’ beautiful terrace of overlooking the surrounding area. From here, it’s plain to see that this is an area of small-scale wine production.
The restaurant lies in the middle of the most coveted area of fields, called Cartizze. These 107 acres of land with steep slopes of porous, sandy earth are known to produce the region’s most exquisite grapes. The nearby Dolomite mountain range ensures that Conegliano Valdobbiadene doesn’t get too hot in the summer or too cold during the winter, and the salty breeze from the Adriatic Sea adds to the grapes’ character.
Prosecco’s flavor is immediately recognizable in every sip, as is the special tongue-tickling sensation of this very refreshing drink.
The region is only an hour by train or car from the always-romantic Venice and offers the perfect chance to combine rural experiences with a city vacation. So if the three days of Vino in Villa were not enough, you can prolong your stay in Italy by visiting the world famous art biennale in Venice held next in 2017 or simply walk around the historic capital of the Veneto region that is built on stilts.
The Grand Canal snakes through the city made up of 118 small islands crisscrossed by innumerable narrow, maze like alleys and small squares. The best way to explore the narrow canals, which are lit up by small lights hanging on the stone walls of sand-colored houses, is by gondola. Find your ride by the water outside the main square of Piazza San Marco.
When the buzz in beautiful but touristy and crowded Venice gets too much, take the $7 train ride back to rural surroundings in Conegliano Valdobbiadene to enjoy the rest of your spring vacation in Europe.
VINO IN VILLA- The festival is held the third weekend of May. The entrance fee is €20 (around $22), and it will supply you with a glass you can use to try out up to 60 different prosecco’s. The beautiful view is free of charge. www.prosecco.it
WHERE TO STAY –Stay with one of the local winemakers who offer “agriturismo” bed and breakfast. We can recommend the following:
Duca di Dolle- Live in modern rural comfort with swimming pool and breakfast in green surroundings. The house dates back to the 16th century, but the 13 room bed and breakfast underwent an award-winning renovation in 2011. www.ducadidolle.it
Borgoluce- Situated on the grounds of Castel di San Salvatore, which houses the Vino in Villa festival, Borgoluce offers it’s own charcuterie, buffalo meat, mozzarella, honey, extra virgin olive oil and walnuts, which can be enjoyed in their farm shop. www.borgoluce.it
Le Colture- A charming family-driven place, which offers bike and horse rentals for exploring the area. It’s also possible to taste some of the winemaker’s own vintage. www.lecolture.it