Participants meet at the airport of Milano Linate early afternoon. This provides the opportunity of joining the tour right away after arriving at the airport, as International flights from North America arrive in the morning. However, we suggest you arrive one or more days before the start of the tour to give yourself a good amount of time to adapt to the time zone (Italy is 6 hours ahead), as well as enjoy a visit to the eclectic city of Milan, famous for its fashion and shopping districts, great restaurants, La Scala Teatro dell’Opera, the Galleria and the Duomo. From the airport we depart for Lago di Como. Welcome dinner and overnight stay.
Day 2 - Bellagio, Varenna, Sondrio
This morning we follow an expert local guide to discover the two historical villages of Bellagio and Varenna. They are referred to as “the Pearls of Lake Como” for their beauty and romance and many gardens and villas. This is an easy two-hour walking tour. After lunch we leave the lake and head north towards the Alps. An easy drive will bring us to the town of Sondrio, located in an Alpine valley well known to all wine lovers: Valtellina. The local Nebbiolo grape, known locally as Chiavennasca, gives birth to the best wine appellations of the region including Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato (an Amarone style red wine from partially dried grapes). Check-in at our 4-star spa-hotel in Sondrio, where we stay for two nights.
Day 3 - In the heart of the Alps: Valtellina wine region
Our tasting adventure starts early today! We visit and sample the wines of two wineries, one large and one small. It is fascinating to study the differences in their products and their wine-making philosophies. Lunch is at a local trattoria where we taste the local food specialties. It is important to experience and understand the work that goes on behind the making of these wines from steep terraced hills (Valtellina is a World heritage recognized UNESCO site).
Day 4 - Trentino-Alto Adige
Departure from Sondrio in the morning. We stop at a nearby cheese factory early enough to experience the making and the tasting of the local fresh, succulent ricotta and DOP cheeses — Denominazione Origine Protetta. Mid-morning we will be heading east towards the Trentino-Alto Adige region and drive through Alpine picturesque areas to reach the vast vineyards of these regions where we will sample the local production and many grape varietals. Following the east coast of Lake Garda we arrive in the village of Sirmione. This romantic jewel is our strategic base for a few days. We are now in the heart of Veneto's best wine regions, which we will visit over the next few days.
Day 5 - Cooking in Valpolicella
Valpolicella (the ‘valley of the many cellars’) is the most important wine region in Veneto. Today we learn all about its wine production and techniques, climate and cuisine. We discover why Amarone wine is so popular, why locals dry the grapes to produce it and what they like to eat with it. We are delighted to cook side by side with a Chef at the winery. A lunch paired with different vintages of Amarone is one of the highlights of the tour!
Day 6 - Soave, Gambellara and more Amarone!
Setting our compass east, we visit two famous wine regions of Veneto: Soave and Gambellara. Soave is a medieval town dominated by an austere castle surrounded by kilometre after kilometre of vineyards. We’ll stop at the Consorzio to participate in a guided side-by-side tasting of Soave (including the premium Superiore, Classico and Recioto) vinified from the Garganega grape. Then we visit a family that for generations has been producing wine in Gambellara. During lunch grab a seat near papa and figlio, our proud producers, to learn about their history, knowledge and passion for wine. For family run operations, wine continues to be an important aspect of daily life. It is interesting to discover why they like their style of wine and how they enjoy it with their everyday meals. Valpolicella includes three valleys carpeted with vines that run north to south. The three main grapes of this area (Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella), produce a complexity of wines ranging from dry to sweet, from light to full body and from rosé to dark red. More Amarone? SI! More wineries and more wine...some of Antonio’s favourites!
Day 7 - Franciacorta and Verona. Bubbles and Love.
From Sirmione, we head west en route to Lake Iseo in search of the Franciacorta DOCG. Franciacorta is seen by modern wine reviewers as the best “bubbly” of Italy. It reflects the traditional method of fermentation (“Metodo Classico”) using locally grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Here, we’ll visit a very traditional “cantina” and lunch ‘al fresco’ in a terrace on the vineyard. After so much indulging, it is time to visit Verona. An easy two hour walk with a local guide will help us digest! We are enlightened about the secrets of Romeo and Juliet, the Arena and the Roman origins of this unique city.
Day 8 - A sparkling day!
After breakfast we check out from the hotel and depart to reach the immense wine hills where the Prosecco grape is grown and its sparkling wine is produced. Visiting the top wineries in the area, will allow us to learn much more about this diverse wine region. We will taste many examples of wines made from local grapes blended with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We then head towards our charming retreat in an ancient residence in Friuli, north of Venice. Relax, Aperitivo and Dinner
Day 9 - The real Prosciutto DOP
You cannot sip Prosecco without a taste of the local Prosciutto! Therefore we want to bring you to the small village of San Daniele where the local prosciutto is cured and stocked then distributed to the world. Time for some relaxation and/or shopping today. Farewell dinner at our Villa.
Day 10 - Venice. End of Tour.
After breakfast at the hotel we transfer to the Venice airport where all participants are free to organize the rest of their vacation as they wish. Participants can opt to remain at the Villa for extra days. They offer shuttle service to the nearby city of Venice and to Venice airport.