La Bella Vita
Taste your way through three of Italy’s great wine regions – Veneto, Piedmont and Sicily – with visits to private wineries and fine dining in the company of ‘The Wine Man’, Peter Bourne.
Experience Italy’s bella vita with a glass of wine in hand, as Peter Bourne leads you through the rich traditions of Italian winemaking in regions that have been producing wine for more than 2,000 years. Travel through Veneto, home of the dry, crisp Soave and the rich, red Amarone della Valpolicella. In Piedmont, pursue Barolo and Barbaresco, which mature from a light, tannic youthful red to a polished brick-orange. Finish in Sicily, where a major vinous revolution has seen the historic Marsalas make way for vibrant whites and thoughtful reds with the Mount Etna region creating new benchmarks.
Note: Many wineries are reluctant to commit to visits more than 2-3 months prior due to the exigencies of harvest and production. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested overnight Etihad flights to Milan via Abu Dhabi. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Arrive in Milan and check in to the hotel. In the evening, join Peter and fellow oenophiles for a welcome briefing followed by dinner.
Check out from the hotel and travel to Verona via Sirmione on Lake Garda. Jutting out from the southern shore of the lake, the narrow promontory of Sirmione is one of the region’s most enchanting sights, extolled by Roman poet Catullus as “the darling of all islands and peninsulas”, and crowned with a 13th century castle.
Mid-afternoon arrival in Verona, our base for the next three nights. As the evening gathers, enjoy a walking tour of the city’s Roman and Mediæval architecture, followed by dinner in a Veronese restaurant. Verona specialises in simple, hearty dishes – risotto, polenta, bigoli pasta and, for the adventurous, horse steaks – to complement the region’s robust, fruity wines, and the Veronese pandoro is justly famous throughout the world.
Explore the Valpolicella viticultural zone, one of Italy’s most productive wine regions. Located on the north side of the Adige River valley, Valpolicella is home to hundreds of vineyards and smallholdings, and has a wine-making tradition stretching back more than 2,000 years.
Today, visit the viticultural estate of the Serègo Alighieri family, descendants of the poet Dante Alighieri. The estate produces wines for the Masi company, which was instrumental in developing Amarone in the latter decades of the 20th century, modernising production methods and helping to demarcate its zone of origin. Enjoy lunch at the Serègo Alighieri estate before continuing to Speri winery, which has been producing dry, plummy Valpolicella and spicy, deep black, aromatic Amarone for five generations.
Today, savour the joys of Soave wine, and its stand-out producer Pieropan. Soave has gone through a period of change in recent decades, moving away from the crispness that was associated with the vintages of the 1980s and 1990s and rediscovering the medium body and bitter almond notes that characterised its classic vintages.
Pieropan’s vineyards lie at the heart of the Soave viticultural zone. Loose, deep soil atop volcanic basalt nourishes the Garganega grape variety which lends Soave its distinctive delicate, almond-like flavour. Lunch today is in the Soave growing area.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel from Veneto to Piedmont, a region famous for white truffles, sweet peaches and fine wine.
In the afternoon, check in to the hotel in Alba, our base for the next four nights. This evening, enjoy dinner in a restaurant specialising in Piedmontese cuisine – rich, savoury dishes including world-renowned beef produced from the local breed of Piedmontese cattle.
The traditional mainstay of Piedmontese wine is the indigenous red Nebbiolo grape, harvested amidst the autumnal fog (nebbia) that cloaks Alba and its surrounding areas. Wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape start out clear light-red in colour and tannic on the tongue, and mature to a deep brick-orange with notes of prunes, violets, tobacco and truffles.
Today, explore the Nebbiolo-growing vineyards of Massolino in Serralunga. After lunch, travel to the winery of E Pira & Figli, run by Chiara Boschis, who balances a zeal for innovation with an appreciation of the traditional structure of Barolo wine. Conclude the afternoon with a tour of Ceretto winery, whose founders were instrumental in establishing the ‘cru’ for Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
The most prominent of the wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape is the famous Barolo DOCG, one of Italy’s most well-beloved wines. Subject to very strict controls as to where it can be grown – always on a hillside, no humid areas, sunshine and shade within prescribed limits – Barolo has traditionally been a tannic wine in its youth requiring at least 38 months of aging after harvest and 10 years of resting before it can be enjoyed. Newer vignerons have shortened this period, producing fruitier, much less tannic, ‘modernist’ Barolos – although not without controversy from the ‘traditionalists’!
Deepen your appreciation for Italy’s ‘King of Wines’ with visits to vineyards southwest of Alba in the Barolo ‘cru’. Tour the winery of Vietti and sample their robust Barolo, and then have lunch in the village of La Morra. In the afternoon, visit the sixth-generation winery of Poderi Marcarini, proud ‘traditionalists’ in Barolo production.
Barbaresco DOCG, another wine from the Nebbiolo grape, is grown east of Alba in a viticultural zone smaller, lower and warmer than that of its brother Barolo. Barbaresco is the younger of the two brothers, only tracing its origin to 1894 and undergoing a shorter aging period of 24 months and then resting 5 to 10 years. Consequently, Barbaresco is a more approachable, less tannic wine, especially in its youth, but its smaller growing area means that it is less commonly found outside of Italy.
Today, travel to the Barbaresco-producing winery of Fletcher Wines and get to know this ‘younger son of Nebbiolo’. Savour their wines while partaking in a cooking class to learn the subtleties of good cucina piemontese – and then eat some of your own culinary creations for lunch. In the afternoon, visit La Spinetta winery, founded in 1977 by an Italian who returned home from making his fortune in Argentina determined to produce wines to make his Piedmontese ancestors proud.
After breakfast, check out from your hotel and transfer to Turin airport for a flight to Catania in Sicily (included in tour price). On arrival in Catania, transfer to Ragusa.
Set atop a broad limestone hill, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed city has a history stretching back 4,000 years and has been ruled in turn by the Siculi, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Holy Roman Empire and Spanish Hapsburgs and Bourbons before it eventually merged with Risorgimento Italy in the mid-19th century. A great earthquake in 1693 devastated the city, and much of its impressive Baroque architecture dates from the subsequent reconstruction era.
In the morning, explore the historic quarter of Ragusa Ibla, named after the ancient settlement of Hybla, whose labyrinthine streets wend their way between ornate palazzi and Baroque churches.
Travel to vineyards in the Vittoria region near to Ragusa, including COS, which departs from Sicily’s reputation for hot summers and strong sweet wines to produce instead cleaner, more thoughtful reds like the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG from the Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes. Enjoy lunch in a vineyard.
In the evening, return to Ragusa for an evening at leisure.
After breakfast, travel to Noto near Syracuse to visit the ‘cradle of Nero d’Avola’, the foremost grape variety of Sicily. Visit the aptly-named winery of Planeta Buonivini (‘Planet of Good Wines’), which produces elegant, powerful and balanced Nero d’Avola reds. Contrast these robust reds with whites produced from the Moscato Bianco grape, such as the delicate, aromatic Moscato di Noto and the sweet Passito di Noto derived from grapes dried after harvest using the traditional appassimento process.
Enjoy lunch in the picturesque fishing village of Marzamemi, where potted red geraniums bloom beside the sky-blue wooden doors of limestone cottages just a few kilometres from Europe’s southernmost point. Return to Ragusa in the evening.
After breakfast, check out from your hotel and drive to Syracuse, the magnificent 2,700-year-old city that was once the foremost city-state in Grecian Italy. Still graced with the remnants of Ancient Greek temples and amphitheatres, Syracuse also displays a rich array of 17th century Sicilian Baroque architecture.
Enjoy a lunch of typical Syracusan cuisine – a rich array of fresh seafood, redolent of the Mediterranean – and then spend the afternoon on a walking tour of Ortygia Island which forms the heart of the historic city, including the Museo del Palazzo Bellomo.
In the late afternoon, continue to Catania. Check in to the hotel in Catania before an evening at leisure.
On the slopes of Mount Etna, the towering volcano that still dominates the skyline of eastern Sicily, visit the winery of Pietradolce, which creates zesty Etna Bianco DOC from Carricante and other indigenous grape varieties, as well as elegant, fresh and complex Etna Rosso DOC from Nerello Mascalese, Sicily’s new superstar grape.
Enjoy a light lunch to freshen your palette before continuing your exploration of Etna whites and reds in the afternoon.
Return to Catania in the late afternoon before a special farewell dinner with Peter and fellow travellers – with wines to match of course!
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Suggested return flights to Australia or New Zealand via Rome and Abu Dhabi. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
02 February 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Italy.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals of traditional regional cuisine as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines specially selected by your tour leader
- Economy Class flight from Turin to Catania, including airport/hotel transfers on either side
- Visits to specially selected vineyards and wineries for talks and tastings
- Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International flights (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on tour arrival and departure
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, room service, etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Milan – Starhotel Rosa Grand ****
Verona – Hotel Accademia ****+
Alba – Hotel Calissano ****
Ragusa – Mediterraneo Palace Hotel ****
Catania – Mercure Excelsior ****
NB. Hotel and restaurants of a similar standard may be substituted