Wine & Travel

Snooth User: MWarrenNh

First visit to Italy

Posted by MWarrenNh, Jul 17, 2010.

Hello all -

My wife and I will be going on our first visit to Italy in this coming September.  We'll be staying in Venice, Cinque Terre, Pienza (half-way between Montalcino and Montepulciano), and of course, Rome.

Neither of us have much experience with Italian wines, but would like to learn as much as possible before going on our trip.  Can anyone recommend a few good bottles to sample before heading overseas?  (we're on a bit of a budget - we can't break the bank with both the pre-trip and the trip itself).

Also, if anyone has recommendations on vineyards to tour in Tuscany, we'd be very interested in hearing about your experiences.

Thank you all - happy sipping!



Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jul 18, 2010.

Hi Matt,


Welcome to Snooth.


That is a very tall order you've got there. It sounds like you've got a wonderful trip planned.


Now I am biased on this particular topic, but in general when in Italy you are goin to be very safe drinking inexpensive local wines. These are the types of wines that frequnetly don't even make it to the US for that matter.


You are also going to visiting a wide range of rgions that really have very different wines.


In Rome you'll drink Orvieto, in Venice, Soave of even still Prosecco. In Cinque Terre you'll find local wines that are rarely seen stateside, and in Pienza you'll find all the riches of Tuscany.


I would suggest finding yourself a nice Chianti, A soave, an Orvieto, and just enjoy them for what they are, the wines in Italy will be similar but they will also be different. For starters you'll be enjoying them in Italy! And that makes everything taste better.


As far as vineyards go, are you looking for really intense winemaking tours or more consumer focused visits. In the absence of additional information I would recommend a visit to Montepulciano, generally a bit less tourist travelled and filled with great properties. You can even make a visit to the enchanting village of Montepulciano part of the trip if you choose to visit Contucci, the promotional agency for Montepulciano is located in the square right across from Contucci so if you want to visit additinal wineries you can make plans right there.


I've written a bit about my visists to Tuscany, you can find that info, which begins with my arrival in Italy.  There is an index to all nine parts of this email which can be found on the last page of the article.

Reply by madmanny, Jul 18, 2010.

If you're on a budget, I have always found house wines in Italy to be very drinkable. 

Reply by MilanB, Jul 19, 2010.

Pienza is lovely small town, romantic place to stay. I suggest to pay visit also to Monteriggioni - small picturesque village/fortress. When being in Pienza visit Trattoria Latte di Luna - delicious food, good wine and friendly staff and try one of Chiantis from menu. Even house wine was pretty good.

Reply by MWarrenNh, Jul 19, 2010.

Thanks Greg, Madmanny and MilanB for your replies.

MilanB, I'll be sure to look up Trattoria Latte di Luna.  If my Italian is up to snuff (which is unlikely), that translates roughly into a milk/espresso drink from the moon?  Sounds unbeatable.

Greg - Tuscany is really the area where we'll be doing the intense wining - Montepulciano is high on my list.  I'd be up for any sort of more intense vineyard/winemaking experience, as long as there can be tasting involved.  I not planning on bringing much wine back with me, I think it'll be more of a learning trip. 

A friend who recently visited Tuscany mentioned that going into wine shops to pick up Brunello's was outrageously expensive and suggested just stopping into a local supermarket.  Has anyone had success with that approach?  Any must-try vineyards that I should be sure to dazzle my wife with?

Great articles Greg - I'm looking forward to my trip more than ever!  (and I want your job, badly)

Thanks all!  I'm really enjoying this site and I think I'll have to become a regular!  (It's particularly enjoyable with the nice Chianti I have sitting next to me right now!)

Reply by bropaul, Jul 19, 2010.

I agree with the other posters that if you are on a budget, drinking the house wine is probably a good idea. In my experience, restaurants and trattorias have found both a red and a white that complement a wide variety of the dishes they serve. If you've never been to italy before, you should know that you generally order the house wine in parts of a litre, most often either a 1/2 litre or a whole, sometimes as little as a 1/4! So, you are not committing yourself to a huge amount of wine, if you are uncertain. It's often cheaper than the soda, so if you don't like it you're not out a lot of money either. I have also found that many places in Italy off half-bottles of local wines, so you can taste something else too. Just relax and enjoy! Have a great trip.

Reply by tgiFLORENCE, Jul 23, 2010.

Hi Matt,

I live in Chianti, so I have to say I'm just a bit prejudiced! ;o)

If you want to be able to taste a lot of different wines from the region, you can do so at Le Cantine di Greve. Tasting there is inexpensive and fun. You'll have access to dozens and dozens of wines - Chianti Classico's, "Supertuscans", Brunello's, Vernaccia's from San Gimignano...! You can also taste grappa's, vinstanto's, extra-virgin olive oils and other local products. Check out the website:

One of my favorite wines (and wineries) is Fattoria Montagliari, outside Panzano. Very small production - go for a tasting and lunch. Tell them I sent you!

You can sometimes pick up bargains at the supermarkets! However, be aware that those wines are from the largest producers - sometimes they'll be wanting to "unload" wine that's not moving by offering it on sale at the big outlets. If you're looking for the smaller 'boutique' estate wines, you won't find them at the Coop or Esselunga!

Reply by Cesarini, Jul 23, 2010.

I just posted w/o signing in, so I don't know if my post about products in Italy being very regional will be shown... sorry to repeat myself.

Grew up in Italy and I have been going back every year, I am very familiar with the lay of the land.

Generally the selection overall is better in the states because there is a lot of protectionism and only local products are sold locally. The majority of selection in any given supermarket will be from the local region, so read up on the local wines.

Regarding Montepulciano and Pienza, ah yes, that area is one of my favorite haunts! La Val d'Orcia... so pretty, so much great wine.

If you are in Pienza, on SP 146 (or is it SS 146) there is a dairy farm where you buy the rolls of cheese wholesale direct. Just drive to Montepulciano and keep an eye out for what seems like a large parking lot on the left about halfway there just before a steep hill. The cheese is cheaper and selection is better than from the supermarket. You can bring it back to the states too!

I recommend eating at the restaurant "La Taverna di Moranda" in Monticchiello which is near Montepulciano. Only problem is with a bellyfull of wine, driving back to Pienza might be.... hairy. And new Italian laws are very strict on DWI: they confiscate your car and you are a felon for life if you blow more than 0.049% (1 1/2 drinks in 1 hour)...

One of the nicest wineries in Montepulciano is Villa Sant'Anna. They have an excellent showcase of the range of Montepulciano wines. They also have a great Vin Santo

Sampieri del Fa' is another excellent small winery near San Quirico D'Orcia. San Quirico makes for a great day trip. It is also an Agriturismo where you can spend the night.

Likewise Terre di Nano. Terre di Nano is an excellent agriturismo to spend the night, but their wines are "something else". For less than 10 Euros a bottle you get some very earthy selections. Generally people don't stop there just to buy wine, they usually stay. Take the dirt road between Montepulciano and Monticchiello and bear right on the high road. It's at the top of the hill with the big sign. They won't say no if you just want to buy a few bottles (don't tour the winery though, they overcharge). Just buy one or two of each of their wines, you won't be disappointed.

Don't stay in Venezia. It stinks (literally). It's crowded It's overpriced. And it's too easy to eat badly. Stay in Padova and take the train in to Venezia. It will be less expensive, and Padvoa is a sign onto itself.

Liguria and Cinque terre I know little of. It is another planet. While not far from Toscana (there is a border) because of the Appenine mountains it is so hard to reach that I would plan a lot of time just for the trip there itself which by car can be exhausting and dangerous.

Beware speed cameras on the highways to get to Liguria! Oftetimes the limit is as slow as 35mph (on a 3 lane highway!!!) and the cameras are not the fixed kind, but the "average speed" ones that calculate average speed for your car in between waypoints. You could easily do 90+ mph in many tracts and people used to until they put the stupid Tutor System. It takes a picture of your license plate every 5 miles. If you arrive at the next checkpoint too soon, they mail you a ticket... There are ways to dirty your car to obscure the license plate so the tutor can't identify you but still have plausible deniability if the cops stop you (35 Euro ticket for having dirty car vs having your car confiscated for "altering/obscuring license plate"), but leave that to the Italians. Slow down and enjoy the scenery or you will pay big bucks to the Italian big brother.


Hope that helps!




Reply by AdamJefferson, Jul 23, 2010.

I agree with the house wine rec; found that many Italians sitting around me drank the house and they didn't look poor.

You're wise to sample some Italian wines before going to get a feel for them if you haven't had many of them before.  You won't find many Italian wines tasting like a California Cabernet or Chardonnay.  Most of the reds at least tend to be a bit more "earthy," for lack of a better term, and I like them.

There isn't much better than sipping something local as the sun sets in Italy.  Enjoy.      

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