We all love the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome and Venice—oh, how we love them! However, Italy offers so much more than these well-loved (and well-trodden) cities and coasts. A plethora of off-the-beaten-path gems are waiting to host your next romantic getaway in Italy—whether that be a solo trip or one with a significant other. Below are a few of my faves this year. My Valentine’s treat to you. And, as a bonus, I’ve included a regional wine pairing for each. Enjoy!
POLIGNANO A MARE | PUGLIA
“A mare” means “by-the-sea”, but if you attach the “a” to the “mare”, you create the Italian verb “to love”, and that is just what happens in Polignano. One must not forget that the town itself is an intense love affair between the colors white and blue: the white-washed walls of the cliff-hugging, historic town center bustling with restaurants, cafes, gelaterie and little shops, and the vast blue expanse of sea and sky. There are a few balconies from which you can witness the ecstatic meeting of the two, and if that doesn’t make your love take flight, just cue Polignano native Domenico Modugno’s song “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu”, more famously known by “Volare” and cantare / oh-oh-oh-ohh! That should do the trick.
Wine Pairing: Masseria Li Veli’s ‘Askos’ - Verdeca Valle d’Itria IGT | tropical fruit, mineral, spice
BAGNO VIGNONI | TUSCANY
Pronounced BAH-nyo vee-NYO-nee, this ancient Roman bath town is one of Tuscany’s greatest romantic spots. Though it is only the size of about one city block and its population totals 50, that does not stop Bagno Vignoni from offering its visitors one of the most picturesque town centers in Tuscany, several lovely hotels, a few excellent restaurants, and, of course, a hot spring that overlooks the surrounding Tuscan countryside. When not taking the waters, you can also hike—or drive—to nearby towns in Orcia Valley, such as San Quirico d’Orcia or Castiglione d’Orcia. For cheese and wine tastings, Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano are each about a 30 minute drive away!
Wine Pairing: Fabbrica’s Prototipo 470 - Sangiovese Toscana IGT | cherry, blueberry, mint
MATERA | BASILICATA
If you’ve been reading my newsletter, this is not the first time you’ve heard me sing the praises of this truly remarkable town. And, though less of a secret these days since becoming the European Union’s Capital of Culture for 2019, Matera is just awaking from a long hibernation. What awaits you? Romantic dinners in evocative settings, beautiful vista points of Matera’s historic Sassi district, sipping on local Primitivo and Aglianico wine in underground lairs, and getting lost in its labyrinthine (mostly-pedestrian) streets. Your jaw is warned: drop it will! For more information about hotels, restaurants and activities in Matera, check out this post.
Wine Pairing: Cantina Cifarelli’s ‘Greco di Vito’ - Greco Matera DOC | aromatic, herbal, fresh
BARBARESCO | PIEMONTE
Besides being one of Italy’s powerhouse wines, Barbaresco is a charming hamlet tucked away in Piemonte’s famous wine paradise: the Langhe. You can walk from one end of the historic center to the other in less than ten minutes, but it’s not the size that counts, right? Barbaresco will wow you with its several wineries, from the big guns: Gaja, to the little guys: Gigi Bianco, to perhaps the best cooperative winery in all of Italy: I Produttori del Barbaresco. There are also great restaurants options, a regional wine bar where you can taste an array of Barbaresco wines and a medieval tower with vistas of the surrounding vineyards and the Tanaro River. Stay at a local inn or opt for a castle base just a 25-minute drive away at the luxurious—yet cozy—Castello di Sinio, which is a romantic getaway in and of itself!
Wine Pairing: Produttori del Barbaresco’s Barbaresco DOCG | dark berries, rose petals, spice, structure
VERONA | VENETO
Supposed hometown of Romeo and Juliet—need I say more? Ok, I’ll say a litte more. Verona may have been on your romantic cities list thanks to the aforementioned star-crossed lovers, but it is so frequently snubbed for Venice that I’ve decided it deserves a spot here. Even without the help of R & J, Verona is a hopeless romantic: you see it in its gorgeous city center, full of bridges and walking paths with Adige River views, a Roman Arena that hosts an al fresco opera festival every summer, and one of the most beautiful piazzas to sit and have a glass of wine in Northern Italy: Piazza delle Erbe. Verona also makes a great base for exploring the gorgeous wine country of Valpolicella and Amarone just a 35-minute ride away. Cheers!
Wine Pairing: Brigaldara’s ‘Il Vegro’ - Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC | juicy red plum, floral, dense, balanced
Have a special occasion you would like to celebrate in Italian wine COUNTRY?
Your Honeymoon? An Upcoming Anniversary? A SOLO TRIP GIFT to yourself?
I would love to plan all the details for you so that you can just sit back and enjoy your time, soaking up Italian culture, the beautiful environs, and the incredible food and wine. Choose from La Dolce Vigna’s small group tours or schedule a private trip planning session. Will be waiting to hear from you!