Italy

A grand tour around Italy’s best sparkling vineyards

The rolling hills of Italy’s northern vineyards supply the world with bubbling glasses of prosecco and Asti spumante. The grapes grown on the steep hillsides throughout this region have gathered a huge following in recent years and the area’s history as a wine producer is rich with tradition.

This week-long itinerary will guide you through 610km of lush valleys, small hamlets and one of Italy’s iconic cities, with plenty of opportunities to pop open the bubbly on the way.

Day 1 : 29km
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Day 1 - Venice and Treviso

Start off by using Expedia to book flights to Venice Treviso Airport, which will put you in the perfect position to begin your journey. The best way to travel the short distance to Treviso, a historic town just north of Venice, is by organising car hire. Venice may be thronging with tourists but there are plenty of activities in Treviso, which is a place that is often overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbour. Think Renaissance squares, winding streets and authentic Italian charm. The river Sile runs through the south of the town centre and pretty canals provide plenty of opportunity for idle wandering. Visit one of the town’s osterias (a traditional shop that sells food and wine) and sample some of the region’s best sparkling wines to whet your appetite for the journey ahead. Then for dinner why not head to one of the many family-run trattorias that don’t have the price tag of their Venice counterparts, but still plenty of charm, before settling in for the night. Treviso hotels range from quaint pensione to five star castles.

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Day 2 : 68km
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Day 2 - Bortolin

The first vineyard in this wine-tasting adventure is the Bortolin winery, which is 39km north of Treviso, a journey of less than an hour by road. Wine has been produced here by the Bortolin family since 1968, and the beautiful Valdobbiadene hills form the perfect backdrop for a day’s tou.

Their 20 hectares of vineyards span the surrounding hillside. The family also buy in grapes from other local vineyards, which all combine to produce about 400,000 bottles of prosecco a year. Wine production at Bortolin combines the ancient wisdoms and traditions of the area with the hi-tech wine-making facilities housed in the large working barns. Tours also include tastings.

The village of Follo is a five-minute drive from the vineyard and is a great place to spend the night. You can research and book hotels in Follo using the Expedia search tool, which will help you find the best deals available.

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Day 3 : 357km
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Day 3 - Milan

On day three of your grand tour it is time to say goodbye to the countryside for a while and head 289km west to Milan, ready for the bright lights and a slightly faster pace. With only one day, it is important to take some time to research the best places to visit in Milan - there is much to choose from. You could spend the day exploring the city’s shops and cafes, or head to the historic shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, to watch the city’s super stylish inhabitants in action. Otherwise head out on a cultural tour taking in the opulent Duomo di Milano, resplendent with its vertiginous spiked towers and a colourful history. Visitors can climb the many steps up to the roof for one of the best views out over Milan and across the rooftops.

The red-bricked Sforza Castle is another of Milan’s popular tourist spots thanks to its museums, which house works by Michelangelo and Pietà Rondanini among many other artists. The city’s most famous mural (and one of the strongest tourist draws) is Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, which is hidden away on a wall in the refectory attached to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Entrance to many of Milan’s museums and tourist attractions can be booked in advance with Expedia – this gives you priority entrance so you don’t have to waste time standing in queues. We can also help find you the best rates and locations for hotels in Milan.

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Day 4 : 504km
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Day 4 - Cantina Contratto

Day four sees you journey 147km to Cantina Contratto, a 150-year-old vineyard which has supplied sparkling wines to the Vatican and the Italian royal family. The true gem here is the vast cellars which have been carved into the hill that overlooks the small town of Canelli. Now a designated Unesco World Heritage Site, the 5,000 square metre cellars were built into the limestone and have a natural thermal quality - maintaining a constant temperature of 12-13 C, perfect for maturing their "metodo classico" sparkling wines.

Visitors can tour the cellars where thousands of bottles are stored, as well as learning about the ancient instruments and machines once used in the winemaking process. The tour finishes with a wine tasting, where guests can put their newly acquired knowledge to the test, or just sit back and enjoy the bubbles.

"Contratto is produced using a Metodo Classico, Champagne method, by using French varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Different to Champagne, all of our wines are made from estate-grown fruit, are vintage, stay a minimum of 4 years on the lees, the bottles are hand riddled and all sparkling wines are without dosage (pas dosé) in order to show the high quality of the initial wine being used."
Quote supplied by Anja Cramer.

Cantina Contratto is just on the outskirts of Canelli. Hotels and restaurants are plentiful in this pretty town and there is plenty of variety. From Michelin-starred fine dining to local trattorias, there is something to suit all tastes. Otherwise head straight on to Alessandria, where you will spend day five.

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Day 5 : 543km
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Day 5 - Alessandria

Alessandria is in the southeast of Italy’s Piedmont region. The Monferrato hills, which are decorated with the perfect straight lines and green hues of the region’s vineyards, are dotted with imposing castles, creating a gorgeous backdrop and giving visitors plenty to explore. There are numerous cycling and hiking trails through the hills, while climbers can navigate the vertical wall of the Falesia di Gavi, which draws people of varying skill levels. In the town centre the historic cittadella is well worth a visit. Rest for a moment in one of the many piazzas, before exploring 18th century palaces and wandering cobbled winding streets. Use Expedia to help you find the best deals on Alessandria hotels and research more activities in the area.

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Day 6 : 582km
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Day 6 - Gancia

Day six of your wine tour takes you to the third and final winery. Gancia is just under 40km west of Alessandria, a drive of about 50 minutes through beautiful lush countryside. It is famed for its Asti Spumante sparkling wines, although Vermouth and Barolo wines are also among the products made here. Gancia has a rich history, which the tour guides explain with much flourish and pride.

It began life as a small family farm and business and has grown into a multinational, supplying wines across the world. Staff also lay claim to creating the first Italian sparkling wine. One of the early landowners, Carlo Gancia, spent time learning the ropes in France’s Champagne region before returning home to create his own version in 1865. The family, and much of northern Italy, hasn’t looked back since. Like Cantina Contratto, Gancia boasts vast underground cathedrals where bottles and barrels have spent years maturing at naturally perfect ambient temperatures.

There are more than 600 square metres of caves with vaulted ceilings, which date back to the beginning of the 18th century. The cellars also house the "Pressa Marmonier", used for gently pressing the grapes ready for fermentation. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Moscato grapes are also pressed in baskets for the Gancia "Classic Method" wines. Photographic archives and a cinema help to add colour to the tour, piecing together the Gancia family’s journey from smallholders to mass wine producers.

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Day 7 : 610km
Day 7 - Asti

The final stop of the tour is Asti, a small city 28km north of Gancia. Thanks to supermarket shelves, Asti is a household name, famously producing the Asti Spumante sparkling wine. The place itself, though, is much less well known. For history lovers there is plenty of sightseeing in Asti. Some of the buildings in the historic town centre date back to the 11th century and are decorated in hues of terracotta and yellow.

The triangular-shaped Piazza Alfieri is a great place to stop for a coffee. It is also the stage for the town’s famous Palio horse race, a colourful homage to a 13th century tradition, which sees crowds parade through the town before a high-speed bareback race. On quieter days, the local trattorias and small boutiques furnish the old streets and the food tends to be home cooked and simple, based on the traditional recipes passed through generations. There are of course, plenty of bars in which to enjoy the region’s most famous produce. Asti hotels are plentiful and available in various price ranges.

(C) Cantina Contratto. Used with permission. View the Cantina Contratto site here.