Italy Side Trips: The Bartender Magazine Italian Aperitivo Tour continues

The view of Panzano in Tuscany

Words by Amy Spanton. Photography David Spanton

There are hundreds of well-known towns and cities you can visit in Italy to get that full Italian town experience. As we spent most of our Italian aperitivo tour in the north of Italy, we opted for a few little side trips, and as we were driving, we got the chance to experience the landscape and see the towns that the 20th century forgot. Places with a church, a cantina or two, a farmacia and that’s about it. Forget trying to stop for petrol!
Here are a few highlights from our trips outside of the major cities of Italy:

The Barolo vineyards

Barolo is both a wine and also a town in the wine-producing region of Piedmont in north-western Italy. As a massive producer of Nebbiolo grapes, it made sense for us to visit this region, and we also stopped in to check out Erbaluna Winery (with thanks to Matt Fox from Fox Wines).

La Cantinetta

This town is just as picturesque as Tuscany with hillsides blanketed with Nebbiolo vines, ancient churches and a rich gastronomic tradition famous for rich pastas, truffles and vitello tonato (a dish of veal and tuna) which is a staple of the Piedmont region. We had an absolutely standout lunch at La Cantinetta, which serves authentic Piedmontese cuisine. The ravioli with the egg was next level.

Varenna, Lake Como

Lake Como
If it’s good enough for George Clooney, then it’s good enough for us. We took the opportunity to visit the stunning Lake Como, the third largest of Italy’s lakes and a tourist mecca. When we arrived in October, the season was a week or two from ending, so much of the hustle and bustle had ended. As the weather had turned cool, the best option was the walks. Some of the ancient villas have been sold back to the government and are now museums. We visited Villa Monastero in Varenna, a lush villa with botanical gardens with 800 years of history; it was built in the 12th century as a monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Dave and Dario Cecchini

Panzano in Chianti
Watching Dario Cecchini (now the world’s most famous butcher) on the Netflix series Chefs’ Table a few years back, meant that a trip to the tiny little Tuscan town of Panzano in Chianti was on the cards. The hillsides of Tuscany are simply magical and the promises of multiple courses of Florentine steak accompanied by Chianti, and a meeting with the man himself, Dario, was impossible to resist. If you want to do it, make sure you book early, and prepare to dine with a table full of other tourists, who also saw the show! Antica macelleria Cecchini, Via XX Luglio, 11, Panzano in Chianti.

The beautifull streets of Panzano