What to drink when in Italy
With some of the world’s finest architecture and art, landscapes straight from a picture-postcard and insanely fabulous cuisine, it’s no wonder that Italy is one of the world’s most popular holiday hot spots.
Enjoy la dolce vita on Italy tours
Its no wonder too that the Italians, with their chic sense of style and their relaxed attitude to life, coined the phrase la dolce vita – in a nutshell, the sweet life. Their mindset seems to be about embracing day-to-day living and savouring every moment, more often than not enjoying passionate conversation in the company of good friends with a drink in hand.
Watch the world go by
Why not join them by raising your glass, or cup, and you’ll soon find yourself feeling like a local. If you start the day in true Italian style you will eschew the great British fry up and a pot of builder’s brew, and instead nibble on a sweet pastry as you enjoy a foamy, frothy, and lukewarm, cappuccino – that’s just how they like it. You’ll do this from a bustling pavement café, known as a bar, as you watch the world go by – a favourite Italian pastime. And if you can find a spot with a view of Rome’s Colosseum, Venice’s Grand Canal or the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, all the better, even though it might cost you a few euros more!
If you want a mid-morning caffeine hit, bear in mind that often there’s no seating available, and if there is, your coffee break will cost you more. Italians will drink their caffè standing at the bar, which explains why it is served at a cooler temperature than you’re used to at home.
Wherever you find yourself in Italy, you won’t be too far from a vineyard. And with hundreds of years of wine-making history, 800 grape varieties and 20 designated wine-growing regions, a great way to while away an afternoon and discover a new favourite vintage is with a wine-tasting.
Pope’s summer palace
Escorted tours of Italy are sure to include a trip to Rome, and a popular day trip from the capital are the hill-top towns of Castelli Romani. Kill two birds with one stone as you view the Pope’s summer palace at Castel Gandolfo, then visit the town of Frascati – the best-known of this picturesque scattering of towns. This is where the famous wine of the same name is produced, and to taste this light white wine in the very place it has been made for centuries makes it an extra-special experience. You’ll be in great company too, as this is where Romans head for a change of pace, clean air, great food and, of course, the local vino.
Lake Caldaro vineyards
If you prefer a red, the vineyards around Lake Caldaro produce deep, dark, fruity wines from the Teroldego grape, and on a tour of the ‘Secret Lakes of Italy’, a tasting is included as you drink in exceptional views.
must on an Italy tour is a visit to the Chianti region, and this ruby-red wine with its famous straw-covered bottle, is known throughout the world. With its high acidity, it pairs wonderfully with the rich sauces of Tuscan cuisine, and sipping a glass overlooking the vineyards of Tuscany is simply sublime.
Lake Garda & Verona
Another prestigious wine-growing region is Valpolicella, and within easy reach from beautiful Lake Garda and historical Verona, it’s a must-visit on Italy tour holidays. If you only try one wine here, we highly recommend Amarone. This dry, fragrant and powerful wine is regarded as the area’s finest and one of Italy’s most important reds. Its creation dates back to Ancient Rome, when highly alcoholic wine – it has a percentage of 15-16 – was the order of the day.
Aged in barrels
The grapes are dried for three to four months before pressing, they are then fermented and aged in barrels for up to five years. The end result is an intense and full-bodied wine with notes of ripe red and black fruit, and with age it deepens to give hints of chocolate, leather and tobacco.
Drink perfectly chilled
In a bid to waste not, want not, the Italians came up with a way to use up the leftovers from the wine-making process – and thus grappa was invented. This brandy-style spirit must be sourced and produced here to bear the name, and is made using stalks, skin, pulp and seeds, collectively known as pomace. Enjoy at the end of a meal either as a shot or added to an espresso, and many Italians prefer it perfectly chilled, served straight from the freezer.
Aperol spritz aperitif
For something sweeter, try a glass of Marsala or Vin Santo. A Tuscan speciality, you’ll find a crunchy, nutty, cantucci biscuit is the perfect accompaniment. Or perhaps indulge in a chilled glass of limoncello. This intensely lemony liqueur is produced in Sorrento and the beautiful Amalfi Coast and only made using Amalfi lemons, whose thick rind has a tart flavour and is rich in essential oils.
If you end your day as it began, with a spot of people-watching, the perfect accompaniment is a refreshing Aperol spritz. This aperitif, the perfect pre-dinner tipple, is made with sparkling prosecco, Aperol – which is similar to Campari – and soda water. Cheers, or as they say in Italy, Salute!