Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Out of the Fog: Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is one of the most beguiling grapes in Italy, not least because unlike other blockbuster reds like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, this picky varietal doesn't like to travel. Aside from its flagship DOCG Barbaresco and Barolo, most wines from made from Nebbiolo grapes—notably Roero, Gattinara, and Ghemme—are hard to find in Italy far from their happy corner of Piedmont and virtually impossible to sample beyond the border. Even its name, inspired by the heavy fog (nebbia) that blankets the hills where these vineyards thrive during the late fall harvest, hints at its reticence at being transplanted to alternative microclimates.

barolo-wall(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

So, what to do if you want to taste these enticing wines for yourself? You may just have to take a jaunt through Piedmont's incredibly picturesque Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato wine countries, but it will be worth the effort. Here's why:

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The Top of Europe: Switzerland's Jungfrau Region

If you dream of visiting Switzerland's towering peaks, crystalline lakes, and fairytale-like alpine villages, you can't do better than the Jungfrau Region in the highlands southeast of Bern. Named for the majestic Jungfrau peak, this area offers high-octane skiing in winter, heart-pounding hikes in summer, and some of the most dazzling scenery in Europe all year round.

Top of Europe(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We recently spent some time getting to know the region for ourselves, and here are our top take-aways:

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Italy's Islands: The Isole Borromee in Lake Maggiore

When considering Italy's Mediterranean islands, most people conjure up mental images of the southern yachterati hot spots of Capri, Sardinia, and Ischia...famed for their coasts lined with chic beach clubs, bustling towns full of artisan shops and designer boutiques, and luxury hotels and resorts with Michelin-starred restaurants and world-class spas. Though those generalizations are largely true for islands off the country's southern coast, as you move north the character of Italy's islands subtly shifts away from beaches and boats, and begins to favor pristine nature and historic architecture.

Dawn on Lake Maggiore(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Italy's lake islands, however, are in a category of their own. These tiny outposts lording over the waters of lakes from Bolsena to Como are often privately owned, home to defensive fortresses or sumptuous villas that either stand mysterious and closed to the curious or, more rarely, welcome visitors to stroll through and admire their lavish excess from an almost forgotten age.

Isola Bella(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Perhaps the most remarkable in the latter category are Isola Bella and Isola Madre, two of the three tiny islands that make up the Isole Borromee (Boromean Islands) archipelago in Lake Maggiore. The second largest of Italy's northern lakes, Maggiore straddles the border between Italy and Switzerland and offers stunning scenery and an elegant La Dolce Vita vibe. Strung like pearls along the lake's shores are a number of delightful resort towns, including Stresa, the perfect jumping-off spot to visit the gem-like Borromean Islands by ferry or private boat.

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Top Rooftops in Rome

With its sublime alchemy of ancient ruins, exquisite art, and vibrant neighborhoods, Rome's charismatic capital is one of the most captivating cities in Italy. Unfortunately, the secret is out...which means that the Eternal City can be relentlessly crowded around the cluster of its most iconic sights in the historic center. After a day of touring, get a respite from the urban chaos and discover the city from what may arguably be its best angle by heading a few floors above the streets to one of the many rooftop restaurants, bars, and clubs.

5e92w5PMSS2hQdd2y1rPqA_thumb_82a5(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Rome has long had a semi-hidden rooftop scene, but the number and quality of panoramic venues overlooking the heart of the city has exploded in recent years and most hotels worth their salt have revitalized their top floors to house everything from pools to cocktail lounges. Here are a few of the best for relaxing and soaking in the view, dining, or simply basking in the heady La Dolce Vita atmosphere above Rome's cupolas and domes.

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Leonardo, Wine Maker

Most know Leonardo da Vinci as the consummate Renaissance man, both an engineering and artistic genius. It may surprise you to learn, however, that Italy’s famous luminary came from a long line of winemakers and was a passionate vintner, himself. So much so, in fact, that while finishing up his iconic Last Supper in Milan's Santa Maria delle Grazie convent in 1498, his patron Ludovico Sforza buoyed his spirits by bestowing on him a small 200-by-575-foot plot of vineyard set behind the private Casa degli Atellani just opposite the convent church. Here Leonardo would retire in the evenings to putter about the vines, building pergolas and tweaking the grapes in preparation for harvest.

Casa degli Atellani (Milan) 04.jpg
Di Carlo Dell'Orto - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, Collegamento


Today, after centuries of being lost to the annals of history and then decades of research to bring it back to light, you can visit Leonardo's Vineyard (La Vigna di Leonardo), the original rectangle of land replanted with vines located behind the Atellani's Renaissance villa, one of the few still standing in this area of Milan.

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