How to Drink Your Way Through Each of Italy's Wine Regions

Loc Navarro/EyeEm/Getty Images

No trip to Italy is complete without a wine-soaked visit to some of the world's best vineyards. Here's the ultimate guide to each region and which grapes to sip when you're there. 

When it comes to Italian wine, the country’s wine-producing scene goes far beyond what meets the eye. Although Tuscany and Piedmont are always stellar choices, all of Italy’s 20 regions actually boast some serious vino production.

Related: The Experts' Guide to Europe’s Hottest Wine Regions 

No matter where you’re headed within the country’s limits (islands included!) here’s how to execute the perfect vino-fueled getaway.


Dong Wenjie/Getty Images

Liguria

Signature grapes: Vermentino, Pigato, Ciliegiolo, Rossese

Known for pesto, pasta, and fresh fish dishes as far as the eye can see, Liguria’s rolling hills and small fishing villages provide some of the most breathtaking places to visit in all of Italy. Many of the region’s vineyards are conveniently located along the cliff sides of the Riviera, making them easily accessible from Genoa and the five ‘rainbow’ villages of Cinque Terre. Expect light to medium-bodied ‘cherry’ like reds produced from the Ciliegiolo and Rossese varieties, as well as crisp whites made from Vermentino and Pigato.

Piedmont

Signature grapes: Moscato, Arneis, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto

Known for age-worthy reds and easy-drinking whites, Piedmont is home to some of Italy’s highest-quality bottles. Staying in the city of Turin provides easy access to Barolo and Barbaresco, Piedmont’s two ‘Big Bs,’ as well as Roero and Asti, better known for their white wines. Each of these world-class regions is just about an hour’s drive from Turin. For those looking to explore a bit more off-the-beaten-path Nebbiolo producing regions, head north to Alto Piemonte (particularly Gattinara and Ghemme) for alpine-influenced, cool-climate reds, all while snacking on the region’s signature beef and truffle focused cuisine.

Valle d’Aosta

Signature grapes: Picotener (Nebbiolo), Dolcetto, Moscato Bianco

Because of the region’s small size, accessing the Valle d’Aosta’s vineyards from the capital city is relatively simple. Known for alpine temperatures and grandiose ski resorts, the Valle d’Aosta’s vines are actually some of the highest-elevated plantings in all of Europe. Expect high-acid reds produced from Nebbiolo and aromatic, textured whites made from Moscato Bianco. Enjoy the valley’s regional delicacies, including charcuterie, Fontina cheese, and sweet tegole wafers.

Lombardy

Signature grapes: Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo), Trebbiano, Pinot Nero, Chardonnay, & more

For lovers of sparkling wine, heading to Franciacorta or Oltrepo Pavese are no-brainers. For high-acid reds, Valtellina is your spot. Lombardy’s trains and buses make some of these journeys possible, though as always, renting a car is best. Food-wise, Lombardy is known for its rich risottos and braised beef. Travelers seeking a gastronomical getaway, this region is just the ticket.


iStockphoto/Getty Images

Trentino-Alto Adige

Signature grapes: Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Schiava, Lagrein

Perhaps one of Italy’s most diverse and unique regions. Here you have the wine region of Trentino, and Sudtirol, best-known for their white wine production, focused on Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Bianco, and Chardonnay. Red wine lovers, fear not—two indigenous red varieties, Schiava and Lagrein, create crunchy cool-climate wines perfect for pairing with regional fare, much of which is influenced by neighboring Austrian cuisine.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Signature grapes: Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Schioppettino, and Refosco

Bordered by Austria, Slovenia, and the turquoise Adriatic Sea, this is one of Italy’s most stunning regions. Certain portions of land were once controlled by Austria-Hungary, whose influences are still evident in food and wine here. Over 60% of the wine produced here falls under a DOC designation. Gorizia, which is north of Trieste, is home to the famed wines of Collio and Colli Orientali, while Isonzo and Carso, located to the southeast, have a more Slovenian influence. Crisp, fruit-forward whites and earthy, thought-provoking reds reign king here, as well as a solid production of sticky sweet dessert wines made from the Verduzzo grape. Be sure to allow time for a dip in the sea, as well as jaunt over the Slovenian border. 

Veneto

Signature grapes: Glera (Prosecco), Garganega, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara

Sparkling wine fanatics, a trip to the Veneto is for you. Aside from simply visiting the breathtaking canal city of Venice, here you’ll be bombarded by bubbly Prosecco and fizzy wines from the Garda DOC, as well as crisp, thirst-quenching whites from Soave and delicious, fruit-forward rosés from Bardolino (Garda), otherwise referred to as Chiaretto. Red wine lovers can sip on the famed Corvina based wines of Valpolicella, as well as the heavy-hitting, high-alcohol bottles of after-dinner Amarone. For sun-soaked lake excursions, quaint seaside villages, and boat journeys head to the banks of Lake Garda. Handmade pasta, polentas, and other carb-heavy dishes are sure to be on the menu.

Emilia-Romagna

Signature grapes: Lambrusco

Can’t decide between sparkling or red? Thankfully, you don’t have to. This region is home to Lambrusco, Italy’s claim to sparkling red wine fame. Lambrusco is produced all over the region, crafted from a variety of clones and in varying levels of dryness and sweetness. Lambrusco is essentially Italian ‘breakfast wine’—it's fun, fizzy, and low-alcohol which is perfect for sipping at all times of day, whether pairing with a late breakfast prosciutto platter or sipping alongside a pizza dinner. Modena and Parma are also located within the region, so cheese-loving balsamic fans, you know where to go.

Related: An Instagrammer's Guide to Assembling the Perfect Cheese Plate 


Andrea Pistolesi/Getty Images

Tuscany

Signature grapes: Trebbiano, Vernaccia, Sangiovese, & International Red Varieties 

Marked by rolling green hillsides as far as the eye can see, this lush, vineyard-rich region is a mecca for high-quality wines. Florence makes for an impeccable home base, loaded with rich history and renowned museums. The sprawling vineyards of the famed Chianti lay between Florence and Siena, the beginning of which is accessible from Florence in just 45 minutes. Heading to Montalcino takes a bit longer but is always a good idea, especially for those looking to take home age-worthy bottles of Sangiovese based Brunello. For a longer excursion, head two hours by car to the seaside town of Bolgheri, where wine production is focused on the region’s famed ‘Super Tuscans.’ And for lovers of crisp whites? Head to the medieval town of San Gimignano, just over an hour’s drive from Florence’s city center.

Marche

Signature grapes Verdicchio

Although Le Marche’s wine production is relatively small compared with the rest of Italy, the region sure knows how to cultivate Verdicchio. The region’s signature white grape variety is best known for its flavors of pear, apple, and bitter almond, produced in a variety of styles. From crisp, dry still wines to sticky sweet straw wine, to a small yet rather interesting production of bubbles, heading to Marche and not hitting Jesi, where Verdicchio’s cultivation is centered, would be a sin. Simply enjoy the seaside days in Ancona and dedicate a day to seeing Jesi, just 30 minutes inland from Ancona.

Umbria

Signature grapes: Grechetto, Trebbiano, Sagrantino

Umbria’s viticultural roots run deep. Wine production within the region first began when the Etruscans inhabited the region multi-millennia ago, producing some of the area's best wines of that time. Umbria is unique to every other Italian region in that it is the only landlocked region in all of Italy. Known for its unctuous, fruit-forward whites and tannic, full-bodied reds, sipping Umbrian wine is like drinking a piece of Italian history. Hit the chocolate in Perugia, grab your rental car, and head to one of the region’s main wine producing areas for thick, hearty soups and perfectly paired vino.


Getty Images

Lazio

Signature grapes: Grechetto, Trebbiano, Cesanese

Little do most travelers know, but accessing an authentic Italian vineyard from the capital city of Rome is as easy as hopping on a 25-minute metro. Lazio actually produces a fair amount of wine, most of which ends up on local dinner tables in city-center restaurants. Production here is dominated by white wines, mainly crafted from Trebbiano and Grechetto. The region’s red wine production is based on the rustic and ageworthy Cesanese grape, though bold international blends (think a la Super Tuscan) are also created within the region.

Abruzzo

Signature grapes: Trebbiano, Montepulciano

Love sleepy beach towns and affordable bottles of red? Then Abruzzo is for you. Post up in Pescara, the region’s seaside village, for afternoons spent swimming in the crystalline Adriatic Sea. Vineyard getaways are simple, even for those who don’t drive. Simply hop a bus to Chieti and get your hands on as much Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as possible. Don’t forget to check out the region’s signature rosé, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, crafted from the same grape. These dark-hued pink wines show flavors of cherries, citrus, and herbs, perfect for sipping seaside and pairing with heartier dishes.

Molise

Signature grapes: Trebbiano, Montepulciano, Aglianico

This region is one of Italy’s most underrated gems. Dotted by soaring mountains and bordered by the beautiful Adriatic, Molise is the perfect excursion for off-the-beaten-path Italy. Molise is actually Italy’s youngest wine producing region, having not gained its own DOCs until 1970. Often overshadowed by Abruzzo, the wines of Molise are easy-drinking and fun, perfect for drinking with pampanella, the regional version of street food.

Campania

Signature grapes: Fiano, Greco, Aglianico

Known as the ‘shin’ of Italy’s ‘boot,’ Campania is the region that does it all. From ancient ruins in Pompeii to the colorful island of Capri, this seaside region is undoubtedly one of Italy’s most beautiful. The region has 4 DOCGs and 15 DOCs, though most of Campania’s wine production is dedicated to regional table wine, destined for sloshing alongside the region’s signature thin-crust pizzas. Head to Avellino for Roman ruins and crisp whites, made from Fiano, Falanghina, and Greco. For big-boned reds, look no further than the inky, robust reds from Taurasi.

Puglia

Signature grape: Negroamaro, Primitivo

Puglia's Bari is known for its red wine and beautiful beaches. Puglia’s claim to viticultural fame lies in Salice Salentino, where delicious, fruit-forward reds are in no short supply. Although the commute is a bit of a hike, the drive along the Adriatic is absolutely breathtaking. Regional whites and rosés are produced in smaller supply, though if you happen to stumble upon a pink wine made from Ottavianello (otherwise known as Cinsault), definitely give it a whirl.


REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images

Basilicata

Signature grapes: Aglianico

Although relatively under the radar, Basilicata is actually one of Italy’s most beautiful regions, dominated almost entirely by slopes and hills. The viticultural center of Basilicata lies around Mount Vulture, located in the heart of the Vulture Massif. Although grape growing in this region can be tough (due to harsh weather and steep slopes), volcanic soils and cool temperatures help mediate the situation. Explore regional reds while snacking on pupazzella (hot peppers stuffed with anchovies and parsley) or pasta ‘lu’ntruppc,’ meaning ‘obstacle’ in the local dialect.

Calabria

Signature grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Bianco

Calabria’s major city, Catanzaro, ideally sits where the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas intersect. Over 90% of the region’s wine is dedicated to red production, most of which is based on the Gaglioppo grape. Production is centered around the Cirò region, located in the Crotone province. Small amounts of rosé and white wine are produced from the Grco Bianco, Trebbiano ,and Gaglioppo grapes. Reds are known for being tannic and full-bodied, perfect for pairing with the region’s robust cuisine, especially ‘Nduja (spicy spreadable sausage.)

Sardinia

Signature grapes: Vermentino, Cannonau (Grenache)

Sardinia’s island-influenced wines are some of the most fun to drink bottles coming out of Italy. Most of the country’s winemaking takes place on the island’s western coast, though Cagliari has its own DOC that encompasses most of the southern half of the island. Traveling between the two cities (and winemaking centers) takes less than three hours by car and the journey is absolutely mindblowing. Take in all of the island’s rugged terrain while stopping for earthy Cannonau based reds and salty, seal-influenced Vermentinos.


 Federico Scotto/Getty Images

Sicily

Signature grapes: Catarratto, Grillo, Inzolia, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese (backbone to most ‘Etna Rosso’ wines)

At 175 miles wide, traveling across Sicily is no small feat. Thankfully, winemaking takes place all across this historically and viticulturally rich island, which produces bottles all over the flavor profile spectrum. For lovers of crisp, high-acid whites, check out the varietal bottling of Inzolia and Grillo, perfect for pairing with local seafood. For medium-bodied, earthy reds, sipping a Nero d’Avola or mineral-driven bottle from Etna might be more your jam. And for sweet wine fanatics? Take a day trip to Marsala or Pantelleria (just a short 40-minute flight away!) to check out all of the sticky sweet dessert wines coming out of Sicily.