Oh Italy. My love affair with you is longstanding. I first toured you at 17 and knew I was hooked. I had a smile on my face every day that I studied abroad in Siena. Italy made our honeymoon extra special. So whenever a trip to Italy presents itself, you say yes. Which is why I was Italia-bound last month. Upon touchdown in Milan, I was whisked an hour away to a hidden gem I had never heard of before, but to which I’m already plotting my return: Franciacorta.
Tucked against the foothills of Dolomites in the Lombardy region, Franciacorta sits on the southern edge of Lago d’Iseo (think Lake Como but smaller and less tourist packed!). Everywhere you look, things are lush with forests, rolling hills and of course covered in vineyards. Because really all of Italy seems to be wine country of some form or another, but Franciacorta is special. Kind of Italy’s best kept secret in fact. Franciacorta is home to some of the world’s finest sparkling wine – called Franciacorta of course. And you know mama likes bubbly!
Franciacorta is particularly special because of the way the wine is made. Like its bubbly cousin from France (which shall not be named), Franciacorta gets its bubbles from the “classic” wine making process. For the wine geeks out there (like me – I love this stuff!), that means Franciacorta doesn’t do its secondary fermentation (sitting on yeast and sugar called the tirage) en masse in giant steel tanks like Prosecco or Spumante. Instead, Franciacorta gets its delightful little bubbles after it ferments first in either steel or oak barrels and then goes through its second round of fermentation in the individual bottle. The entire wine-making process in Franciacorta is actually highly regulated to maintain the highest levels of quality. Wines must be aged for a minimum of 18 months, while some of the finest are aged for up to 60 months or even longer. That’s a very long time in wine years. Wine makers in Franciacorta take painstaking care of their wines – many using age-old traditional processes like riddling bottles by hand. Also, of the 115 producers in the region, more than half use organic farming practices. Color me impressed.
But back to our trip. In 72 jam packed hours, we were given the ultimate Franciacorta tour. We tasted Franciacorta upon Franciacorta upon Franciacorta, dined al fresco on five course lunches, learned to make homemade pasta, rode horseback through vineyards, took a sunset boat cruise, enjoyed a nature walk, toured a 1,000 year old monastery, sat pool-side with more Franciacorta and then had more amazing food and then more food and more Franciacorta. Aka, it was 72 hours of heaven. But there’s so much to do in this lovely region that even if you aren’t into wine, you can still have an amazing time.
We were only able to visit a small sampling of the region’s wineries, but whether we were trying Blanc de Blanc, a very dry light bubbly, Satén with a finer carbonation and satin like quality on the palette, or sipping on the sparkling rosés, I loved them all. The wineries themselves were also gorgeous. Every one was completely different from the next. Corte Bianca featured stunning modern design (more coming in an entirely separate post – it was so good). Others, like the sprawling Mosnel were over 250 years old with wine cellars housing over 100,000 bottles. I was simultaneously in awe over the wine making process and all the amazing spaces.
An evening on Lago d’Iseo – the lake with largest inhabited lake island in the world – was a little slice of magic.
I’ll spare you a picture of me actually on the horse.
This was my first major trip since becoming a mama and it was the perfect way to satisfy my wanderlust. Well, not really. Because now all I want to do is go back!
WHERE TO STAY: Le Quattro Terre – a lovely agriturismo, with simple chic rooms, delicious breakfasts and sprawling grounds
WHERE TO EAT: We had amazing meals at Locanda al Lago on Lake Iseo as well as at a stunning historic villa, Villa Calini
THINGS TO DO: Boat tours of Lago d’ Iseo, visit the Monastero S. Pietro in Lamosa, take a nature walk in the preserve Le Torbiere, horseback ride through vineyards with Scuderia Crazy Horse, or take a cooking class before you wine taste at Mosnel
For more of my favorite travel adventures, CLICK HERE