Lombardy Unveiled: An Adventurous Escapade of Wine, Elegance, and Enchantment


The Petite Wine Traveler in a Oltrepò Pavese vineyard

Maybe you’ve seen everyone’s Facebook and Instagram feeds covered in pictures of this summer’s European travels. Well, mine was no exception as I recently returned from a wine, food, and travel extravaganza in the Lombardy region of Italy. I genuinely believe that wanderlust is a part of my genetic makeup. There’s an unparalleled exhilaration in traversing uncharted territories, delving deep into history, and fully embracing the essence of local cultures. Remarkably, this fervor merely intensifies my appetite for future escapades.

Chapter 1: The Oltrepò Pavese Discovery

In the heart of Lombardy, Italy, a wine writer’s dream unfurled, and I had the privilege to be part of it. My journey kicked off amidst the rolling vineyards of Oltrepò Pavese, just 50 miles south of Milan in the Province of Pavia, an Italian wine region that often gets overshadowed by its more famous counterparts. Traveling with a group of journalists from around the world, I knew this adventure would be anything but ordinary.

The discovery of Oltrepò Pavese was like finding a hidden treasure trove. It was all about Metodo Classico, the sparkling wine of the region, and the illustrious pinot nero, known as pinot noir elsewhere. Oltrepò Pavese is the pinot nero capital of Italy, with nearly 9,880 acres dedicated to this remarkable grape. The unique terroir, characterized by microclimates and well-drained soils, work its magic on the grapes, resulting in exceptional wine production. The expertise of the region’s winemakers, and the perfect balance of acidity and sugar in the sparkling wines, make it a hidden gem that I was just beginning to unravel.

Chapter 2: Sip and Sail in Bellagio

As my journey continued, my husband flew out to join me, and together we embarked on a voyage to the legendary Lake Como, a realm of dreams and opulence. Lake Como, a place known for its natural beauty, boasts shimmering azure-blue waters, charming villages, and has long been a haven for the elite. Its aura of exclusivity and privacy makes it an ideal sanctuary, a refuge from the bustling world. It felt like a place that bore a striking resemblance to our own Montecito, with its beautiful villas, high-profile celebrities, seclusion, and the breathtaking embrace of nature.

The lake, with its inviting waters, serves as a playground for water enthusiasts – offering opportunities for boating, sailing, and kayaking. It provides the perfect backdrop for a wide range of recreational activities. In the village of Bellagio, its magnetic allure to tourists is evident, offering a charming shopping experience and exuding a small-town charm that feels like stepping into a vintage postcard. Meanwhile, Varenna, adorned with pastel-colored villas and renowned for its sheer beauty, is a place where museums and fresh seafood eateries line the streets, leaving me breathless in its splendor.

Our exploration reached its peak with a boat tour led by Lake Como Explorer. As our vessel glided effortlessly on the glistening waters, we found ourselves drifting past opulent villas and immaculate gardens that seemed plucked from the pages of a timeless fairy tale. The gentle sway of the boat mirrored the serenity of the lake, creating moments of pure and unadulterated tranquility. Plus, the chance to spot George Clooney and Amal’s villa while sailing added a touch of glamour to our already bewitching journey.

Lake Como’s shores, adorned with sunlight and graced with elegant villas and lush greenery, beckoned us to embrace life’s simple pleasures. It was a journey into a world where sophistication intertwined seamlessly with nature’s grandeur, and each vista unveiled a new chapter in our extraordinary adventure.

Chapter 3: The Swiss Interlude in Lugano

Our journey took an unexpected turn as we hopped on a ferry and found ourselves on the Swiss shores of Lake Lugano. Switzerland’s Lugano was a captivating blend of culture, history, and modernity. Riding high above the cityscape in a funicular, we were treated to breathtaking views of this Swiss jewel. The descent brought us back to the streets of Lugano, where we stumbled upon a cozy Swiss wine bar.

Sipping on Swiss wines that are hard to find in the U.S. – like Chasselas, Petite Arvine, and Müller-Thurgau – and tasting their unique character felt like unearthing a well-kept secret. Lugano itself, with its Swiss-Italian charm, became a delightful interlude in our Italian escapade. The city’s diversity of experiences was a testament to the rich tapestry of the region’s offerings.

Chapter 4: Moonlit Spritzing in Milan 

View from Lake Lugano

Our journey culminated in the cosmopolitan city of Milan. The grandeur of the Duomo and the bustling Piazza del Duomo set the stage for an unforgettable evening. Milan, with its rich history and modern cosmopolitan flair, provided a fitting conclusion to our adventures. As the moon graced the Milanese sky, we found ourselves at a charming café, overlooking the iconic Cathedral Duomo di Milano. We enjoyed an aperitivo, my Aperol Spritz glistening in the soft moonlight. 

The Aperol Spritz, with its bittersweet orange liqueur and sparkling Prosecco, tasted even more divine in its birthplace, while aperitivo in Milan is a sacred and cherished tradition. It’s a time for relaxation, conversation, and the unwinding of the day’s stresses – a pre-dinner ritual that holds immense importance in the social fabric of the city. Milanese locals and visitors alike gather in bars and cafés to enjoy a selection of drinks and light snacks. Our aperitivo was accompanied by an array of delightful accoutrements: platters of olives, bruschetta, and a selection of exquisite cheeses. The combination was so delectable and generous that it felt almost like a full dinner in itself. It was a perfect way to savor the flavors of Italy and conclude our remarkable journey with a touch of culinary delight, sophistication, and the joy of savoring life’s finest moments.

In the end, Lombardy had etched its mark on our hearts and palates. From the undiscovered vineyards of Oltrepò Pavese to the elegance of Lake Como, Lugano’s Swiss charm, and Milan’s cosmopolitan allure, this journey had been a dream come true. It wasn’t just about the wines we tasted or the places we explored; it was about the moments we savored and the stories we created. Cheers to a sumptuous summer escapade in the enchanting tapestry of Lombardy, where each chapter of the journey left us richer, in every sense of the word.