What’s this, you ask? A road full of bubbly Prosecco goodness? Sounds like something Willy Wonka invented but it is real! Officially called La Strada del Prosecco, the Prosecco road traverses the province of Treviso, just 50 km north of Venice. As if finding out the existence of such a magical place isn’t good enough, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t touristy! Can you even?
Prosecco: Italy’s version of Champagne?
It’s tempting to make this comparison but it’s not really accurate. Champagne is a region as well a process, whereas Prosecco is a grape…kind of. Prosecco is made predominantly from the Glera grape, formerly called Prosecco (named for the village of its origin, near Trieste).
Fun fact: The name prosecco is from the Slovenian word prozek, or “path through the woods.”
Prosecco can be made in other parts of Italy but the best, the Prosecco Superiore is from the province of Treviso in the Veneto region. Since 2009 these wines were awarded the highest quality level for Italian wine, the DOCG (denomination origin controlled and guaranteed) appellation.
Some Fun History
Vine-growing has been widespread in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone since ancient times
A memorial stone in the area recalls the words of a Roman centurion, mentioning the vendemmiales, celebrations on the occasion of the grape harvest (pic above)
In 1876, Conegliano’s School of Winemaking was founded, the first of its kind in Italy
In 1966, The Strada del Prosecco was set up, the first recognized Wine Road in Italy
The region’s application for UNESCO heritage status was accepted this year!
The unique combination of a moderate climate, cool Adriatic winds, special soils, and steep hills are why this region alone produces a superior Prosecco. This landscape is striking not only in its beauty, but in the realization of the difficulty in cultivating this land.
How to Get There
There are roughly 13 vineyards between the villages of Valdobbiodene and Conegliano, all small family owned and ran establishments. Visiting all of them would be epic but it’s hard to do in just a couple days. I know some of you are thinking, challenge accepted, and I totally support those efforts!
By train from Venice, it takes 45 min to get to the Conegliano Station. Here you can either rent a car, take the local bus or get a taxi. The bus does not come very frequently so perhaps get the schedule on-line ahead of time. Taxis are not simply waiting at this tiny train station but there is a phone number posted or you can pre-arrange with the hotel or guest house (which I recommend). However, this is not cheap.
*Tip: Make sure you buy your train ticket from the correct Venice train station. The Venice Santa Lucia station is in the Venice tourist region and is the Ferrovia vaporetto stop. The Venice Mestere station is on the mainland closer to the airport.
Where to Stay
There are hotels and guest houses throughout the Treviso region. I chose to stay in Follina, a village conveniently in the middle of the region, about 40 min drive from train station and close to the wineries on the hills of Valdobbiadiene. A taxi from the train station to Follina is 35 to 40 euros.
We stayed at a charming little hotel called Hotel dei Chiostri. Breakfast was included and was one of the best I’ve had in Italy. You can book this hotel here: Hotel dei Chiostri Booking
Or you can book a different hotel here:
The Prosecco road isn’t the easiest place to visit because it is not a major tourist destination, which is kind of why it’s so wonderful.
1. Self Drive
If you have a car, be very careful. Italians are very “confident” drivers and the hilly curvy roads can be heart stopping. You don’t want a drop of alcohol in your system for this.
2. Arrange a Driver
You can ask your hotel for recommendations or use Oriana (yes…do this!). Oriana is the “Queen of Prosecco”. She is very entertaining and knows the region like the back of her hand. You can find her email and phone number here: Oriana Prosecco Tour
This is challenging because they don’t run frequently, but they do exist. The hotel can help with more specific info. Here is the bus company’s website.
This is a really fun and adventurous way to explore the area. Warning, the hills are pretty brutal and getting an early start to avoid mid-day heat is recommended! At times my friend and I had to stop and walk the bikes up the hill. We are not exactly Tour de France material. The trip from Follina took about 2 hours (with lots of breaks). Once you make it to the top, getting in between the wineries and restaurants isn’t too bad. Getting back to Follina is mostly downhill, which is glorious.
Not gonna lie, when Giovanni from Hotel dei Chiostri arranged these bikes for us, he seemed (rightfully) concerned about our biking abilities. When we showed up right at dusk to return the bikes, he was so overjoyed that he blessed himself while saying “Mamma Mia”. I thinks it’s safe to say we didn’t inspire confidence for some reason! Maybe it was my ridiculous outfit? Maybe it was my friend Sarah repeatedly saying what a disaster the whole plan was.
She’s going to kill me for this…
5. Day Tours From Venice
There are Prosecco road tours from Venice. However, I put this last because I think this is the least desirable option. I always like to spend the night somewhere to truly get a feel for a place and not be rushed.
The Good Part: Poppin’ Prosecco
Ok, now that you have made it here and arranged transportation, which wineries should you go to? Well, the good part of having Oriana drive you is that you don’t have to figure anything out. She will take you to three places. Just know that the prices for tasting vary from 5-7 euros for 3-4 wines. Sometimes there was no charge and sometimes if you bought a bottle (prices range from 8 to 12 euros), the tasting price was waived. Like most rules in Italy, these are not rigidly observed!
If you’ve ever been to Napa valley, this is NOTHING like that. These are small intimate tastings, often just you and either the owner or a member of the family. The lack of “commerical-ness” to the tasting is incredibly refreshing. Most places would like you to call ahead to reserve a visit time. Many tend to be closed for siesta time between 12 and 2.
My friend Sarah with Oriana
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)
These wines have the highest denomination because they have conformed to the strictest standards. The quality is controlled and guaranteed.
DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)
These standards are less strict than for DOCG wines. Therefore these wines are more commonly found.
ITG (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
These are still considered good wines but don’t meet all the standards for DOC classification
Wines designated under the Prosecco Superiore DOCG are classified by their effervescence:
Spumante = Sparkling
Frizzante = Semi-Sparkling
Tranquillo = Still
The other classification is by levels of residual sugar.
Extra Dry (12-17 g/L)
Dry (17-32 g/L)
*note this is counter-intuitive to those of who associate “dry” with “not-sweet”! Here dry wines are the sweetest.
Millesimato means “vintage” and 85% of the grapes come from the harvest year indicated on the label.
Cartizze is known as the grand cru of the region, due to the ultra steep elevations that allow grapes to achieve ideal ripeness. Cartizze wines are grown on hills that are completely south-facing with the oldest soils in the region.
A Few Notable Wineries (No, I didn’t visit all of them)
Here you will get a proper tour of the wine making facilities. Then the good part…tasting. The various wines available for tasting are explained and you can pick three to try.
The views here are enough to make you cry, especially at golden hour right before sunset. The tasting table is situated in front of a wall of windows, looking out onto the glorious vineyards on the hillside.
We were greeted by the daughter-in-law of the owners. She gave us a brief history of the winery and let us taste a few while playing with the family’s adorable elderly dog. This winery has the distinction of producing Cartizze. We loved the intimate atmosphere, and looking at old family photos from the winery.
This is one of the more popular with a larger tasting room. Popular meaning we weren’t the only visitors, like the other places. Even though it’s more popular, it’s still remarkably uncrowded. The owner sits down with you and explains the different wines they offer. You can choose which ones and how many you want to taste. He is happy to let you try as many as you like. You want a brut? A dry? Hell even try a rose! Try them all!
I only regret that I couldn’t buy more. I WAS limited, considering I was traveling by bicycle.
This translates to “restaurant without a host”. This is a self-serve winery with snacks. Sounds insane right? This would NEVER work in Miami. Basically there is a tiny kitchen with a refrigerator that has different cured meats and cheeses with the prices marked. You grab some bread and your meet and cheese of choice, ring it up yourself and pay the cash register. You can use credit card or cash and the machine will give you change if needed. There are cutting boards and knives and anything you may need. There are little tables outside with views for dayzzzz!
The Prosecco Vending Machine
This place has a vending machine for Prosecco. Yes, you heard me. As cool as that sounds, this thing aggravated me. You choose your bottle, put in the money (must be exact because no change for you) and get your bottle. The catch is, the machine asks for ID. It’s in Italian so this is not so clear. Another tourist told me that one must have an Italian ID card.
I’m at a loss to explain how this actually works because somehow in between cursing, punching in random buttons, and an occasional angry kick of the machine, I was rewarded by a bottle spat out at me. The Italian tourist who tried after me didn’t manage to obtain a bottle, even though he had an Italian ID. Don’t worry, I shared mine. This was a “share-y” place, with all tourists giving each other tastes of different meats and cheeses to sample.
What I would advise you to do is get your food here, then walk across the street to Col Vetoraz (pictured above) and buy a bottle there. The quality and prices there are better than that machine anyway and less hassle with the vending machine.
Here you can enjoy a frolic through the vineyards. Be careful though, the hills are steep! My white skirt didn’t stay white for very long.
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Where to Eat
This delightful establishment is near Garbara and Ca’Salina wineries, which makes it the perfect stop if visiting those places. The outdoor terrace is fabulous. The staff was very kind not to laugh at Sarah and I showing up dirty and sweaty from riding bikes for the past 2 hours in the summer heat. The food here was divine. A modern take on Italian classics. Of course we had a bottle of Prosecco also. This is the kind of place you will sit for at least 2 hours so don’t be in a hurry!
Handmade tortellini with olives…
Gnocchi made from Polenta and wild mushrooms.
Trattoria Foss da Marai
Also in the area, this restaurant is well-known to be one of the best. It was closed when I was there but just thought I’d mention it.
Al Caminetto Follina
This small “down-home” restaurant is walking distance from the Hotel dei Chiostri in Follina. For 25 euro each, we received a bottle of wine, 5 different appetizers, 2 generous pasta dishes and dessert. Much better deal (and quality) than anything we had in Venice!
Also in Follina, this is a higher end gourmet restaurant that supposedly has a Michelin star. It is located in Villa Abbazio hotel, across the street from Hotel dei Chiostri.
I hope this guide to Italy’s Prosecco road is helpful. This is the perfect getaway for wine enthusiasts and those looking to escape tourist hell in Venice! This photo sums up how I felt the entire time here.