Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
Last month we covered a number of Italian destinations, which were on privileged young Europeans so called ‘Grand Tour’ list in the 18th and 19th centuries. This month we will look at some gems where you will still find great art, architecture, food and wine while avoiding the worst of mass tourism at the same time.
Lucca is a wonderful Renaissance city, located near the sea in Tuscany. The famous resort of Viareggio is only a hop away. Lucca itself is a delight, you can walk (or cycle!) its ancient walls gazing inwards to the terracotta rooftops or outwards to the distant mountains.
Ilaria is a modernistic and spacious hotel just inside the city walls, and they have a free drinks and snacks area for guests. While in Lucca visit the stunning 15th century tomb of Ilaria who was the young wife of the Lord of Lucca.
Alla Corte Degli Angeli is a lovely, atmospheric hotel right in the centre of Lucca.
Wine: Tuscany, home of Chianti.
Hotel San Luca – located at the foot of this beautiful hilltop Umbrian city, some rooms look over a pretty courtyard, The Duomo is stunning, and the ‘Bridge of the Towers’ soaring over a deep gorge is a major attraction. Spoleto makes an excellent base to explore the famous towns of Umbria, Todi, Spello, and of course Assisi with the famous Basilica of Saint Francis.
Wine: Umbrian wine is similar to Tuscan and often better value.
With a bit of research, you can often find wonderful B&B’s or guesthouses in Italy. The Locanda Borgonuovo is just such a place, very friendly hosts and a great location right in the centre of this former great Renaissance city-state, where most of its citizens travel around by bicycle. The main piazza is truly awesome.
Wine: Emilia-Romagna is not Italy’s most famous production area, but local wines can be similar to those of Tuscany and again, great value.
Mantua, (Mantova) is where the Prince sent Romeo when he banned him from Verona. Described in the Rough Guide as having an Arabian Nights Skyline, it is truly beautiful. Three interlocking Renaissance piazzas include a great palace where the powerful Gonzaga’s ruled the city. Mantegna’s fresco of the ruling family in the palace is a true masterpiece. Stay at the Casa Poli, a stylish boutique hotel a short walk to the piazzas.
Wine: sample the local wines of Lombardy.
An ancient university city, Padua is best known for the Capella degli Scrovegni, which houses perhaps the most famous frescoes in all of Italy, painted by Giotto and his assistants in the early 14th century. Stay at the Belludi 37 right next door to the Basilica which holds the tomb of Saint Anthony and is a pilgrimage destination for thousands of Italians each year.
Wine: the Veneto is the most prolific wine producing area in all of Italy.
Next month, the Wine Buff reveals his favourite hotel in all of Italy!