It is not strictly necessary to go to Tuscany or Piedmont to enjoy wine tasting or gastronomical adventure. Just about 50 km south of Milan you can find a stunning stretch of land still fairly unknown to tourists. I want to introduce you the Oltrepo Pavese wine region where gastronomy, nature and art harmoniously coexist. Oltrepo Pavese is often called “the little Tuscany of the North”. It is the largest wine district of Lombardy and boasts a series of medieval castles, beautiful hilly landscape, ancient villages, panoramic views and culinary itineraries.
Oltrepo is located along the southern part of the Po river below Pavia and literally means “on the other side of the Po”. There is lots to explore. Moreover Oltrepo has grown to become one of the largest wine-producing areas of Italy. Although the sparkling wine (spumante) is still the area’s flagship, many other types of wine are offered as well. This area is famous for the largest productions of Pinot Noir, Bonarda and Riesling. An ideal spot for your daytrip from Milan.
So, what is worth seeing in Oltrepo Pavese:
Zavattarello is a small medieval village in Oltrepo Pavese in the Upper Alta Val Tidone. Together with Fortunago it ranks among the most beautiful villages in Italy. In a short walk from the city center you can reach the famous Castello Dal Verme. I advise you to take a tour to the Castle, just imagine that this colossal structure is made entirely of stone with walls up to 4 meters thick. Both from the balcony and from the tower you can enjoy a magnificent panorama on the hills with the castles of Montalto Pavese, Valverde, Torre degli Alberi and Pietragavina.
Castello Dal Verme:
Via Carlo Dal Verme 4
27059 Zavattarello (Pavia – Italy)
Fortunago is a small town located on the hills of Oltrepo Pavese and from the top you can enjoy a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area. The main attractions of Fortunago are the church of San Giorgio, oratorio di Sant’Antonio Abate, as well as the village center itself. Fortunago is also one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Castello di Stefanago: the tall medieval tower is what immediately strikes you upon arrival at Castello di Stefanago. The view from here is perhaps one of the best panoramas of Oltrepo Pavese. At Cantina del Castello you can taste cold cuts, cheeses, desserts and local wines.
Varzi is another graceful village located in the middle of the Staffora valley.
In addition to the historic center of Varzi, you should definitely visit:
• the Chiesa di San Marcellino built in the XIV century;
• the Church of St. Giorgio;
• Castello Malaspina with a beautiful rectangular tower from the thirteenth century
Golferenzo is a very small town in Oltrepo Pavese. While here visit the church dedicated to San Nicolò, the remains of a castle, and an ancient medieval village. The local vineyards produce such exquisite wines as Pinot Noir, Riesling and Muscat. Nearby is located the Museum of Corkscrews, the exposition of which has more than 200 types of corkscrews collected over the past 300 years
Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio: a stunning monastery located on a powerful rocky ridge at an altitude of almost 700 m. From the open terrace you can enjoy a magnificent view of the entire Po Valley. From here going down you will reach the cave Grotta del Santo.
Where to eat at Oltrepo Pavese:
I can definitely recommend the historic Trattoria Quaglini in Schizzola, which offers dishes inspired by the gastronomic culture of Oltrepò Pavese. The menu changes depending on the variety of seasonal ingredients. Excellent cuisine and good prices. For 35 euro per person you can choose the fixed menu and the wine is included in the price or taste different dishes “à la carte”.