Located 40 minutes south of Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region, is the town of Pavia, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe (1361). And, just across the river from Pavia sits the region of Oltrepò Pavese, which means just that. It is “on the other side of the Po River from Pavia”. Because of its rolling hills, it is frequently called the “Tuscany of the North” but although the Oltrepò Pavese is one of the largest wine producing regions in all of Italy, it is still fairly unknown, which makes it a great “off-the-beaten” path place to visit.
To get the full vineyard experience, look no further than the charming bed and breakfast Villa Arabella, owned by Paul and Arabella Lizioli. With only three rooms, their home is peaceful and luxurious and the breakfast that Paul makes in the morning will give you the perfect start to your day. If you want to relax and be lazy, you can spend the day at Villa Arabella, relaxing by the pool, looking out at the vineyards.
Of course there is alot of wine tasting to do in the area. In the area, you can find the local grapes Croatina (which makes Bonarda), Pinot Nero (pinot noir), Barbera, Riesling and Moscato, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. In addition, there are a lot of champagne-style sparkling wines made in the area. Be sure to make an appointment in advance but visit are Ca’di Frara for a tasting with fourth generation winemaker Luca Bellani. Luca makes beautiful sparkling wines, including a Rose which always makes me smile, after all, I do say that “pink wine makes me happy”. Another winery to try is Cabanon with female winemaker Elena Mercandelli who began making wine when she was 14. While they don’t make sparking wines, they make Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Rose, as well as grappa.
In addition to wineries, there is a goat cheese farm and a salumi factory to visit as well!
Il Boscasso has been owned by Maria Chiara Onida, a former mathematician, and her husband Aldo Galbiati for 25 years. After studying the genetics of goats, she recognized a certified strain called camosciata dell alpi, which she breeds and also produces a range of pure creamy cheeses including ricotta, herb, blue cheese and wrapped in walnut leaves.
La Piola and the salumi factory is owned by Giorgio Perdoni, Grand Master of the Confraternity of Salame di Varzi. Salame di Varzi (salami from Varzi) DOP, dating back to the 13th century, is made exclusively with most valuable cuts of pork, such as the leg, shoulder, loin, coppa, and filet, with the addition of cheeks and bacon for the fat parts. The proportion of the various cuts is established in the production rules and is currently overseen by the Consorzio di Tutela (Consortium for the Protection of the Salame di Varzi DOP.) There are 85 members of the fraternity and to become a member, you must fill our a formal application and be approved. What do they look for in members? Foodies who enjoy life! Perhaps that’s you!
If you do feel like exploring beyond the Oltrepo and have a few days, try the walking tours of the old salt trails that will take you from Lombardy to Liguria. This is an unexplored area just waiting to be explored!