3 Reasons to Visit the Valtellina Valley
Situated in the Alps near the Switzerland border, the Valtellina Valley has been a part of Italy since 1859. Once an important mountain pass, today its a remarkable region in northern Italy that is loved not only for its year-round skiing, but also for its natural beauty, wine, and cuisine — all of which are reasons that you should consider a culinary vacation to this stunning area.
A Great Outdoors Destination
While skiing is one of the biggest attractions of the region — especially with more than 300 kilometers of ski slopes, there are also activities for the outdoor enthusiast no matter what the time of year. Hike and horse-back ride through the region's numerous mountain parks and nature reserves. Play a game of golf with mountain peaks as your background. Hot springs too are a beautiful feature of the area, and one reason that spas have grown in popularity here.
But the natural beauty itself is reason enough to visit Lombardy. The area is populated with terraced vineyards, lush vegetation, apple orchards, and more. With the Alps mountains surrounding the valley, the panoramic views truly are breathtaking, and something that need to be experienced to fully enjoy.
The winemaking traditions of the Valtellina Valley date back more than 2,000 years, even before ancient Rome times. Even today, many of the wines, such as the Valtellina Superiore, are made with Nebbiolo grapes. While these grapes are also used a great deal in Piedmont, the wines in the valley are different, largely influenced by where they're grown: on the beautiful southern-facing terraces of steep hillsides. This environment makes the wines a bit more earthy in flavor, as does the winemaking process itself.
The grapes, whether in Nebbiolo-produced wines, or other popular wines like Sforzato and Sfursat, are often dried on wooden lattices. Many are then aged for at least 18 months, if not longer, using both wood barrels and bottles. Our culinary vacation Cooking in the Valtellina Valley features a number of wine tastings so you can experience the different flavors of the region.
You can also explore the different flavors of the cuisine too. From the delicious apples straight from the orchard, to the mushrooms, such as chanterelles and porcini, that grow wildly throughout the valley, these ingredients have an important place in the regional dishes that have been passed down for decades.
Bresaola also hails from the area; the richly-flavored beef is both salted and dried and works wonderfully as an antipasti, particularly with local cheeses like Bitto and Casera. Both of these products are produced on agriturismos, such as La Fiorida, home to our trip, Authentic Farm to Table Experience. Last but surely not least is pizzoccheri, by far the most popular dish of the region. Made with fresh tagliatelle pasta, using buckwheat flour, this dish comes with spinach, potatoes, and Bitto cheese.
Skiing is clearly just one of the many attractions of the Valtellina Valley. But nearly all attractions are related to the fruitful land, from the wines and food to the beautiful views. While located about two hours from Milan, this gorgeous land is well worth a visit.
By Liz Hall