Valtellina is an incredible area and still widely unkown outside of the Italy and the neighbouring countries of Swizterland and Austria. Taste of Life Tours can take on an incredible few days touring through this incredible area perched just north of the famed Lake Como either as part of a customised tour itinerary, or we also offer a short tour as an add-on to some of our September set-tour options.

So where is Valtellina? Maybe it is best to ask if you know where Lake Como is. Most people recognise this famous area of Italy but do not even know that if you travel a mere 30 minutes further, you will be in one of the most beautiful and under-rated areas of Italy. This valley is sandwiched between the Dolomite Mountains and the Italian/Swiss Alps, sharing a border with both Austria and Switzerland. For centuries it remained very isolated due to its location and as such it expresses a strong and unique regionality. With incredible natural beauty, amazing fine wines produced from the incredible terraced vineyards on the northern valley wall, unique and delicious cheeses, it is a phenomenal area that showcases a great example of a hand crafted landscape, such that it has been listed for inclusion in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Valtellina holds a special place in our heart as it is the area Robert’s full set of grandparents emigrated from some 90 years ago. For Rob one of his earliest memories was losing his wooden Pinocchio doll down one of the many mountain water streams when it never came out from under the bridge… He was just four.

We have been frequent visitors to this mountainous region of northern Italy for the past 6 years and for us the sheer beauty of this area with its myriad of food and wine treasures will ensure that we will continue to return. With every scratch of the surface another delicacy emerges.

The vines which cling to the precipitous terraced vineyards in Valtellina produce some amazing wines. The main grape of the region is called Chiavenasca and is actually a clone of Nebbiolo – the famous variety of the Barolo region of Piedmont. The Valtellina Superioire classed wines from the Chiavenasca will hold there own with the best wines of Italy, and the Sfursato wines – a unique rich wine style made from partially dried red grapes from only the highest vineyards, is one of the area’s most popular vinous exports. With a gaining level of popularity and a new generation of winemakers and vine growers coming through, the quality of the wines from Valtellina has never been better. Let Taste of Life Tours organise some private cantina visits with some of the area’s best producers for you to gain an appreciation of the amazing wines from this remarkable region.

The high alpine pastures of the Valtellina area, rich with wild mountain herbs, flowers and grasses, have long been recognised as providing the milk from the cows fed on them, with unique aromas and flavours, which is then transferred into the cheese itself. With two DOP rated cheese from the area, Bitt and Caser, and a massive array of other small production, artisanal cheeses, Valtellina is a cheese lover’s friend.

The amazing cheeses of the region also feature widely in the cuisine of Valtellina. One of the area’s most famous first courses is called Schiatt, which is a local cheese that is cut into pieces, coated with a thin batter made from Grano Saraceno – Buckwheat flour, and then deep fried. Fried cheese……. What could be better. Another amazing dish, Pizzocheri, is perhaps the most famous dish of the area. Strips of buckwheat flour pasta are cooked with Savoy cabbage and dressed, in a warmed terracotta bowl, with grated and sliced cheeses and sprinkled with melted butter. It is real mountain food!

Polenta here is a staple food source. You will find it cooked with abundant milk; butter and cheese as a side serve to rich stews of sausage and a variety of meat sources. As common is the various versions of pizzoccheri, essentially a dish made of flavoured with garlic.

Whilst we happily wax lyrical about the wonders of Valtellina wine and food, it would be remiss not to mention but a few of the non-consumptive highlights of the area which we can work in to a tour for you. The Valtellina and surrounding alpine areas are a source of immense natural beauty. There are a plethora of hikes and bike trails for all levels of fitness and expertise. One of our favourites is short hike up to Lago (lake) Palu, in the Valmalenco region of Valtellina. This is really a picture postcard high alpine lake, with a beautiful little refuge and restaurant on its banks to stop at for some refreshment, or perhaps lunch.

How does visiting a stunning alpine town, right on the Swiss border in the high alps, which also happens to be a tax free haven? If it sounds good then you will probably enjoy a day trip to Livigno. In winter it is the base town of one of the most consistent snow resorts in all of Europe. In summer it is popular for hiking, mountain biking and horse riding through the high alps. And at all times it is popular as all of the shops are duty free. There are a huge mix of stores selling everything from watches to whiskey, perfume to polo shirts. All of the big name luxury brands are represented but there are also a good mix of other stores. With more diversity of shops and products than any airport duty free area, why not make a visit to Livigno and do your shopping at a leisurely pace rather than last minute at the airport.

With many more great attractions and hidden gems to experience, why not contact us at Taste of Life Tours to ask about working in a Valtellina visit to your European travels.

As with the Aosta Valley, Valtellina is definitely worth the time to explore and makes a fantastic addition to the start or end of an Italian or wider European trip. Taste of Life Tours would be happy to add a visit (3 days is a great amount of time) to the start or end of one of our set tours or to work in a visit to this amazing alpine region into a fully customised tour of any length.

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