Tuscany/The Veneto, Italy
Best wine destination in 2013: Tuscany.
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For oenophiles, Northern Italy offers an embarrassment of riches. Not only is it packed with world-class wineries, but the region also offers spectacular food and historical sites. Whether it’s a super-Tuscan and bistecca alla Fiorentina in Florence (maybe after a day spent with Michelangelo’s David) or gnocchi and Amarone in the steps of Romeo and Juliet, there really is no way to go wrong.
Among all the regions of Italy, Tuscany has perhaps most firmly snagged the American imagination; just think about how many sofa styles or paint colors invoke its name. But, beyond the hype, Tuscany pays off with big-gun wines, offering everything from beefy Morellino di Scansano from Maremma and super Tuscan Sassicaia from the Livorno Coast to traditional Chianti Classico from the hills south of Florence. Expect Tuscany’s cuisine to be as titanic as its reds. Game and wild boar from the region’s ample forests appear frequently, as do giant, nearly raw steaks made from Tuscany’s heritage Chianina cattle. Then, of course, there are the cities to visit—Pisa, Siena, Florence. A pilgrimage to this region is de rigueur for every student of art and architecture.
While Venice, the Veneto’s capital, is its unrivaled tourist mecca, Verona is free from most of that city’s perpetual tourist crush. More relaxed (and less tweaked to suit foreign visitors), Verona, which is about a two-hour drive north from Florence, holds excellent examples of Roman and Medieval architecture. Verona is the Veneto’s wine center and home to Italy’s annual wine boondoggle, Vinitaly, the April gathering of winemakers from all over the boot. The Veneto wines to look for are, of course, Soave, Prosecco, Valpolicella, and Amarone. The cuisine of Verona is just as diverse as its wine. Look for seafood from the Adriatic, plus the Veronese specialties of gnocchi, chicken-liver mousse, polenta, and stick-to-your-ribs game like hare.