Sondrio: wines and local staples

The province of Sondrio features a rough, mountainous territory which is dominated by the Raethian and Bergamo Alps, crossed by huge valleys, such as Valtellina and Valchiavenna, and characterized by an Alpine climate and low temperatures for several months a year. However, wine production and vinegrowing have been flourishing since the Roman Age, the fine wines from Valtellina were celebrated by Virgil and Pliny and local winegrowing traditions have been appreciated both north and south of the Alps since the fifteenth century.

Those flocking to Sondrio or the nearby mountain resorts of Valtellina will have the possibility to discover vineyard-clad valleys characterized by low walls and terrace cultivations. Throughout the centuries, large areas which were previously occupied by thick woods and rocks have been reclaimed by local farmers, who gave the surrounding landscapes utmost profusion and turned them into the ideal locations to cultivate vertical vineyards.

The most important winegrowing centres in Valtellina are the Raethian Slope and the fertile area which develops around Sondrio's old town, the so-called Terziere di Mezzo. Nebbiolo, Pignola, Rossola and Brugnola vines, which are employed to produce Valtellina Superiore DOCG (which is produced in the province of Sondrio and in the nearby resorts of  Sassella, Grumello, Inferno, Valgella and Maroggia), Rosso di Valtellina DOC and Sforzato DOCG, the latter being the first Italian red raisin wine which was awarded such a recognition, are all grown here. Not to be missed is Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT white wine, which is produced from a Chardonnay vine.

Those flocking to Sondrio during autumn will have the possibility to take part in traditional folk festivals which are aimed at celebrating  harvest, which takes place in October, one month later than in other Italian regions because of the cooler climate.

Apart from wine, the province of Sondrio also boasts further excellent local staples and gives visitors the possibility to taste them all year round. The itinerary of the wine and flavours of Valtellina and Valchiavenna develops across snow-covered mountains, green valleys and genuine tastes, and gathers over 2000 winegrowers, farms, restaurants, holiday farms and wine shops, as well as local producers of honey, IGP bresaola, DOP cheeses, apples and further tasty local staples.

The food and wine itinerary of the province of Sondrio gathers small and intimate resorts, such as Chiavenna, situated just in the heart of the homonymous valley, a renowned centre for the production of salami and cold pork meat and IGP Bresaola (Protected Geographical Indication), Val Gerola and Val Albaredo, which have been famous since the ancient times for the production of Bitto cheese, Valtartano, which is renowned for the production of stracchino cheese, and Val di Mello, which is appreciated for the production of Patalos cheese, which is matured inside red wine. Not to be missed is the famous Valtellina Casera cheese. Teglio, the homeland of buckwheat, offers the lovers of homemade pasta the possibility to taste genuine first courses, such as the famous Pizzoccheri, wide tagliatelle pasta which are served with potatoes, spinach and Bitto cheese.

Terziere di Mezzo, on the way back to Sondrio, is carpeted with thick apple orchards which produce Golden Delicious and Stark Delicious apples, while the nearby Valmalenco gathers the major producers of honey of Lombardy, whose production differentiates into three categories: Multifloreale di Montagna (produced at an altitude comprised between 200 and 1000 metres), Multifloreale di alta montagna (produced at an altitude of 1000 metres) and Monofloreale di rododendro.