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Bonassola vineyard

Discover Bonassola: Wine, Tradition and the Sea

By Northern Italy No Comments

Spectacular of the sea. Beautiful vineyards. Divine wine. We spent a perfect day as guests at the agriturismo Ca’ du Ferrà in Bonassola— and that’s exactly what we found.


As the founders of a travel company, our aim is to offer quality and authentic Italy travel experiences away from the conventional tourist attractions and show the best that Italy can offer. We are always seeking out new places still unspoiled by mass tourism, as well as local producers who respect the rhythm of nature and the environment.

On a recent Sunday research trip, we ended up in Bonassola, a little village just a seven-minute train ride from Cinque Terre, but without the crowds. Bonassola is tucked in between the sea and the mountains, with a wide beach protected by the ruins of the old castle, and colourful caruggi (little alleyways) where life is peaceful and the smell of freshly baked focaccia is everywhere.

When we arrived at the Bonassola train station we were warmly welcomed by Davide Zoppi, who runs Ca’ du Ferrà, a fascinating agricultural business, together with his mom, Aida, and his dad, Antonio. Davide and his family managed to convert four hectares of uncultivated land into panoramic vineyards through sheer passion and hard work. They produce the Bonazolae, a divine dry white wine made with the local grapes (Vermentino, Bosco and Albarola).

Walking up and down these vineyards we realized what “vertical agriculture” means. This land suspended between the mountain and the sea is as as difficult to work as it is spectacular to look at. We were impressed to see how they built terraces and planted vineyards on very steep slopes. Davide proudly explained that their production is fully organic. The family offers an excellent product and their respect for the environment and nature, are key values that direct their daily work.

Ca’ du Ferrà is not only a place beautiful to spend a wonderful holiday, it is also a hotbed of great ideas. Davide and his dad, a history lover, are recovering a very rare local grape variety called Ruzzese. This grape variety disappeared centuries ago. It was very appreciated by Pope Paul III Farnese (1468 – 1549), who used to order several barrels of this wine directly from the small village of Bonassola. After researching and finding this variety, they have now planted 1000 grapes of Ruzzese and soon it will be possible once again to drink a wine whose flavour was lost for centuries.

While we’ll have to wait to taste this lost wine, we reached the heavens when Davide brought a cold bottle of Bonazolae wine and two trays of freshly baked focaccia out into the vineyard garden. We ate and drank with a breathtaking view of the Ligurian sea overlooking the two promontories guarding the bay of Bonassola.  

Sound like a good way to spend the day? You should join us! With our unique tailor-made tour service, we are now ready to offer you a gastronomic experience at the Cinque Terre where, you will meet Davide, taste his wine from the panoramic “vineyards garden”, learn about organic agriculture. There will be several tastings of local products, pesto and cooking classes, and we’ll stay in a top quality, relaxing accommodation that Davide and his family converted from one former rural old building and one antique mill. It’s just a few minutes walk from the sea. Come and discover Bonassola for yourself!

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Truffles, Wine and the Langhe Hills Getaway Tour

By Langhe Hills No Comments

The rolling countryside of the Langhe Hills in Northern Italy is incredible, with its hilltops boasting medieval towns, magnificent castles, and world famous vineyards. This stunning landscape isn’t just picturesque and historic, it also produces some of the world’s best wine, hazelnuts, cheese, and truffles. Especially when you know where to look.

Different varieties of grapes have been lovingly cultivated here for centuries, and many of the vineyards here are still family-owned. We know that Etruscans and Celts traded for wine with locals here at least as early as the fifth century BC and that Ancient Romans took note of the quality. Good news! These rich landscapes and important cultural elements should be around for generations to come because in 2014 the Langhe-Roero and nearby Monferrato were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are wonderful hikes to enjoy through the vineyards of the Langhe Hills and many glasses of exceptional wines to taste along the way. Agri-tourism (called agriturismo in Italy) thrives here. Many of the stately country homes at local vineyards have been converted into guest houses that boast spa services and curated menus. Imagine enjoying restorative treatments at a spa that’s surrounded by the richness of Northern Italy’s wine regions.

There are many wonderful wines produced here, and perhaps the best known are Barbaresco and Barolo. Both of these are made from Nebbiolo grapes, but their distinctly different soil conditions create very different tastes. The Barolo “King of Wines” has more tannin than the Barbaresco.

Perhaps the most famous crop foraged from these hills is the legendary Piedmont truffle.

And by truffles we don’t mean chocolate truffles. We’re talking about the aromatic fungus that is found growing wild underground, somewhat like a potato or other tuber. Chefs around the world pay top dollar for this Italian culinary delicacy. In 2016 a white truffle weighing just over four pounds sold at a Sotheby’s auction for more than $60,000.

Attempts to cultivate crops of truffles in Australia and North America simply don’t match the flavor of those found in the wild in Italy so demand for these naturally occurring truffles stays high. Delicate white truffles are in season in October and November, when the annual autumn truffle festivals are in full swing all over the region, but there are delicious black truffles available year round.

For an authentic Northern Italian experience, you can stroll through the enchanting local forests as you enjoy a truffle hunt with an experienced truffle hunter called a “trifulau.” At one time truffle hunters worked with female pigs to find truffles, which apparently smell like a male pig to an amorous sow! Unfortunately, female pigs are rather greedy when they find truffles and their trampling enthusiasm destroys truffle beds. So today’s truffle hunters don’t rely on swine; they work with trained scent dogs.

There is quite a bit of skill and knowledge required to find good quality truffles, which typically grow in small amounts. It’s not unusual for a truffle hunter to find a few ounces of truffle, perhaps just under a pound, at a time. You’ll notice that truffle hunters are careful to ensure there’s some truffle left behind so that spores ensure future crops.

You can eat fresh truffles raw and they’re usually paired with a full-flavoured white wine or with a local red low in tannin. They’re also delicious cooked and often served in canapés or shaved over freshly made pasta or risotto. You’ll find them on the menu at local restaurants, which also boast long lists of delicious local wines to accompany their rich, exotic taste.

We should mention that many ancient civilizations – including the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks – used truffles as an aphrodisiac when they were looking to spark a little romance and fire up the libido. We’ll let you decide if that’s because of the truffle or the accompanying wine.

There’s no better place to experience Italian truffles and wine than in the Langhe Hills. Our small group Langhe Hills Getaway offers a four-day excursion into the Piedmont region that includes a truffle hunt led by a professional trifulau, a visit to a winery, a cooking class led by a local chef, and a time to relax and rejuvenate in a spa surrounded by vineyards. Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff at Local Wonders Travel to book your small group Italian holiday now.

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