When we were in Italy this summer tasting the bubbly wines along Prosecco Road, it was easy to be laser focused on the next wine tasting. However, to go to the Prosecco region and only concentrate on the wine would be a shame. That’s because Valdobbiadene had some of the most delectable food we had in all of Italy.
Steve holds up his pizza so Ann could take a picture. Also, he wasn’t going to let anyone else anywhere near it.
It definitely had the best pizza we tried. Deb and Massi, our local guide and driver, took us to a charming pizza place with outdoor seating and colorful flower pots that surrounded an outdoor patio.
Deb said she’d point the way to the best pizza we’d ever had. And she did.
The four us sat down and took a look at the menu. I asked if we should order a couple pizzas to share and Deb insisted that we would each want our own. As usual, she was right.
Ann’s pizza had prosciutto and peppers on a crust made from artisan grains.
I ordered this prosciutto pizza with peppers and we paid just a tiny bit extra to have the crust made with artisan grains. Worth. Every. Euro. Cent. (And the cost was still even less than what we’d pay for a Domino’s pizza in the U.S). It was the most incredible pizza I’d ever tasted; not the thick and greasy stuff with processed meats and cheeses like you sometimes get in other countries. I’m talking a thin, wood fired crust with a sauce so fresh you’d think the tomatoes were picked from the garden just minutes before (they probably were), topped with fresh meat, vegetables, and flavorful, gooey cheese.
Yes, in Italy pizza is not just a dish; it is an experience of flavors and tradition.
For an appetizer we had a pizza crust that had been drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with herbs.
We shared an appetizer pizza crust drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with fresh Italian herbs while sipping glasses of cold beer and wine. We sat, enthralled by the view of the sun setting over hills covered in grape vines. THIS was the Italian experience I’d been dreaming about for years and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.
It was great to have a private driver who would stop when we wanted to take a picture. And who wouldn’t wan this picture?
For our second night in the Prosecco region, Deb and Massi wanted to take us to a different kind of Italian restaurant, one that was more formal, a bit more gourmet, but just as delicious. After a leisurely drive along a mountain road littered with breathtaking views and passing through several quaint Italian villages, we stopped at a fine dining restaurant late in the evening where we were seated at a white linen covered table on an open-air balcony with an incredible view.
Ann’s appetizer of prosciutto and fresh figs.
The appetizer course was my favorite. I had prosciutto with fresh figs while Steve ordered a local favorite, a warm cheese fondue with crispy Italian bread. It was sprinkled with edible flowers and he savored every bite.
This creamy cheese fondue was beyond delicious. Steve wanted to lick the glass clean, but Ann said no.
In between courses, we watched the sun set over the hills of Valdobiadene and listened to the chiming bell of a nearby church. It was another quintessential Italian experience.
Our view from the restaurant.
For the main course, I had an apple risotto with four beautifully crafted tortellini. The plate was sprinkled with coarse, pink peppercorns and looked too good to eat. Of course I ate it anyway, taking my time to savor every bite.
Apple risotto and tortellini seasoned with ground red peppercorns. Yum!
For dessert, I opted for one of my favorites, a traditional tiramisu and it was one of the best I had in Italy.
Ann had this beautiful tiramisu for dessert.
While we came to Prosecco Road for the wine, we were surprised to be equally impressed with the food and restaurants. Not only were the dishes beyond compare, you can’t beat the views, the relaxing atmosphere, and the hospitality of the people who live there. We can’t wait to go back.
A slow journey along the Prosecco Road allows you really get to know the wine you are drinking in a way not found in other parts of Italy. Because it doesn’t have the masses of tourists found elsewhere in the country, visitors to the Prosecco region can really immerse themselves and bask in warm Italian hospitality. There are no lines and no crowds, and no one seems to be in a hurry.
A view across the beautiful Prosecco region.
OK, now let’s talk about the wine.
What is DOCG?
The Prosecco region has a DOCG denomination. DOCG is short for the fancy Italian words, “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.” It is part of a labeling and control system that Italy has created to help consumers know the regionally created products they are buying are genuine and of high quality. Because this system is key to understanding wine in Italy, our hosts Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver made sure to explain it to us right away.
This marker shows that we are in a special agricultural area, “Denominacion de Origen Controlada e Garantita.” This means the grapes for the wine were grown in a specific region and that the wine is guaranteed to meet exacting specifications for quality.
DOCG wines are made from grapes grown only in the specific region known for the wine’s production.
Any bottle bearing a numbered DOCG seal was created following a well-defined set of rules for the blending of grape varietals, and has been tested not only for taste but also at the molecular level to exacting quality standards.
DOCG is not exclusive to Prosecco. Here is a DOCG label on a bottle of Chianti Classico. Because of the label, we know this bottle was crafted to exact standards.
If a wine doesn’t pass any of these tests, it doesn’t get approved for the little numbered paper seal. In other words, if you see a seal with the letters “DOCG” on an Italian wine, you know it was created and checked to meet exacting standards so is a good representative from the region. The Prosecco Road is full of wineries producing DOCG wines.
A glass of DOCG Prosecco at the Bisol winery.
Visiting the Prosecco region
Along Prosecco Road, it is very easy to visit lots of wineries that produce DOCG wines, as they are extremely close together. I’m talking about sometimes just a few feet away from the next. Because each one offers visitors a unique experience, you really can really learn a great deal about the wine and region. At the Bisol winery, for instance, you can tour the museum in their original cellar and soak up the history of wine making both at that winery and in the region.
Bisol winery cellar museum.
Historic wines in the Bisol museum.
At another winery, you learn a little bit about the different soils in the region as well as what each soil type brings to the Glara grapes grown in it. You also hear how those grapes are blended to create the different wines offered.
The Adami winery had a display showing some of the different soil types in which grapes are grown.
Grapes are everywhere throughout the region, often running right along the road like a hedge. Vines of Glara grapes decorated people’s front yards and were planted right next to buildings as if the grape growers didn’t want to waste one single square foot of this fertile land. Seriously, we could have stuck our hand out the car window and touched a vine if we’d wanted to.
Glara grapes growing in the Prosecco region
Many of the wineries are small, family-owned operations without a formal tasting room staff. Instead, it is often the wine maker or close family member who pours and explains each wine to you. And what generous pours! In many cases you can get a little tour of the winery, as well. Imagine how much you can learn with so many mini-tutorials during your visit.
An antique spittoon at the Vigne Matte winery.
Steve and Ann pose at the Le Colture winery.
And with so few tourists around, even in the high Italian tourist season, we often had the wineries to ourselves. It was such a wonderful, relaxing way to enjoy sampling some of the world’s best wine.
Our hosts, Massi and Deb, at the Vinge Matte winery. We were the only ones there except for the neighbor’s cute puppy who just loved following us around.
If you’re wondering what an agriturismo is, don’t worry. You’re in good company. I had no idea the word even existed before our trip to Italy this summer. In fact, it wasn’t until I stayed in one that I gained a good understanding of what they are and how they can take your Italian vacation to the next level.
Agriturismo businesses are great places to stay in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.
Simply put, an agriturismo is a small, family-owned tourism business, like a bed and breakfast, attached to a larger agriculture-related business that produces and sells something. Along the Prosecco Road, you won’t find a Hilton Garden Inn, but you will find all kinds of agriturismo businesses catering to the handful of tourists who have discovered this beautiful area.
Our hosts, Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, arranged for us to stay at the Roccat winery agriturismo business. Beautiful flowers greeted us outside the front door, a sample of the warm hospitality we were about to experience.
Lovely flowers outside the Roccat winery agriturismo inn.
The family renovated an old barn on their property into a six room bed and breakfast in the year 2000. Each is clean, comfortable and has a private bath with toiletries provided. Breakfast, served in a charming, sunlit room is simply wonderful. They serve locally made jams, as well as meats and dairy products from nearby farms. There are cereals, as well, along with baked goods from a local bakery. My favorite was a wonderful cake. I had two pieces each morning. Don’t judge. If you tried it, you would, too.
The breakfast spread at the Roccat winery agriturismo. It is included with the room.
This homemade cake at the Roccat Agriturismo was the perfect breakfast food.
The rooms provide a cultural experience you won’t get if you stay in a chain hotel, and we liked that. Be aware, though, that the air conditioning is to Italian standards, meaning it doesn’t cool the room as much as Americans might be accustomed to. Also, like most places in Italy, washcloths are not provided, so if you typically use one you might want to pack one in your bag.
What was great about staying at the agriturismo is that after breakfast, we went out the back door and were in the middle of the winery. The morning of our second day there, we met the wine maker, Clemente, and walked about 20 steps to the area where they produce and bottle the wines.
Clemente at Roccat winery.
There, Clemente explained to us the process for creating Prosecco and explained how it is different than Champagne made in France. While both wines undergo a secondary fermentation that puts bubbles in the wine, the method used for that fermentation is different. In Champagne, it happens in the bottle. In Prosecco, it takes place in large vats. At the end of the Prosecco process, the temperature in the vat is dropped below freezing, killing the yeast and stopping the process.
Huge vats of wine are chilled to below freezing to stop the secondary fermentation. The ice on the door to this vat shows that the process is being stopped.
Once the secondary fermentation is done, the winery seeks permission from the governing authorities to bottle the wine. When they have it, they send it through pipes to the bottling machine.
Clemente explains the bottling process.
To learn a little more about the wine making process, watch this video. Massi does a great job translating what Clemente explained.
After our tour, we walked the 20 or so steps back to the tasting room at the agriturismo, a room they call the tavern, and sat down to sample the wine.
This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings. Photo Credit: Roccat Winery.
It was a little earlier than normal for drinking wine, so I won’t say the exact time that we started other than to say it rhymes with “hen dirty” in the morning. Again, please don’t judge. We were conducting important research so we could share with you, the readers of our blog.
Clemente pours a generous sample of Prosecco at Roccat winery. It was delicious!
Our stay at Roccat gave us a glimpse into Italian culture and wine that you don’t get at most hotels. Without this experience, our visit to Italy simply wouldn’t have been the same. That’s why staying in an agriturismo is our number two tip for your visit to the Prosecco Road.
Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own. If you would like to know more about Roccat winery, click [HERE].
Yes, we’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi. She’s from upstate New York, backpacked through Australia and New Zealand, and worked in Silicon Valley and in Texas. He’s small town boy who grew up on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery and took a job in a salumeria just 20 miles from his home. Somehow they met, fell in love, and were married in a bar-b-que line in Austin, Texas. And this summer, we get to spend five days touring the Italian countryside with them. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
Massi and Deb, with whom we’ll be spending five days this summer.
Three years ago, long before I’d even thought of leaving my career as a middle school principal, Ann and I booked a cruise on the Celebrity Reflection for this summer from Rome to Greece. Because the ship will whisk us away from Italy almost immediately, and now that I’ve got some flexibility since leaving my job, we thought it would be nice to see a little more of Italy before our cruise because, well, Italy.
This should help answer any questions as to why we’d want to see Italy.
As the date for our trip came closer, we began making plans and asked a question in an Italian travel group on Facebook.
Deb Larsen of Italy Unfiltered, responded by telling us that she and her husband, Massi, (Massi the Driver), would like to host us for some amazing experiences like winey visits and cooking classes, offering their services free of charge. Now, if you think for one minute that the promise of fresh Italian meats, cheeses, pastas, and wines as well as beautiful views of the Italian countryside could lure us in, then you would be 100% correct. I mean, look at these pictures! We. Can’t. Wait!
A beautiful Italian charcuterie board.
Let me tell you a little bit about our hosts. Deb is a world traveler who isn’t afraid of adventure. After finishing culinary school in upstate New York, she caught the travel bug and backpacked around Australia and New Zealand using the skills she’d learned in school to support herself. After three years, she figured she’d better head back home, but didn’t have money for airfare, so she worked her way home on a container ship. A container ship!
PIN FOR LATER
Once back in the U.S., she took a job in marketing in Silicon Valley and learned the ins and outs of the internet. Later, she moved to Texas where she began an estate sale business. After being in the rat race for a bit, these jobs took their toll, so she decided to go with a friend to Italy to recharge. She immediately fell in love with the country and told us that, “Italy was this magical place.”
We would agree that this view seems pretty magical.
So magical, it seems, that she stood crying in the airport in Milan when it was time to leave. Seriously. She was in tears. Just as soon as she was home, she began planning her next trip.
Deb traveled to Italy regularly after that. She said that when she kept coming back to the same place over and over again, even in the winter, the locals got to know her. One day she walked in to a salumeria and began speaking to one of the employees in her broken Italian. (Try not stare at this prosciutto too long. There’s more story below.)
One glance at this delicious looking plate tells us why people visit salumerias.
That employee was Massi. He’d grown up just 20 miles away, on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery where his father had worked. By age 15, he was working at the winery. After high school, he spent some time working for an energy/recycling company and began doing some driving. Later, he took a job at a salumeria in Siena, a store that sold cured meats, cheeses, and wines. It was there he really began to learn about Italian wine and not just the stuff his dad had made in their garage.
Grapes on the vine in Italy.
He worked hard, and his employer soon rewarded him by taking him on tours of wineries. He took advantage of those opportunities and learned as much as he could.
Massi even learned to open Prosecco in the traditional way: with a sword!
Then he met Deb, and let her talk in her broken Italian even though he spoke English well. They exchanged emails. Then phone numbers. Then, they fell in love.
Soon, friends in Austin were asking Deb to help them arrange trips to Tuscany. She worked with Massi to help create perfect, custom experiences for these people. One group led to another. Then repeat customers began to call. Suddenly, they were in business, even bringing an authentic Tuscan meal back to the states for a group of 14 people in California. They served it on a terrace, the ultimate in take-out dinners.
Italian meats and bruschetta ready to be served.
Is your mouth drooling yet, looking at these pictures of cured meats and cheeses? Back to our story.
It was on a visit to the U.S. that they decided to get married. They considered Vegas or the courthouse, but those weren’t them. They did, however, love Franklin’s bar-b-que in Austin, Texas, where they’d waited in line together many times for the iconic barbecue. It was the perfect venue. So, they decided to get married in the line that forms daily outside that Austin favorite. Wanting a small wedding, they invited one of Deb’s friends to be the witness and found a justice of the peace to join them in line. Even on their wedding day they had to wait in line, but the restaurant did give them a banana cream pie for a wedding cake. Oh, and their intimate wedding wound up featured on the local news.
Deb and Massi exchange vows in the line of Franklin’s Bar-b-que in Austin, Texas
The couple left a wedding announcement at Franklin’s Bar-b-que.
We’ve enjoyed getting to know Deb and Massi while preparing for our trip this summer. Planning travel to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone or even speak the language is a pretty daunting task. But working with this great couple has made things so much easier. Deb is from the U.S., so she understands where we’re coming from, and has been super-responsive to all our questions. Knowing we have her as a contact and helping with arrangements has taken away so much trip-planning stress. Massi is Italian, and knows all about the area, history, food, and wine.
Wine ages in barrels at a winery in Montalcino.
He knows all the locals and knows where to go to get the experiences their clients want. He’s also a fully licensed tour driver [CLICK HERE], meaning he can take his van to places a rental car isn’t allowed to go and many tourists will never see. And let’s be honest, we’re excited to have a designated driver as we tour Italian wineries.
Massi stands next to the van he drives for tours.
Now in their third full year, their business is growing. They offer mostly private tours meaning we won’t be two of 50 crammed on a huge bus full of people, craning our necks, hoping to hear from the back of the crowd. Instead, we’re looking forward to a customized, personal experience built around our interests with ample opportunities to learn about Italian culture, history, food, and wine from real locals. And, after talking with Deb and Massi only a couple of times, we feel like we’ll be enjoying our experience with old friends. We can’t wait to begin our voyage, and share it with you. You can follow on our trip to Italy and all our journeys on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.