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Saturday 6 August 2022

Why Prosecco is a sparkling gourmet travel destination

It was a lazy summer afternoon as we strolled the sleepy streets of Conegliano.

We were admiring the old buildings and contemplating a glass of the local sparkling wine when the voice of an angel wafted from behind one of the facades by the Duomo di Conegliano, the ancient cathedral.

That voice belonged to leading tenor Francesco Grollo, who has sung for the Pope, and alongside Andrea Bocelli.

We were invited in to enjoy his rehearsal for an upcoming concert. 

So generous. 

And typical of the surprises that can be found when exploring the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG region of the Veneto, where the finest wines of the Prosecco region are to be found.

A fountain here; a courtyard there; a country restaurant, perhaps. Or the stupendous vineyard views on the Prosecco Road trail, which winds its way past some of the most expensive vines in the world.

The hills of Prosecco across Conegliano and Valdobbiadene were named as a UNESCO World 
Heritage site in 2019 and offer a combination of wine, food, art, history, and spectacular scenery.

Conegliano, our first base on a recent trip hosted by Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano 
Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, is a small town in the province of Treviso, less than an hour from the tourism magnet of Venice. 

The remains of a 10th-century castle are situated on a hill that dominates the town.

The Prosecco Road consists of 90km of winding roads, spectacular hills, and vineyards at a range of extreme angles.

The Strada del Prosecco was set up in 1966, the first recognised Wine Route in Italy, and the author was pictured hard at work (below). 

We stayed at the extremely comfortable older-style Canon d’Oro hotel in the heart of the town, within walking distance of several good restaurants.

Our other accommodation was at Relais Le Betulle, a country hotel overlooking the vines and olive groves.

There is a lovely swimming pool – but the staff left plenty to be desired. Unfortunate given the delightful rural setting.

Two recommended places to stay for gourmets:

Our Rustica: A beautiful rustic retreat and hands-on cooking school run by Anglo-Italian couple Ruth
and Andrea (below), an Italian chef who stepped out of city life for the charms of the country. The duo has a passion for living off the land and going back to nature – and their rural idyll offers the perfect introduction to La Dolce Vita.

The couple has rebuilt and refurbed a run down, uninhabitable, overgrown, yet beautiful house in
the Valdobbiadene area that started with no roof, running water, or electricity.

Five years ago, they opened OurRustica B&B and Cookery School, a delightful setting in which to
relax, laugh, cook, eat, drink Prosecco and be nurtured.

Bespoke cookery courses for couples and small groups, run from as little as a half day to a full week.

Relais Ca Milone: a charming country house B&B and restaurant with its own helicopter pad for anyone wanting to enjoy the region from the air with the associated Sky Wine Motion business.

In the centre of a 10-hectare wine estate this green oasis has a large garden with ancient trees and its own swimming pool.

There are superb views overlooking the valley towards Venice or towards the towering Dolomites.

Several room styles are available, along with a separate fully equipped holiday home.

Among the outstanding places to eat we discovered were Osteria Collalbrigo (also with superb views), Villa Sandi’s excellent rustic hideaway Locanda Sandi - perfect for long leisurely lunches - Restaurant Seda and, right in the centre of Conegliano, Salisà.

The Antica Osteria di Via Brandolini is another perfect lunch choice; eat al fresco in the garden, or 
alternatively visit one of the artisan cheese or salumi producers to pick up some picnic ingredients.

Wineries we visited included tiny artisan Mongarda, medium-sized L’Antica Quercia, as well as fourth-generation La Tordera and the grand Villa Sandi, two of the region’s big guns well set up for tourists from around the world.

Grape growing has been widespread in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone since ancient times. A memorial stone in the area recalls the words of a Roman centurion, mentioning the vendemmiales,
celebrations on the occasion of the grape harvest.

In 1876, Conegliano’s School of Winemaking was founded, the first of its kind in Italy and over the
past couple of decades Prosecco has enjoyed a global boom in popularity, sending the glera grape
from obscurity to acclaim.

The holiday options here are unlimited with both Venice and the Dolomites within a short drive. Or
perhaps enjoy the Tarzo Valley cycle routes, or simply tour around the many vineyards and small

# The writer flew with Emirates, which serves Australia with 42 flights per week, including twice daily A380 services to Sydney and Melbourne and one daily A380 service to Brisbane. They are also servicing Perth once a day, operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. Recently, the airline announced the introduction of premium economy on the airline’s A380 services from Sydney starting this month.

# Hotel Canon d’Oro:

# For details on the wines of Prosecco DOCG:

Images: Arcangelo Piai/Winsor Dobbin 

# This is a version of a story that first appeared in Ciao Magazine 

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