THE LEGENDARY OLTREPÒ PAVESE NORTHERN ITALY - Ancient villages among the vineyards

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THE LEGENDARY OLTREPÒ PAVESE - CODICE: ITABY003

Oltrepò means “ beyond the Po”, Italy’s longest river.
This area lays just 30 miles (50 km) south of Milan, where several ancient vineyards cover its gentle hills.
Going further south you can reach higher altitudes, the Appennino Lombardo.
On a clear day, walking on trails along the highest ridges, you can see the Mediterranean sea.

This region has few old villages, ancient fortresses and Castles, witnesses of the past. They are not popular destinations yet. That’s why we consider the Oltrepò Pavese one of the best kept secret next to Milan.

 

 

TOUR: multi-day trip private escorted tour
SUGGESTED DURATION: 2 days
BEST TIME TO GO: from April to early November. Winter can be foggy and snowy
BEST TIME TO BOOK: depending on the time of the year, from few days to some weeks in advance for high season weekends (june to September-October, the grape harvest)
DEPARTURE: Milan
ARRIVAL: Milan
RECOMMENDED FOR: everyone – there’s plenty of activities. Rural landscapes, nature trails, roads for bike and motorbike fans, historical and cultural heritage, food and wine lovers

 

 

Our journey starts in Milan. We need about 1 to 1 ½ hour drive to reach our charming accomodation in Oltrepò Pavese, depending on road traffic outside of Milan and on the chosen location.
We have the best selection of bed and breakfasts, Agriturismo and small hotels.
We suggest to spend at least two nights.

 

Stradella, Casteggio and Voghera are the main entry towns on the flat side of Oltrepò Pavese.

Stradella was home to Agostino Depretis, Prime Minister in the early years of the Kingdom of Italy but it is better known as the city of the Fisarmonica (Accordion). We make a stop to visit the local Museo della Fisarmonica and take a short walk around the city center to see the Torre Merlata and the main church.

We drive south into the Versa Valley where the landscape is dominated by hundreds of vineyards, passing by small and quiet villages.
From Santa Maria della Versa we drive uphill to Montecalvo Versiggia and its unusual Corkscrew Museum.
We drive further south to the area of Canevino to enjoy some nice views of the lower part of the Valley, not a popular destination for tourists.

Crossing a ridge we reach the Tidone Valley and the town of Zavattarello, dominated by its old castle and its famous Ghost, Pietro Dal Verme.

Zavattarello is surrounded by mountains as the Mount Penice, one of the highest peaks in southern Lombardy, 4,800 ft (1460 mt.) above sea level.

 

We drive down to the Staffora Valley, among big beeches and chestnut trees. In summertime is also easy to stop and pick some delicious blue raspberries.
We stop in Varzi, the main town in the valley. Old buildings and towers surround its narrow streets as the via di dentro. The walkable town center is easily accessible through the Sottana and the Soprana Gates, once the old openings in the medieval walls.
The romanic Pieve di San Germano, about 1,500 years old is the eldest church of the Staffora Valley, just out of the town center that hosts, two nice baroque churches, Chiesa dei bianchi and Chiesa dei Rossi.

Varzi is perhaps the best stop to visit the mountain region of the Oltrepo’ Pavese.

The ancient Via del Sale walking trail is still well maintained and connecting Varzi to Sori till the world-famous coastal town of Portofino (about 60 miles – 90 km): you need to be well trained to walk this wonderful and scenic 4-days trekking.

One day, better from May to October, can be easily spent enjoying the upper Staffora Valley and the three mountain passes, Brallo, Scaparina and Penice.

Let’s mention here the Salame di Varzi, a D.O.P. local product, among the best salami in Italy.

 

From the Staffora Valley we drive up the sandstone hills to the thousand years old Oramala Castle.

This was an old Fortress owned by the Malaspina family and has been abandoned for centuries.

As we say, Oltrepò is not yet a popular tourist destination and the castle can be opened just in summer sundays and for private visits.


We drive a few minutes to the Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio (St. Albert’s Hermitage) founded around 1,000 years ago. History and legends merge in this mystical place on the Appennino Lombardo.

Monks have been living here for centuries. Famous people of the past were hosted at the hermitage, among them the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick “Red Beard” and Dante Alighieri. It is also said that King Edward II Plantangenet of England died here in the XIV century.

Not far from the hermitage, surrounded by a protected area with several nature and trekking trails, Fortunago is a small village of the Oltrepò Pavese, listed among i Borghi più belli d’Italia (Italy’s best small towns).

Most of its stone houses and buildings have been recently restored and from April to September we can see flowers everywhere, from balconies and private gardens. The best view in Fortunago is from the hilltop church of Santa Maria and San Giorgio.

 

We go back and closer to the plain with stops in Montalto Pavese, a kind of terrace overlooking the hills with its huge yet private Castle. We drive down to Calvigliano on a scenic drive among the vineyard and then to Casteggio, one of the oldest settlements of the area, with over 2,500 years of history.
Its Archeological Museum is a “must see” to better understand the Oltrepò territory.

 

Grapes, vineyards, wines: over 2,000 years of history in this area.
This territory is home to the Pinot Nero, Croatina, Barbera, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon vines.

Wine tasting is something that shouldn’t be missed on a tour of the Oltrepò Pavese. We can do it at one or more of the several producers or simply relaxing at the poolside in one of our charming locations.

And of course we will enjoy the local gastronomic heritage, often in family-run agriturismo.

 

We invite you to explore with us the Oltrepò Pavese, one of our wonderful hidden treasures in Lombardy, so close to Milan but lost in time, home of genuine and unique experiences.

 

 

This itinerary can be fully customized to fit your needs.

More overnights and locations can be added to this tour.

 

If you have a bigger group we can set up your exclusive tour in Oltrepò Pavese with our own coaches and guides.

Just write us to plan and quote your tour!

 

Due to Covid-19 world pandemic all our private escorted tours in Italy have been suspended.

We hope to be back and host you soon in our beautiful country.

 



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