MUST GO: La Vendemmia in Italy

In a country known for wine production, the harvest season in Italy is an important time of year. Cities, towns and villages across the country celebrate vendemmia, a word specific to the Italian culture meaning “harvest of the grapes,” with festivals, tours and tastings. Every region in Italy grows grapes with the most well-known being Tuscany, Veneto, Sicily, Puglia, Piedmont, and Emilia Romagna. This month, LGI Picks! encourages you to visit Italy during la vendemmia.
In 2018, Italy produced over 54 million hectolitres of wine. That equates to over 1.4 billion gallons. World wine production reached a record 292.3 million hectolitres last year. Being the number one producer of the world’s wine, Italy, obviously, has a large stake in the game. And, while there’s much work to be done, there is always time to celebrate! Grapes are ready to be harvested in Italy in the early to mid-fall, most often during October. If the summer has been particularly hot, the grapes may be ready in mid- to late-September. While Italians have a keen eye on their harvests, it’s difficult to determine exactly when the year’s harvest will fall. In the fall, the summer crowds have returned home and the countryside is ablaze with harvest color. Mild temperatures make this time of year pleasant and enjoyable. It is the perfect time for a visit to the home country.
There are many ways to take part in Italy’s vendemmia. Grape and wine festivals are easy to find all over the country. Big cities like Rome and towns such as Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda, Chiusi in Tuscany and Montevagno in Sicily all host their own festivals. Italy’s reliable train system can get you from one town to the next and tour companies specialize in visiting multiple regions offering a taste of the variety Italy’s grapes offer. Meeting the locals, drinking the local wine and enjoying harvest festivals is sure to guarantee an unforgettable trip.
For those who would like to really experience Italy’s vendemmia, volunteering with private farmers who harvest their own vineyards is the way to go. WWOOF, World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is an organization that coordinates volunteer labor on Organic Farms. You can apply for membership with WWOOF, pay a small fee and reach out to local farmers to join their seasonal team. Although, perhaps the best way to be a part of la vendemmia is to contact family or friends in Italy and offer your help. Grape-picking is a science and tedious work, but to be a part of the process in arguably the most famous location in the world for its grapes is worth it.
If the tedious labor isn’t your thing, find local agritourism opportunities on farms and B&Bs where visitors can immerse themselves in the local traditions. Experts will gladly share details on the intricate work that goes on behind selecting grapes and bringing them to fermentation. And, after a long day’s work, it’s guaranteed your hosts will invite you to join in at a table overflowing with colors and flavors of the season. La vendemmia is a truly unique experience all the way around.