Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a boutique marketing and event-planning agency. As a freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world.
Remember the movies A Good Year (2006) or A Walk in the Clouds (1995)? Yes, these movies are old but in case you have not seen them or the memory has faded, each involves living in a vineyard. Despite the premise of the stories, they both speak to my secret fantasy of having a home in the middle of an Italian vineyard. After all, is there anything more romantic than waking to a vineyard sunrise, strolling into town for breakfast at a local café and then spending the afternoon wandering among the vines?
Perhaps you are not prepared to pack up your life and buy a vineyard anytime soon, but you can pack your bags and enjoy a few days (or more) at a Northern Italian vineyard. Il Rusticale Fumanelli is an agriturismo surrounded by Valpolicella vineyards in San Pierto In Cariano, just twenty minutes from Verona.
An agriturismo, which combines the Italian words for “agriculture” and “tourism”, is a farmhouse resort. Italian agriturismi (the plural of agriturismo) can range from rustic experiences to luxurious accommodations and will usually serve meals prepared from foods produced on the farm or locally. At Il Rusticale Fumanelli, it is all about luxury.
Located only twenty minutes from Verona, or forty-five minutes from Venice, take a rental car or taxi to Valpolicella. You will travel a route that winds through the vineyards. Nestled among the vines is the charming country house of Il Rusticale Fumanelli. There are eight guestrooms with garden views on the second and third floors (there is no elevator). Each rustic room has wood-beamed ceilings, wood floors, air conditioning and a private modern American-style bathroom with tubs and showers. The beds are comfortable with high thread count linens and towels. Each room is individually decorated with antiques. There are no televisions, alarm clocks or telephones, but there is free WiFi. The point is to relax and to enjoy the surroundings.
From the moment you arrive, you will receive 5-star service. Coffee, tea and water are available in the lobby and a complimentary breakfast is available every morning. Nothing starts the day off better than a buffet of fresh squeezed orange juice, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, Italian cheese, Italian meats and homemade breads and pastries.
After a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast, perhaps a walk through the vineyards is in order. Or grab a book from the library and relax in the garden or in front of the fireplace in the lounge. You can also arrange a cooking class, but be sure to make time to taste the Fumanelli wines and tour the winery, which are located less than ten minutes away.
The Fumanelli Estate sits on 180 hectares with 58 hectares under vine. The Fumanelli have been growing grapes since 1470, although they sold most of the grapes to other wineries until 1999. Armando Fumanelli, the 28th generation of his family to manage the winery, took control of the estate in 1998 after his grandfather passed away. Shortly thereafter he began producing wine under the Fumanelli label.
Armando is a tall, distinguished gentleman and might very well be the most interesting man in the world of wine. He completed a Political Science degree in Switzerland and then worked as a Trade Attaché for the Italian Embassy in East Africa and the Middle East. I found him to be very friendly and, despite his modesty, I learned that he is a former polo player and currently races vintage cars around Europe and in more exotic locations like South Africa. On top of all that, he is a partner in the Meritage Group which owns the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, The Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa in San Diego and Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara.
Tasting through the Fumanelli wines will include the white wine Terso, which means “clear sky”. It is made with the local grapes Gargarena and Trebbiano and is a full-bodied wine with beautiful acidity and a long finish. The rest of the wines are red and use the local Valpolicella grapes Corvina, Cornvinone and Rondinella. The red wines include: Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC, Squarano Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC, Amarone della Valpolicella DOC and Octavius Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOC.
When your wine tasting is finished, borrow one of the free bikes that Il Rusticale Fumanelli has or take a fifteen-minute walk to Il Gelato di Marco Scamperle. Il Gelato seems to be in the middle of nowhere but ask any of the locals and they will point you in the direction for some of the best artisanal gelato ever. And Il Gelato not only offers the classic flavors such as vanilla, coffee, pistachio, strawberry, chocolate and coconut but also unique flavors such as pine nuts, cinnamon, cashew, basil, ginger and ricotta with grappa of amarone.
If relaxing, bike riding, cooking classes and wine tasting are not enough; you can also go horseback riding on the grounds or take a picnic to the vineyards. There is also a golf course just twenty minutes away. You can rent a car or the staff can book visits with English speaking guides to nearby Lago di Garda, Verona or Venice. With Verona only twenty minutes away, it is worth an afternoon visit to the Arena and the home of Romeo and Juliet. Enjoy dinner at Trattoria Il Masenini in the historic center of Verona, a few steps from the Arena. Then wander through Verona at night and perhaps even catch an opera production in the open-air coliseum.
Il Rusticale Fumanelli is the perfect destination for a peaceful getaway in the middle of vineyards, but offers numerous options. It is a movie-set destination within easy reach of some of Northern Italy’s most romantic cities.
Via Andrea Monga, San Pietro In Cariano, Italy
Il Gelato di Marco Scamperle
Via Guglielmo Marconi, 8, 37029 San Pietro In Cariano VR, Italy
Via Roma, 34, 37121 Verona VR, Italy