When you’ve spent as much time exploring Europe as we have, you start to look for the more off-the-beaten-track places where tourists don’t flock in droves, the local language is still spoken by most, and the food is so unique to the specific area that you likely haven’t tried it already.
That’s exactly what you’ll find in Valtellina, a valley located in the Lombardy region of Italy, north of Milan, and just a few kilometers from the Swiss border.
Valtellina, Italy, is the perfect spot for a long weekend getaway with a charming small town feel and a gorgeous backdrop that you won’t soon forget.
As we mentioned, it’s not a tourist magnet, like neighboring Milan, but it is well known for its winter ski resorts, hot springs, brisaola, cheese (especially bitto and casera) and bold Nebbiolo wines.
It’s the perfect place for foodies to get away from the tourist hotspots of Italy to discover something new and exciting. You can easily add this as a stop on a longer Italy trip (here’s a suggested 2-week itinerary).
On a side note: while you’re trying to decide which weekend to head off to this mountain paradise, bear in mind that the Valchiavenna wine festival is held every year at the end of September. It’s a great spot to get to know some local Italian wine. Check out this guide for more Italy wine regions.
Here's more to help you plan
Getting Around in Italy
The best way to get around in Italy is to rent a car and drive. I always book through DiscoverCars.com for the best deals. It’s not too difficult driving around in Italy, but you should be prepared for a few things:
- You need an International Driver’s License, which is just a translation of your U.S. or other country license. You can get this at the AAA office, or online.
- Most cars in Italy are manual (stick-shift). You can rent automatics, but there aren’t a lot of them so you have to book in advance.
- The roads are sometimes very narrow and not paved. It’s best to rent a very small car that can easily manuever the roads and parking spots.
The perfect place to start a long weekend getaway in the Valtellina Valley is in the small city of Chiavenna. It’s a mountain town, flanked by Switzerland and the dramatic Alps on three sides, with Lake Como to the south. In the past, the town provided a convenient stop at the base of a key trade pass between Italy and Germany. Today, it functions much the same for travelers journeying to the surrounding mountain and lake resorts.
What to See in Valtellina
This alpine valley in Lombardy is decidedly off the beaten track for most tourists, but it’s still brimming with things to do, including both outdoorsy stuff and foodie experiences. The town of Chiavenna is a gateway to the riches of the valley and all it has to offer. Start by exploring the attractions and sights listed below.
Whether you’re visiting in the summer or winter, you’ll find many things to do in Madesimo. It’s much more than just a ski resort, though it is definitely one of the top places to ski in the area. You can also go snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or hiking and biking in the summer. There are also quite a few bars and restaurants to be sure you enjoy some typical food.
Wine Tasting in Valtellina
There’s are a lot of great wine regions in Italy, including the nearby the Langhe, Barolo and Barbaresco areas, where wine tourists often flock. But it would be a shame to miss out on the alpine wine country of Valtellina, with its dramatic terraced vineyards, where the Nebbiolo grape (referred to as Chiavennasca here) is king.
The resulting wines are elegant – less tannic and bold than in the Piemonte region. There are at least a handful of wineries in the region where you can go for wine tasting, but setting up appointments yourself may prove difficult.
If you’d like to set up a wine tour the easy way, I recommend going through Crotto Ubiali. Just contact them and they can help you set up whatever type of tour you’d like.
What to eat in Valtellina
As with other distinct regions of Italy, Lombardy has its own collection of local treats and delights to tuck into. The most popular foods are brisaola (thinly-sliced aged beef), cheese, and the famed pizzoccheri, all which come in many different variations.
Where to eat in Valtellina
Now that you know what food specialties to look for, we’ll give you a few recommendations on where to find these foods (and many others from the area).
Armed with all of these suggestions and recommendations, you’ll have everything you need to plan and enjoy a long weekend in Valtellina, an area with few tourists, that is exciting and fun to explore year-round.
This post is a result of the #inLombardia365 campaign and tour. Savored Journeys maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.
Planning for Europe? Here’s more…
- How to Plan a 2-Week Trip to Europe
- Ultimate Summer Europe Packing Guide
- 11 Charming Small Towns & Cities in Europe
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.