As promised, a blog post on drinking in Italy. Italy is a country of wine. Beautiful inexpensive wine. Yeah sure, there are some very expensive beautiful wines, but I didn't try many of them. The dollar isn't so strong over there that I'm going to spend 50-60 euro on a bottle of wine. But, not to worry. There is plenty of lovely wine to be had for very little.
House wine is not the disaster it is in the US. It's local, cheap, and from what I tried, universally decent. And I mean cheap: most of the time you can get a 1/2 liter of wine for 7 euros. Now, that's a bargain! Don't ask me what I drank because I don't know. In Venice, it was from the Veneto. In Cinque Terre, I have no idea what it was but it was white, refreshing, and delicious. In Reggio-Emilia, it's Lambrusco and in Tuscany, it's Toscana. I drank a fair amount of Chianti too and it was all good. Sadly, we missed a food & wine festival in Siena by one day. When we arrived in Siena, they had a giant Chianti cork, complete with the rooster, by the train station. We didn't take a picture and it was gone by the time we returned later in the day. In Rome, we drank Frascati because the weather was hot as the blazes and Frascati is cold. It was good too.
I am definitely the wrong person to ask for specific wine recommendations in Italy since my plan was to order what was local nearly everywhere and not think too much about it. Call me lazy. Call me cheap. Hey, it worked! I wasn't disappointed in any of the wines I got.
We did splurge one night. We went to Cantinetta Antinori, the wine bar owned by the Antinori family in Florence. Even better, it's in the Palazzo Antinori, which has been occupied by the family since the 15th century. How many of you have enjoyed lovely wine in a Florentine palazzo? Cantinetta Antinori isn't really a wine bar. Far more formal than a wine bar and it's not exactly cheap. Their wine list by the glass features wines exclusively from Antinori estates, and the food was excellent. I have been a fan of Villa Antinori Toscana IGT for years; we even drank some of it somewhere else. But, since they have many of their better wines by the glass, you come here to try them without having to buy a whole bottle. We had a glass of the Peppoli Chianti Classico DOCG and a glass of the Marchese Antinori, a Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva. They were both delicious but I liked the Peppoli a little better. They are 90% Sangiovese but the Peppoli uses Merlot and Syrah to make up the remaining 10% while the Marchese uses Cabernet Sauvignon. If you really want to splurge at Cantinetta Antinori, you can order a glass of Tignanello, Antinori's Super Tuscan. I think it was 30 euro a glass. Don't ask me the vintage. At 30 euro, I didn't look that closely! This was the fanciest restaurant we ate at in Italy. The service was impeccable and it's a lovely space.
On to beer...there is plenty of beer in Italy. Mostly lager and great on a hot day. Which they have plenty of in Italy! It was muggy and over 100 degrees in Naples. Good beer drinking weather, for sure. I only found one microbrew while we were in Reggio-Emilia. We ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Osteria La Casa di Nonna in Bibbiano. They had bombers of local beer. Unfortunately, I didn't note the producer. I doubt you can find it anywhere except in the countryside near Parma. We enjoyed Peroni red ale at their brewpub in Rome, a casual and reasonably priced restaurant. As brewpubs go, not much of a selection though - Peroni lager and Peroni red ale.
My advice to anyone traveling to Italy - drink lots of wine. Drink lots of local wine and you won't be disappointed. You'll also get off cheap.