The Prosecco hills sit on the northern cusp of Italian. Fields and valleys filled with sun-kissed vineyards, sit hand-in-hand with an abundance of wineries, with some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever encounter. The terrain is perfect for hiking as well. Below we detail to how to get the best experience out of the region with just a pair of boots and an appetite for excellent wine.
Santo Stefano – Santo Stefano
The Anello del Prosecco
Not to be confused with the Strada del Prosecco, the Anello del Prosecco is a 15-km hiking loop through the northern Italian wine growing country between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
With over 100 separate wineries, it’s prime hiking and drinking territory. Over hillsides, alongside valleys, through ancient woodlands, and along Italy’s oldest wine route, there are numerous small-scale Prosecco producers, where farmers will openly beckon you inside to try their different wares.
While adventuring in this area you will be greeted with extreme levels of kindness and hospitality, with countless opportunities to sample excellent regional wines. For this reason, I would personally recommend you spread this hike over a two-day period, should your legs start to fail you after a few glasses of Prosecco.
So, what is Prosecco?
It is because only the wines produced from this UNESCO protected area, are the wines that can actually be called Prosecco. So now that you know, always check where your Prosecco comes from.
As one wine producer told us, to further distinguish themselves from the Prosecco you find in the supermarket, he refers to it solely as Valdobbiadene.
The wines are made from a minimum of 85% Glara grapes, and can be a still or sparkling sweetened wine. The bubbles you get are made from the addition of yeast during the fermentation process.
Unlike champagne, Prosecco’s fermentation process happens much quicker, normally within the space of year, either in tanks or in the bottle itself.
Prosecco also has different categories of sparkling; Spumante which is sparking, Frizannte – semi sparkling, and Col Fundo, a cloudy, sediment filled wine that has skipped one of the fermentation processes.
There are also varying degrees of classification, which are really important to understand before visiting the region. These indicate the quality of the wines, and where they’re made.
There is Prosecco DOC, and Prosecco Superior DOCG – the highest legal classification of wine quality. Luckily for you, many manufacturers in the region have DOCG classification.
At the top of this quality pyramid is yet another seal of quality.
Here in the Prosecco hills is a quality of wine with the label, Superiore di Cartizze. The grapes here are grown in a 107-hectare region near to Valdobbiadene at a certain height and angle that gives the grapes a prolonged exposure to the sun. It is a natural mecca for wines.
The Anello del Prosecco itself is a hiking route of epic proportions.
It has many wonderful vistas that goes through different terrains, with at least 15 wineries on the way for you to pop in and sample.
So what’s the catch?
The Anello del Prosecco is sadly poorly signposted, and can be difficult to reach, depending on your starting point. The local tourism board recommend doing guided tours, however we can hopefully spare you from getting lost too much. There’s also a brochure available HERE for you to refer to, but you can pick up a larger map in the tourist office.
If you do get lost, keep an eye out for red signs with the 1014b hiking route listed, these will in general point you in the right direction. There are on occasions, giant placards with the Strada del Prosecco logo, that will indicate that you are on the right path, but beyond that, they won’t provide you with much more help.
The Anello itself is a closed loop, so you have the option to start where you want. However if you start around Santo Stefano, San Pietro di Barbozza, there are regular bus connections to Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
This area also provides the perfect spot to start or finish your tour as it connects to Osteria Senz’Oste, a little viewpoint that sits about the Cartizze vineyards. It’s here you’ll find the now world-famous Prosecco vending machine.
Yep, that’s right, you can come and visit here, buy a EUR 1,- glass, and then select from various types of Prosecco, salami, all available at the push of a button. The views from this rustic, yet beautiful picnic site are outstanding, and at the end of the day you can watch the sun spectacularly set across behind Valdobbiadene.
So, let’s get walking…
From Santo Stefano, the route is well sign-posted to a forest behind the town, which takes up through a forest to the Chiesetta di Sant’Alberto, a beautiful church that looks out across the whole region. From here go through the forest (and not further on up the hill), and the path will start to descend down again towards San Pietro, through vineyards with a couple of family-sized wineries on the way.
From San Pietro walk south past the stone gallery of local artist Angelo Favero whose rock-statues you’ll see across the region. The road will turn into a vineyard path that takes you round down to the valley’s dip onto the main road that leads south of Valdobbiadene. One great winery to visit here is that of Barichel which you must visit before turning back east and heading towards Saccol, which sits on the edge of the Cartizze. There are two ways to walk from here, there’s a path that takes you up the hillside and through the vineyards towards San Pietro, or you can follow the road through the Cartizze. I advise taking the latter as the vineyard route is poorly signposted.
You’ll arrive at a junction that will either take you up to the Osteria Senz’Oste, or right down into a maze of vineyards. It’s the latter which you’ll want to do, which takes you through a fields of golden vineyards towards Follo. Again, this is a bit of a maze, but if you head down towards Follo, you’ll find you’re soon on a small road heading out to the main road.
Just as you hit the intersection you’ll pass La Casa Vecchia, a beautiful hotel and winery which is easily worth a visit. During our visit we were treated to a glass of their DOCG Brut Nature Classic, of which they only make 1,000 bottles a year.
Follow the main road into Follo, between here and Santo Stefano are a great many wineries to visit should you have time. Follow the road east out of Follo, and turn south in the fields once you see a sign pointing towards Riva Calistro, a small, farmyard winery, where during our visit we were hurdled into the barn to sample some of the homemade Prosecco.
This next part is the biggest climb you’ll experience, up a steep road that will take you up and over the valley. At the top of the valley swing straight towards the eastern path and follow the signposted trail further upwards and through the woods, where you’ll actually join a walking path that mirrors the former Italian barricades that were set up to ward off the Germans during the First World War.
From here, the path twists and turns through the woods, till you arrive on a main road that will deliver you back to Santo Stefano. There is one last winery to visit before you day ends, and that is of Ca Salina, which sits on the road near the Osteria Senz’Oste. This is one of the finest wineries you’ll visit, with generations of tradition, and a team of owners with years of stories to share.
As you can see there are so many places to visit during your trek. In this region alone there are 182 producers to potentially visit.
Many of the producers will enthusiastically take you in without prior bookings (depending on the season of course). A lot of the wineries are open as shops, with little bars and will take you in and tell you everything about their wines. Even with some of the smaller places, you may find yourself in a barn next to the cows, with the owner’s Grandparent telling you about the region’s earliest days
Some of the more bigger establishments do require booking in advance, but with these you’ll often get the full experience, including a meal with the owner, and a detailed introduction and sampling of the wines.
Across the Anello del Prosecco there are around 15 different wineries to visit, of which we visited five. There are also other incredible producers in the region that we would also recommend, which are located not far off the trail. Below is a list of some of our favourites:
Located towards the southern edge of the Anello del Prosecco, you can connect with the hiking trail by taking a 30-minute diversion towards the southern side of the valley’s dip.
Here the owner Silva Spadetto offers a tour through her family’s 300 year-old vineyard, where you can have a tasting session looking out on across the region, with some spectacular views. The DOCG wines are both mineral tasting and fruity, with the Col Fondo proving to be a particular favourite. I would not be overstating this when saying, do not pass this up when visiting as the hospitality, beauty and wines are something a little above and beyond anything else you’ll find here.
It’s one of the most prominent looking structures on the Strada del Prosecco, and is often filled with tourists due to its popularity. It produces many DOCG wines, and even a couple of Rosés, but the cream lies with the Rive di Santo Stefano Extra Brut, an award winning Prosecco with an incredible texture and palette. The owners here are extra welcoming, with a whole range of stories to share, and impressive collection of vineyards with stunning views across the valley.
A little bit off the trail, the team behind Rivacaselle16 offer a beautiful tour of the vineyards just outside of Santo Stefano. You’ll get a delightful lunch, and tasting session at their age-old farm house surrounded by golden grapes, and a view of the local valley. If you’re lucky enough to visit their farm, you’ll have the good fortune of meeting their incredible family of horses.
Just south of Valdobbiadene directly on the Anello is the beautiful setting of Barichel. The wines are named the owner’s great sporting achievements, of which there are many. The setting is very traditional, with a beautiful and vast farm and vineyard, that somewhat feel a little separated by the sprawling producers that have lined up around the Cartizze. The duo behind the setup are extremely charming and welcoming and their DOCG Extra Dry is worth the visit alone.
With an extremely modern, and yet sustainable setup, these brothers have no fear of experimenting with new ideas, and as such, have a brilliant mixture of wines on offer. Although a little bit of the beaten track nd closer to Conegliano, the winery is still accessible by bus, and hopefully by the time you visit, their ultra-luxurious tasting centre will up and running.