Located at the foothills of the Dolomites and extending up to Lake Iseo, Franciacorta is widely considered the best sparkling wine region in Italy. And just a short distance from the fashion and cultural cities of Milan, Venice and Verona, it makes for a perfect weekend escape that combines gastronomic excellence with a focus on ethical tourism.
The Franciacorta region is naturally blessed with mineral-rich limestone soils, a moderate climate and proximity to both the mountains and lakes that create the perfect conditions to make a superlative sparkling wine. Like Champagne, Franciacorta is made in the classic method, which sees wine fermented in the bottle, and is produced in a number of styles including Satèn, named for the silkiness of the wine and finesse of its bubbles.
Since Franciacorta was first produced here in 1960s, the territory has been a pioneer in winemaking and laid out stringent regulations to develop the area while honoring the environment and championing slow tourism. Discover the leading wineries and restaurants in Franciacorta and how to make the most of your time in this idyllic region.
The Best Wineries To Visit In Franciacorta
Any visit to Franciacorta has to include a stop at Berlucchi, the historic estate that created the first bottle of Franciacorta wine in 1961. The largest winery in Franciacorta, Berlucchi produces 4 million bottles a year and has paved the way for many of the local initiatives in the territory. It is in the process of converting its 500 acres to organic viticulture and has recently launched its Accademia series to bring together thought leaders to discuss solutions about sustainability, innovation and other projects that benefit the local community. Berlucchi’s Palazzo Lana Extrême Riserva pays homage to the estate’s 16th century noble residence featuring elegant salons and frescoed ballroom guests can visit on a private tour.
Ca’ del Bosco
As soon as you see Arnaldo Pomodoro’s enormous Inno al Sole sun gate at the entrance of Ca’ del Bosco, you’ll realize you’re in one of the region’s most design-led wineries. Here, contemporary art enhances the pleasure of wine with sculptures made of bronze, marble and steel awaiting around every corner. First established in the 1960s, Ca’ del Bosco began its innovative transformation in the ‘70s when Maurizio Zanella began expanding the original little house surrounded by oak woods into a state-of-the-art winery with the latest technology.
Today it is one of the largest wineries in Franciacorta and boasts vineyards that are over 40 years old. The vines here are densely-packed and grapes are picked by hand to ensure the highest quality control. Look out for “Il Peso del Tempo” (“The Weight of Time”) sculpture of a gigantic rhinoceros suspended at the entrance of the cellar while you sip on a glass of Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige DOCG made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Biano and Pinot Nero grapes.
Established in 1998, Barone Pizzini was the first winery in Franciacorta to produce organic wine and has implemented numerous sustainable practices in its cellar and vineyards. It encourages biodiversity and avoids the use of chemicals in its vineyards – and used renewable materials to create the winery itself. Producing 100% organic wine is an arduous process but according to the winery, “respect for nature is the best tool for obtaining grapes rich with life”. The estate’s fragrant Naturae vintage uses grapes from a hillside with limestone soil that has garnered it numerous accolades, including Gambero Rosso’s 3 Bicchieri recognition.
Another winery that exudes a passion for sustainability and the environment is Cavalleri, one of two biodynamic estates in Franciacorta. The family-owned winery uses organic farming methods and approaches viticulture in a holistic way to improve the soil’s fertility and structure: legumes and vegetables are planted within the vines to add minerals through a natural, rather than artificial, means. Cavalleri’s signature Blanc de Blancs is partially fermented with indigenous yeasts and expresses the estate’s talent for coaxing Chardonnay grapes to reveal their true character.
Surrounded by vineyards and set at the base of hill, Ronco Calino is an oasis in Franciacorta. A small, family-owned winery owned by the industrialist Paolo Radici and his wife Lara Imberti Radici, it has 13 hectares of vines and has been certified organic since 2016. The vineyard has a higher proportion of Pinot Noir vines than most, reflecting Ronco Calino’s desire to create complex, age-worthy wines. Come by for an intimate wine tasting experience thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of its young team and excellent wines. The Brut Millesimato has 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir and ages for 65 months on the lees before disgorging.
The Best Restaurants In Franciacorta
An elegant hideaway in the heart of Franciacorta, Ristorante Natura is an ambitious and innovative project that gives guests a “glocal” dining experience. Helmed by the talented young chef Marco Acquaroli, the gourmet restaurant celebrates the local territory through its dishes while revisiting them through international cooking techniques inspired by healthful Scandivanian cooking.
The restaurant has heavy focus on seasonality and provenance, so fruits and vegetables are handpicked from the restaurant’s own garden while fish are caught daily on Lake Iseo. The restaurant’s signature dish “Orto”, an artful arrangement of vegetables and foraged herbs, is constantly being reinvented based on what’s locally available and in season.
Osteria Quattro Rose
The whimsical Osteria Quattro Rose bills itself as a winery with a kitchen and serves up traditional dishes with a spin. Situated in the heart of Rovato, it’s a great place to try Manzo all’Olio di Rovato, one of Franciacorta’s most beloved regional dishes. This tender roast beef is stewed in olive oil with anchovies, garlic, breadcrumbs and vegetables and served with polenta.
The tantalizing menu also has the famous Casoncello Bresciano ravioli served with melted butter and sage, cream of pumpkin with scorched scallops and crispy octopus with cherry tomato cream, burrata and crostini. Choose a bottle from the extensive wine list which boasts over 400 bottles.
Locanda al Lago
While you’re in Franciacorta, you can’t miss the opportunity to take a boat out to Monte Isole for a leisurely lunch at Ristorante Locanda al Lago. The Soardi, a fisherman family, have been preparing freshly caught lake fish and other regional dishes since 1948 and the outdoor terrace is an idyllic setting to enjoy your meal while soaking in some sunshine.
The local specialty here are salt-cured sardines that are air-dried and served alongside charred polenta, though you’ll also find fresh fish including perch, pike and trout that pair well with Franciacorta’s bubbles. Order a fritto misto for the table, a mixed fried fish appetizer, before tasting the fish lasagna or grilled lake fish served with crispy potatoes.
Osteria della Villetta
A fourth-generation family-owned restaurant, Osteria della Villetta has played an integral part in the history of Franciacorta and continues to honor the region’s longstanding enogastronomic traditions to this day. Established in 1900, it serves classic dishes like Lasagna with veal ragù and Parmesan sauce and slow-cooked Beef with Oil with careful attention to seasonality and provenance. The restaurant uses local ingredients featured by the Slow Food guide and has a curated wine list of Franciacorta labels to pair with its dishes.
Where To Stay In Franciacorta
With its ivy-laden exteriors, lush terraces that look out onto the vineyard and posh sitting rooms dotted with antiques, a stay at L’Albereta feels like taking a step back to another era. Formerly the private home of lawyer Giovanni Cavalleri and his wife Anna, the neo Renaissance villa was later bought by the entrepreneur Vittorio Moretti is now among the most renowned luxury hotels in Italy thanks to its sumptuous rooms, romantic setting and outstanding hospitality.
The property features rooms and suites with bespoke furnishings, elegant marble bathrooms and flowers that bring the lush outdoors inside. Opt for a stay in the Contadi Tower Suite, with privileged views of L’Albereta’s private vineyard, or the Cabriolet Suite with a ceiling that opens to the stars. Guests will also enjoy spending time in the Espace Chenot Health Wellness SPA and and tasting Franco Pepe’s famous Neapolitan pizzas at La Filiale.
Le Quattro Terre
An elegant agriturismo situated in an 18th century farmhouse, Le Quattro Terre strikes a perfect balance between rustic but refined luxury. The property has been immaculately restored to honor the original architecture, so you’ll find wooden beams and vaulted brick ceilings throughout that enhance the pared-down, contemporary decor.
Le Quattro Terre has 11 cozy rooms and a fabulous restaurant that offers a creative take on traditional recipes. Taste beetroot tagliatelle with a Franciacorta sauce and walnuts or suckling pig with a stout beer reduction, pumpkin puree and amaretti biscuits. You can also visit the winery during your stay: Le Quattro Terre has 6 labels and produces 55,000 bottles per year.