Top reasons to visit Oltrepò Pavese

Literally meaning “over the Po river”, Oltrepò Pavese is a tranquil area of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. It is often referred to as the “Tuscany of the North”, yet unlike its regional competitor, it is less known to tourists, making it a more peaceful alternative and offering visitors an authentic, local, Italian experience. Still not convinced? Check out our top reasons why you should visit Oltrepò Pavese below!
 

To have a “wine experience”…

Oltrepò Pavese is the largest wine producing area in Lombardy, and of the Pinot Nero grape in particular, so it’s a perfect location to visit if you’re a certified vinophile. If you’re looking for more than just a tasty glass of red, and are instead searching for a full on “wine experience”, we recommend staying at Prime Alture, a hotel located on its very own vineyard. Combining wine, food and relaxation in their spa, salt water pool, Prime Alture is run by former aerospace engineer Roberto Lechiancole.

They produce a vast range of wines, including their “Centopercento Pinot Noir” (using Lechiancole’s favourite grape!) as well as their Merlot “L’altra metà del cuore”, not to mention their own metodo classico “Io per te”. All wines – which are featured in all of Milan’s top Michelin starred restaurants bar 2 - can be enjoyed in the stunning dining room, which sports panoramic  views over the Oltrepò area with its 3 sides of glass windows. 

However, Prime Alture refrain from calling their dining room a restaurant, as they don’t provide a set menu. Instead, the select menu changes every day, corresponding to what the chef can buy in the local market or harvest from Prime Alture’s own vegetable garden, keeping all the dishes fresh and seasonal!

Prime Alture Wine Resort
 

To try the local produce…

Talking of food, Oltrepò is also a great place to try some tasty treats peculiar to the area, such as risotto rice which is grown on vast, flat plains, and is used to make one of Lombardy’s signature dishes, Risotto Milanese. If you fancy lunching like a local, we suggest heading to some of the area’s artisanal producers to pick up some delicious cheese and salami. We can guarantee you’ll be surrounded by residents doing their shopping, and probably be one of the only tourists in the shop!

Make your way to the Caseificio F.lli Cavanna shop in Rivanazzano Terme, to try their array of cheeses, such as stafforella, which is their trademark product. They also sell products by other family businesses, and a must try is Magrotti salami (their premium product being the salame di Varzi) which is cured in old-fashioned cellars, and produced under very strict regulations that enable it to be certified by the European PDO stamp, meaning it is upheld as a local delicacy.

Salame di Varzi
 

You’re close to picture perfect Pavia…

If you’ve had enough of strolling through peaceful vineyards and countryside, then head to the beautiful city of Pavia, which is just a stone’s throw away from Oltrepò, and is the regional capital of Lombardy. As well as being known for its celebrated university with alumni including Christopher Columbus (you can learn more about the university’s history at a small museum on the study campus) one of the must-see sights is the Certosa di Pavia, a Gothic/Renaissance style monastery complex housing many important paintings and frescoes – definitely one for the art and architecture enthusiasts! But the Certosa isn’t the only holy building in Pavia that will take your breath away. The city’s red brick Duomo (cathedral), which boasts the third largest dome in Italy and was designed by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante is another religious gem you should visit, as is the Basilica di San Michele, where Barbarossa was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1155!

Pavia
 

To step back in time in Zavatorello…

So you’ve tried out the bright lights of busting Pavia, why not downsize to one of Oltrepò’s smaller, but just as historic villages? We recommend Zavatorello, a medieval village which is home to the amazing Castello Del Verme, which dates back to the 10 th century, and is a prime example of successful military architecture – it was never captured despite enduring many sieges! The castle is open to the public, so you can view its ancient prisons and “chemin de ronde” (defensive walkway) with your very own eyes. It also offers a panoramic viewpoint, where you can see many other castles on the horizon (perhaps you can pick the one you want to visit next!) and sometimes, on clear sunny days, you can even catch a glimpse of the dramatic Alps.

But they are not the only things you want to be keeping an eye out for at the castle, legend has it that it is haunted by the spirit of Pietro dal Verme, a lord of the castle back in the 15 th century! If you’re not too spooked by this, and are actually excited by the prospect of interacting with the past, we also recommend visiting Zavatorello during mid-August, when they host their traditional “Medieval Days”. As the main square becomes a medieval market, the village is populated with ladies, knights and courtsmen, and the castle’s gardens will come to life with battles, dances and games, you really will think you’ve been transported back in time!