There’s something about Italy. The architecture, the beaches, the history, the language, the food, and the drinks. Everything in Italy has more flavor, more color, and more intensity, while at the same time, life is laid back and easy-going. Italian people, the landscape, and the produce are so distinctive — it’s like nowhere else on earth.
Each area of the country is different from other areas. The food is different from north to south, the coastline is different, and the drinks are different. Italian drinks, like everything else in the country, are unique, rich in flavor, and always chic. To really enjoy an authentic Italian drink, you need to get to the heart of where it was made. So, to enjoy your Italian drinks to their fullest, here are eight delicious Italian drinks and the best cities to try them.
1. Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico, Red Wine
Radda, located in Tuscany, may be a town and not a city, but what it lacks in size and status, it makes up for in beauty and character. This is where you’ll find the Castello di Radda winery, and for that alone it’s worth a visit. Tasting the wine in the winery where it’s made is without a doubt the best way to experience any drink. Castello di Radda Chianti Classico is a rich, fruity, dry red wine that’s best enjoyed in its hometown, but equally good wherever you drink it.
There’s a wine bar in Radda called Bar Ucci that’s run by an ex-winery worker, and her expertise and passion really show. It’s housed in an old cattle shed and is truly one of the most magical little places to drink this outstanding red wine. If you want to go wine tasting at the winery you can book onto a private tour, or, of course, you can buy a bottle of this mature red wine and enjoy it wherever you like.
2. Select Aperitivo
Made in Venice since 1920, Select is an aperitif that uses juniper berries and rhubarb roots to give it its distinctive bittersweet flavor. It’s mostly enjoyed as a spritz cocktail due to its intense flavor if tried neat. The Italian spritz cocktails have been the drink to be seen drinking this summer, and there’s no better place to drink them than in Italy. The Select spritz is a simple but refreshing cocktail of Select, soda water, and prosecco.
While in other parts of Italy an Aperol spritz and a Campari spritz are on the menu, in Venice the Select spritz has its home. The select spritz is a real taste of summer. It even looks summery. It’s complex and interesting. It’s fruity and sweet, yet the prosecco and soda water are much needed to take away the bitterness. It’s kind of all things at once, which is probably why it’s so popular.
3. Francone Magia, White Wine
The Roero area of Italy might not have big bustling cities, but what it does have is beautiful rolling countryside and acres of vineyards. This is Italian wine country and most of the small village communities here are surrounded by vines.
One of these small communities is Castagnito, and this is where Francone Magia is produced. It’s hard to overstate how beautiful it is here, and if you like wine, this is paradise. This area is famous for its wine and for its truffles, and you can join a tasting tour of a winery and vineyard as well as a truffle hunting expedition.
But if you’re looking for more of a city vibe, it is very quiet here. However, just a 2-minute drive from Castagnito gets you to Alba, where you can find restaurants and wine bars to enjoy a glass or two. The Francone Magi wine is richer and fuller flavored than most white wines from this region. Wherever you enjoy it, this is a surprising and memorable wine.
4. Portofino Gin
Made in the fishing village of Portofino, the pretty little place of Portofino Gin’s origin is undoubtedly the best place to enjoy this Mediterranean gin. But Portofino is so close to the port city of Genoa, you can bask in the bars and restaurants by the sea that serve this playful drink as well as — or instead of — drinking it in the fishing village.
Portofino is a new gin, only launched in 2019, but it has an old soul. It tastes of lemon groves and has a distinctive sunny feel to it. It’s like they’ve captured the true tastes of Italy and bottled them in a gin. Order a Portofino gin with a Mediterranean tonic and a slice of lemon, and watch life in Genoa go by. Or, pick up a bottle and enjoy a Portofino gin wherever you like.
Before you even get to the taste of the gin, the bottle is pure Italy — one of the most beautiful gin bottles you’ll come across.
A sweet cherry liqueur produced in Turin, Stambecco is made for the mountains. It’s even named with the mountains in mind. Stambecco is the name of a mountain goat found in this area, though it’s unclear if there’s any connection between the two. The drink was originally served neat to aid digestion, as many aperitifs were, as more of a medicine than a drink to be enjoyed. Though, of course, it was enjoyed.
It later became popular with skiers coming in from their day on the slopes. Served neat, it’s quite intense, so I can imagine those skiers enjoying its warming properties as well as its ability to help them relax and unwind. You can order it in a spritz today, but it’s best served in a Manhattan, or a “Stamhattan.” A Stamhattan is two parts Stambecco, one part whisky, one dash of bitters, and orange peel to garnish. It makes a simple but stunning cocktail. Sit back and relax in a piazza in Turin while grand architecture rises all around you, and enjoy a little taste of the mountains with a Stambecco cocktail.
6. L’Occhiolino Wine
Its name means “the wink” in Italian, and this light fizzy red wine is certainly a kind of wink. It’s served chilled, which is unusual for a red, though not unheard of. Perhaps because of the heat of the city it’s made in, Bologna, this wine has been created to be enjoyed over a long lunch in the sunshine. It’s only 7.5% ABV, so it’s perfect for lunchtime or early evening. L’Occhiolino has been a well-kept secret in Italy, using some of the oldest grapes in the country.
Though most popular in Bologna, its reputation is spreading. Bologna is still the best place to enjoy it, and you’ll find it flows easily at lunch in the city. If you haven’t tried a chilled, sparkling red before, this is the perfect introduction as it’s light and refreshing. If you’re already familiar with sparkling reds, sit back in Bologna and enjoy a glass of the wink in the city that’s its home.
The Amalfi Coast in southern Italy is famous for its lemon groves and for its limoncello. This zesty liqueur is routinely served in shot glasses at the end of a meal, and in Positano, they claim the sweet syrupy drink as their own. No one is exactly sure where limoncello originated — some say right here in Positano, some say in Sicily, where they also like to call it theirs — but one thing is for sure: In Positano, they do a mean limoncello spritz.
At this point it might seem like the Italians can make a spritz out of anything, but the limoncello spritz makes a lot of sense. Limoncello is lovely to drink by itself, but on a hot day with the sea next to you, a lemony spritz with ice is divine. For incredible views while you sip your spritz, head to Il Tridente rooftop terrace cocktail bar. The terrace bar overlooking the bay and the Positano’s famous hillside buildings feels traditionally Italian and could easily be from a 1950s movie. There’s no better place to sip a limoncello.
The negroni, now famous all over the world, began its journey in Florence. This simple cocktail made up of equal measures of gin, Campari, and vermouth is now found on every cocktail menu in every cocktail bar you’ll ever enter, but where better to drink it than in the city it was born in? For a unique negroni experience, seek out the Angel Roof Bar at Hotel Calimala in Florence.
With spectacular views over the city and a negroni in your hand, you’ll enjoy an authentic Florence experience. This garden patio is beautifully designed with its garden displays of flora and fauna, and it offers a 360-degree view of Florence. Florence is a beautiful city, full of intricate architecture and historic art, but if there’s one thing you must do while you’re there, it’s drink negronis.