Italy Wine Country: Roman Holiday

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rome.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Like most Americans, I've often used the phrase, "when in Rome, do as the Romans," with that all-knowing half-smile that implies that yes, I do in fact know what Romans do! Romans and me, we go waaay back.

Except, I've never been to Rome. Have never, in fact, spent more than 72 hours altogether in Italy, and couldn't tell you what life is like in Rome any more than I could tell you what life is like on the moon. Romans and me, it turns out, don't even go back even so far as a nanosecond.
First Stop: Wine Academy!
And so, in light of my upcoming trip to Rome - I leave today! - I find myself chuckling over the extreme irony of this much-used phrase, and getting more and more excited by the minute about imminently righting its wrong implication.

Speaking of which, I have a fantastic itinerary lined up that includes some of the city's most illustrious sites (when in Rome...), and - in no doubt unsurprisingly to readers of this site - a few wine-oriented sojourns, as well. Vatican City, the Forum and the Colosseum are all atop my must-see list, although I must confess I'm just as excited about checking out the International Wine Academy of Roma At the Spanish Steps as I am these other über-famous spots.

Founded with the input and support of Hugh Johnson and Steven Spurrier - two of the wine world's most respected luminaries (Johnson edits countless authoritative wine texts; Spurrier orchestrated the now-legendary Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976) - the school was founded in the late 90s as a meeting place for wine lovers in Rome. Housed in a carefully restored 16th-Century palace, the Wine Academy boasts manicured grounds, a restaurant, an adjacent boutique hotel and - naturally - a wine bar.

Providing my iPhone proves up for the task, I'll be sure to transmit a photo while sipping something fantastic at said wine bar. And speaking of checking in, I'll be sending updates throughout my trip (11/12-11/20) via iPhone, so be sure to check the site if you'd like to see what's shaking in Italia.

1fiveroses01.jpgAnd Winery Makes Three
Rome isn't the only thing on my itinerary: my trip will also see sojourns in Puglia (the heel of the boot) and Milan. I'm particularly excited about visiting Puglia, which is home to Italy's most famous rosé (Salice Salentino), as well as a number of wineries whose new-found focus on indigenous varieties has inspired an upswell of interest in Pugliese wines. I'll be visiting Italy's oldest producer of Rose, Leone de Castris in Lecce at the extreme heel of the boot, from which I'll be sure to send a virtual tasting note confirming the fabulousness of said vino. And finally, I'll be hitting up Milan to check the pulse of the north, and fit in a little shopping, too (Italy is, after all, the homeland of Versace as well as antiquity).

In all, it will be a whirlwind trip, one filled with fantastic art, long lunches, wine-splashed afternoons, and a highly anticipated righting of a much-misused phrase. Before long, I'll be able to really mean it when I say "when in Rome...," a fact that in no doubt will lead me to utter those three words henceforth with an enormous grin instead of the standard half-smile.

Because Romans - I'm quite certain even without having set foot in their city - would opt for a full-wattage smile over a halvsie any day.

It is Italy, after all.

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