This past January, I made my way to Italy for the International Wine Tourism Conference. After traveling from Rome to Montefalco, our group spent a restful evening in the lovely Hotel Al Grappolo d’Oro in Torgiano. A bite for breakfast and we made our way down the rustic streets and boarded our bus for the short ride to the heart of Umbria. We settled into the host city of Perugia and the incomparable Hotel Gio. Hotel Gio is unlike any other hotel I have ever visited. For starters, it’s divided into two parts; Wine and Jazz. Both themes are in full play throughout. As you leave the wine side, you cross a hallway with oversized piano keys running its length.
Michael Wangbickler gave the keynote presentation ironically addressing Wine Tourism Does Not Exist. It’s his belief people don’t visit a region solely for wine tasting. You need to offer alternatives. Officials from Umbria and Perugia welcomed us with open arms and we adjourned for a lunch featuring the food and wines of Puglia. Puréed artichokes with sheep’s milk ricotta, Orecchiette pasta, slow cooked pork capocollo potatoes with lampascioni onions and a dark chocolate terrine with pumpkin were accompanied by copious amount s of wine from the Puglia region, provided by the Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia. Sessions continued throughout the day on all aspects of wine blogging and wine tourism. The speakers came from all corners of the globe and offered diverse points of view. Marcy Gordon from Come For The Wine gave a twitter workshop. Melba Allen from the south of France addressed what today’s wine tourist expects. David Lowe from the U.K. spoke about the impact new technologies will have on wine tourism. Mary Cressler spoke about the importance of a sense of place. Those were but a few of the many presentations offered to attendees on day one. We were in for a real treat that evening. Our group once again climbed aboard a bus, After our driver got his bearings straight (he only got slightly lost), we came upon the magnificent Castello dell’Oscano. It’s tough putting into words how grand this 15th century castle is. Originally built as a watchtower, it was the site for a grand Welcome To Umbria dinner. We mingled with winemakers and dignitaries and then sat down to an Italian feast. Now that I have visited during winter in the dark of night, I look forward to a return visit in the light of day.
Weary from a full day, we returned to the Hotel Gio. Little did we know that the next morning we would awake to a winter wonderland.