When you plan a trip to a vineyard, you imagine sprawling countryside filled with acres of grapevines and no towns in sight. But what if I said you could visit a vineyard in the Venice lagoons? Or in the heart of Turin?
These unique vineyards are known as urban vineyards. They have been around for centuries, but only recently have seen a resurgence in popularity. In fact, the industry has grown so rapidly that in 2019 the Urban Vineyards Association was established. The group seeks to promote their cultural value to tourists and make their businesses productive for the community. Currently, there are eight vineyards involved in the organization, with two in France and the rest in Italy.
Here are the Italian members of the Urban Vineyards Association.
Leonardo’s Vineyard in Milan
In 1498, The Duke of Milan gifted Leonardo da Vinci with a vineyard. Having come from a family of winemakers, da Vinci was very fond of his land and would often wander through the rows of grapevines at the end of his day. He specified in his will that the vineyard should go to his favorite student Gian Giacomo Caprotti, but over the years the vineyard was abandoned.
The property that housed the vineyard, Casa degli Atellani, was restored in the early 1920s, however, the vineyard’s revitalization did not come until 2015. The property’s current owners worked with the University of Agricultural Sciences to study the original grape variety and replant the vineyard in its original layout. The first harvest was in September of 2018, from which 330 bottles were auctioned off in 2019. There is no word yet on when the next batch will be available, but the property is open for tours throughout the day.
Vigna del Gallo in Palermo
Grown in the Botanical Gardens in Palermo, the Vigna del Gallo has over 100 vines. This project was started in 2018 by the University of Palermo to help raise awareness about Sicily’s biodiversity. They are hoping to build upon the native varieties already present on the island. The project has yet to produce its first bottle, but visitors to the gardens can see the process in action.
Senarum Vinea Vineyards in Siena
The University of Siena began the Senarum Vinea project to preserve the city’s native grapevines and reinvigorate Siena’s winemaking heritage. They used DNA testing to identify the old vines and then partnered with the Castel di Pugna winery, who now oversees the growing and harvesting of these ancient grapes. So far, the project has produced two red wines and one white wine.
The Queen’s Vineyard in Turin
Located on the hillside behind the Gran Madre di Did Church, The Queen’s Vineyard is a part of the 17th-century Queen’s Villa, once a private residence for the Royal Family of Savoy. The vineyard was created by Prince Maurice and then donated to the National Institute for the Daughters of the Italian Military in 1867. Eventually, the organization ended and the property was left to decay.
In 2003, the Superintendence for the Historical, Artistic and Ethno-Anthropological Heritage of Piedmont began a restoration project and replanted half the vineyard. Later, Balbiano Winery took over, which managed to plant over 2,700 vines. Thanks to their dedication, the Queen’s Vineyard is now one of the only DOC-certified urban vineyards in the country.
San Francesco della Vigna in Venice
Known as the most ancient urban vineyard in Venice, the vines were gifted to the Order of Friars Minor in 1253. Their wine is called Harmonia Mundil, and the proceeds from the sales go towards scholarships for students at the Institute of Ecumenical Studies.
In 2019, Santa Margherita Winery took over the vineyard production. The winery is also working on restoring the nearby San Marco’s Chapel as well.
Lagoon in the Glass Vineyards in Venice
Inspired by the cultivation efforts at San Francesco della Vigna, teacher Flavio Franceschet spent many years teaching students about winemaking. After he retired, Franceshet set up an organization to promote lagoon wines. They worked with four wine-producing convents for several years before they were able to take ownership of the vineyards from the Franciscans of San Michele.
Now the organization has branched out to include San Michele, Giudecca, the island of Vignole, the vineyard of the Corte Sconta restaurant, and the garden of Scalzi. Vineyards in the Lagoons produce a variety of wines, including merlots and proseccos.