This north-eastern corner of Italy has bounced back from Covid, as a short food and wine break reveals

The Picech family’s cosy B&B, known simply as Casa Picech, sits at the top of the sleepy winemaker hamlet of Pradis. It looks down over the historic Mitteleuropa town of Cormons, unofficial capital of Friuli’s Collio region, where some of Italy’s greatest white wines are produced. As I open the wooden shutters of my room, the early morning sun floods in to reveal an idyllic pastoral landscape. There’s layer on layer of rolling hills, the lower plains covered in a light mist, slowly revealing never-ending graphic lines of vines whose leaves are glowing autumnal red and orange.

The grape picking here is just coming to its end, and for the locals, the most important news of this post-lockdown era is that the harvest looks like being the best so far this century. Additional cause for celebration is that tourism seems to have bounced back, drawn by the mix of wine tasting, great cuisine, hiking, biking and festivals that make an autumn break appealing. Visitors just need to be prepared to show an NHS health pass (or European pass) when dining or drinking indoors, watching a concert or checking into accommodation, and wear a mask in shops and on public transport.

Roberto and Alessia Picech make a serious fuss of their guests, beginning in the evening after checking in, when this talented winemaker, whose vineyards surround the B&B, opens his latest crisp whites, made from the distinctive native grapes. Then at breakfast, Alessia prepares a feast of local specialities: smoked ham and salami from the local artisan prosciutteria D’Osvaldo that rivals more well known San Daniele or Parma ham, and tasty organic cheeses and yoghurt from the nearby Zoff farm and dairy, which she advises us to visit. This is not our first stay with the Picech family, and the region was top of the “return to” list when we came out of lockdown in Venice, where we live. So far, a break here feels little different to before the pandemic.

Down in bustling Cormons, first stop is the local tourism office, located on a grand piazza lined with stately pastel-coloured mansions and a towering church tower with distinctive green onion dome. The office suggests a range of eco-ways to explore without a car; the surrounding hills, vineyards and forests can easily be seen on a rented electric Vespa (€60 per day) or e-bike (€35 per day), all in Collio’s hallmark bright yellow. And for walkers setting off on the well-marked hiking paths, there is the new initiative of Collio Windows, dozens of wooden picnic tables set inside a giant yellow window frame, each one looking out over a spectacular vista as far as the border with neighbouring Slovenia, with directions to a nearby winemaker, osteria, artisan brewer or farm to visit (via a QR barcode on the picnic table).

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Source: Gaurdian

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