Our tips and tricks for making the most of Vinitaly — the world’s biggest wine festival

Adam Jones | 25/01/2019
WIne festival in Italy. Vinitaly, wine festival.

Vinitaly has become a global phenomenon. Created to showcase the best Italian wines, it has turned into one of the world’s premier and most influential wine events. 

Going all the way back to 1967, Vinitaly was created as a way for producers to demonstrate their top wines to a discerning clientele. Over the decades the wine festival has expanded. Now it’s a huge industry event that includes the wine show, cultural experiences, food tastings, education & history.

Ready for a taste? We’ll give you some tips on how to navigate Vinitaly like a seasoned attendee of Italian festivals. 

Plan in advance

Fair Verona, home to Romeo & Juliet, is a lovely city for a romantic stroll and to sample a taste of Italian life. However, wine tourism is a booming industry, with Vinitaly bringing in as many as 130,000 attendees every year. As you can imagine, a festival of this size can put a squeeze on accommodation, restaurants and transportation.

We recommend staying in the city center so that you’re central and close to the action. Don’t delay to book accommodation; we’d recommend booking at least six months before the event. Restaurants get very booked up during the festival as well. There will be thousands of people who want to sample the same spots as you. If there’s a particular place you’d like to attend, do your best to reserve well in advance.

Figure out your priorities

Vinitaly is a huge food and wine festival. Without a game plan, you may find yourself floating among the crowds. Maybe you’d like to do a deep dive into a specific region of Italian wine? Perhaps you want to explore some of the best Pinot Noir from places all over the globe? Or you’re interested in researching wine tours in up-and-coming or well-established wine producing regions?  With so much to see and do, having a bit of focus regarding your priorities will result in a better experience.

Vinitaly provides its own printable PDF and a mobile app to help you navigate. Armed with a game plan, you’ll be able  to hit the displays or vendors that you find most intriguing.

Know your ticket situation and entrance

A ticket for the Vinitaly costs around €50 a day or €90 for a four-day pass. We’d recommend printing out your ticket and bring it with you — this can save you a lot of time getting into the event. Gates won’t open until 9:30 am, so try not to arrive too early. Different types of tickets have different lines as well. Read the signage to make sure you don’t end up waiting in the wrong lineup. Not every entrance to the event accepts every ticket; so make sure you do the pre-planning required so you don’t have to take a long walk to another entrance. Parking is at a premium, so we’d recommend arriving by taxi or public transit.

Feel free to wander

Though we recommend doing a bit of advance planning so you don’t miss any of your “musts” feel free to wander around to discover something new. You may be surprised by an unexpected white wine from Northern Italy or taste something unexpectedly delicious that has been provided by the producer as a pairing.

We recommend gobbling up any free samples that are provided with your tasting; it’s some of the best food at the festival. Some events provide full plates or sit-down meals, but often these are for folks in the know or require advanced reservations. The panini provided at the festival for lunch or other meals are not well regarded, so down tasty bites whenever you can. 

The waits for meals at on-site restaurants can also be incredibly long. Having a bit to eat as you wander will prevent wait times in lengthy queues. You’ll thank yourself if you start your day with a hearty breakfast. 

It’s also important to keep hydrated. You’ll be drinking a lot of wine and indulging in savoury snacks. Make sure you keep up your water intake so you can enjoy a full day at the festival.

Don’t be afraid to spit

You’re at one of the world’s best wine tasting events, but remember: you don’t need to drink all that wine. It’s perfectly acceptable at the festival to spit after a sample. 

As it gets further along in the afternoon, you’ll notice the crowd get increasingly inebriated. Remember that you have to get back to your hotel and you’ll want to leave enough room for some wine with your dinner.

Dress to impress

Wine tasting doesn’t have its own formal dress code, but Italy certainly has an informal one. You’ll see a lot of men in ties and business suits, and women in dresses and other formal fashions. Try to dress up a little. The weather in Verona in early April can vary from chilly to quite warm. If you go for layers, plan to add or subtract based on the day’s temperature.

Comfortable shoes are also a must. Most tickets will only allow you to enter and leave the festival once per day. Don’t expect to be able to dash out of the event for a more comfortable pair shoes.

Last but not least

Enjoy yourself. If you need a break, take one. Maybe go back to the hotel a bit earlier on day two to get a bit of additional rest. As life is to be lived, wine is to be enjoyed. If you’re grinding your way through the whole festival, you may be missing the point.

After a long day exploring wine displays, gourmet eateries, and the “citadels of gastronomy”, kick back, relax and have an enjoyable evening. That may mean heading back to the hotel for some rest, or spending a night out sampling wines with some new friends you met at a producing table. Remember you’re here for la dolce vita