Cantine Aperte, Cuori Aperti

May 27, 2016 / Food & Wine
Amelia, Umbria

Italians are known for opening home and heart to visitors. And Italy’s wine cellars will be opening their doors and vineyards to visitors the last week-end in May. Bottles of crisp whites and robust reds will be uncorked for the thousands joining in on the festival, Cantine Aperte (“Open Cellars”). Launched in 1993 by the Movimento Turismo Vino, Cantine Aperte aims at the diffusion of the culture of wine and the promotion of familiarity with Italy’s great wine regions. Bringing to life the slogan “Vedi che bevi” (“See what you drink”), last year over nine hundred Italian wine cellars – nearly fifty just in Umbria – welcomed more than a million visitors. at the end of May. In Umbria, le cantine welcomed an estimated 70,000 visitors over two week-ends rich in events.


Umbria’s cantine offer guided vineryard walks with an agronomist, jazz concerts, literary events with wine themes, art shows, tastings of local foods best paired with their wines, helicopter rides over the vineyards at one Umbrian cellar and a bocce tournament in the vineyards of another.


We headed to Cantine Zanchi, outside of the medieval walls of Amelia, southern Umbria (close to the Latium border) where brilliant green vineyards fanned out downhill in front of the cellars in stark contrast to a slate gray sky that day.


We lined up with a few others at the entrance table, paying a small fee for the wine glasses tucked in a cloth bags which we’d use to taste wine varieties (and then take home) and for our enometro (literally, “wine measure,” i.e., chits for wines we’d taste). Nearby, a clutch of animated young people – black cloth wine pouches around their necks – shared chuckling chats between wine sips and all shouted an enthusiastic “si!” when I asked for group photo. While I was taking a photo of the emerald green vineyard expanse below us – a red tractor adding a color splash – a young couple from the group brought me a goblet of red wine with a smiling “grazie della foto.”

Lining up to get our wine glass
Families gater
happy group

Feeble attempts to decline the wine offer proved useless: refusals refused. “Devi assaggiare questo passito,” curly-haired Alessandro insisted, urging me to taste the vineyard’s sweet wine. His companion, Paola, nodded as Alessandro added, “You shouldn’t start a wine-tasting with a dessert wine, but we’re leaving now and we wanted to share a taste of our last wine, a cantina specialty.” Chatting about wines with this amerino (“from Amelia”) young couple, we learned they’d known the Zanchis and appreciated their wines for years.

Paola and Alessandro share a chuckle with Pino

We discovered why inside the cellars, where sommeliers poured wines, backdropped by huge casks and wine vats. We sipped an Umbrian white, trebbiano, tried the malvasia and then moved on to the indigenous red of the Amelia area, the ciliegiolo. And no better way to appreciate it than while munching a grilled sausage: Ennio, who’s worked the Zanchi vineyards for over forty years, was on the grill that day, handling the sausages. Young Erica served them up with slices of bread, 1 Euro apiece – and a sign on her table showed that the fee was a fund-raiser for sustenance of Kosovo orphans.

Erica with a smile
Adoption benefit

Before leaving, we chatted with Lores Zanchi and her papa’ Leonardo whose own father had cultivated their vineyards over forty years ago. Lores led us through ancient wooded doors to the immense French oak casks in the underground cellar, home to the most prized aged wines. And she talked enthusiastically about the family wine research project: Cantine Zanchi are still cultivating Nonno’s grape varieties but since 2008, the family has joined with the agronomy faculty of the Universita’ di Perugia in experimental cultivation of ancient grape varieties of the territory as well. Their focus: restoration of ancient varieties unknown (until recently) among the over six hundred varieties raised in Italy.

Flores and her father, Signor Leonardo

This year at Cantine Aperte (runs this weekend, May 28th and 29th), we might be lucky enough to try one of their “resurrected” varietals. Those ancient wooden doors at Cantine Zanchi will soon be wide open.


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

16 Responses to “Cantine Aperte, Cuori Aperti”

  1. Ann Krapf

    A fantastic explanation from you as usual along with more pictures of happy people! Thank you for yet another piece of information from an area we must explore.

  2. Nancy Mazza

    What a great article, Anne, and what a fun tradition. Though I live near the Wine Country in CA, it sure would be fun to experience an Umbrian festa de vino. Love their Trebbiano. Love the photos, especially handsome Pino!

  3. Jack Litewka

    I didn’t know about this annual wine event. Good to keep in mind for my next trip to Italy.

  4. Cindy

    What fun!! I would love to take part someday in this festive event.

  5. Marianna Raccuglia

    wonderful article, so informative. Your photos make us want to be there enjoying the area wines and meeting the people who are proud of what they do.
    So nice to see Pino enjoying a glass of wine – salute!

  6. Mary Cappiello


    With all of the wonderful events going on in Umbria in May it’s obvious that we need to plan to be here a whole month! Thank you for our historical tours of Assisi, Spello and Gubbio, and for introducing us to the restaurateurs and artists who are your friends. It’s hard to think that we are leaving this weekend just in time to miss the flower festival in Spello and the open vineyards this

    With all the unique festivals celebrated in Umbria in May it’s obvious that we need to be here the whole month! Thank you for your your expertise on the history of Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio and for introducing us to your restauranteur and artist friends. It’s hard to believe that we will be leaving just when the Spello flower festival and the open vineyards are happening. But…. Of course, it just means that we will have to come back to your beautiful country again very soon! We enjoyed your articles on both the events of the weekend! Arrivederci!

  7. Brit and Frank

    Annie, we keep telling you that you should write a book. In the meantime, save us a couple of glasses of wine and some sausages.

  8. Rosemary Johnson

    Enjoyed your article and wish I could be there! My son just returned from Adelaide, Australia where his aunt and uncle introduced him to 3 of their favorite wineries. School ends soon…looking forward to summer! Hi to your family!

  9. John Bellanti

    Anne, you make it sound so inviting. As a first generation Italian in America, I never stop yearning for the homeland of my father and my mother’s parents who came from Abruzzo. If the greedy politicians and the indifferent citizens of Italy would get their acts together. Italy would rise once again to the greatest nation in the world. I do not say this to be unkind. I say it from a place of deep love for Italy and my loving memories of living there five years ago for a year. I love and miss my Italian Family in Citta St’Angelo. John Bellanti

  10. Stephanie W

    Now this is a wine festival of wine festivals! How I would have enjoyed being part of the moving throng from one place to the next. A great way to expose folks to the many wines of Umbria. Your friendly and outgoing manner always opens the way to meet people and gives them an opportunity to share a bit of themselves and give us readers a glimpse into Italian life. Pino is right there with you, you two make a great couple! Hanks for sharing and for your always great pictures.

  11. Sally

    Thanks for another good article about Umbria. This made me remember the wonderful wine tasting we went to with you several weeks ago. I like the photos of Pino- I showed my friends the one I took of him with us at dinner. My friends think Pino is very handsome!

  12. Lucy Smith

    Loved your photos, and the article. I can just see you engaging these groups of young people with the black wine bags! You are magic!

  13. Brenda

    We had a wonderful visit with you at the farm. Thank you for such a special experience.

  14. Kris Samuelson

    Alluring Umbria–May seems to be the perfect time! Thanks for this wonderful article.

  15. Sarah Walters

    Oh, how I wish I had been with you and Pino, Annie! What a wonderful activity to enjoy!


Leave a Reply