In Liguria, enjoy incredible ancient culture and some of Italy's best coastal wines.
Italy is a destination for food and wine lovers, without a doubt. But before gastronomy-centered trips became A Thing, people came to Italy to discover famous art, ancient history and culture, and jaw-dropping architecture. Grand Tour travelers came to see these attractions in order to, above all else, “get cultured.”
We say, why not enjoy both ancient culture and food and wine?
We found the perfect candidate along the Ligurian coast, where the ocean shimmers blue all year round, vineyards are hand-harvested on terraced hillsides, and the cliff-side houses are as bright as a box of crayons. Here, the Luni colony from at least as early as the 1st century BC left their inheritance as a city, a territory, a wine zone, and even a winery.
Exploring ancient history in Liguria
Today, Luni is a small town in view of the Ligurian Sea, sitting between the Cinque Terre and Carrara, of Michelangelo’s marbled fame. In fact, it was this strategic location in relation to Carrara that may have lead the ancient Romans to build a colony here in 177 BC. The harbor, whose crescent-moon shape possibly gave origins to the area’s name (luna is “moon” in Latin and Italian), was an important stopping point for marble to be shipped by sea from Carrara to Rome.
Luni grew from a small agricultural colony to an impressive city over the centuries, even though it was often raided due to its proximity to the sea. One legend demonstrates both Luni’s irresistible siren-call to invaders and its magnificence in later centuries: apparently, in 860, the Danish pirate Hastings landed in Luni, where he plundered and set the city aflame—all because he thought that the impressive and beautiful city must be Rome! Luni yo-yoed through periods of economic splendor and sudden declines in wealth and population (thanks, Hastings) until it was eventually abandoned.
Excavations began in 1951, uncovering hallmarks of ancient Roman cities, like a centuriation grid layout and all the classic buildings you’d expect to see in an ancient Roman site. Today, some of the most impressive are the Great Temple, built a few years after the city was founded; a Forum from 1 AD; an elliptical amphitheater seating 6,000, where gladiators likely fought; and a traditional Domus, or house of the rich and middle class, with marble floors, frescoes, and a garden. The National Archaeological Museum of Luni in Ortonovo is five minutes away and displays the many artifacts and statues from what is Liguria’s most important archaeological site.
Cantine Lunae, a cultured winery
The Luni gave their name not only to the modern-day city, but also to the Lunigiana valley in Tuscany just over the border, the wine zone Colli di Luni (Hills of Luni), and even to a winery that sits not five minutes away from the site: Cantine Lunae.
Cantine Lunae was founded in 1966 by Paolo Bosoni, whose idea from the beginning was to create a winery that also included food, art, and history as integral parts of the wine experience. The villa and adjacent buildings that make up the winery and resort are in a beautiful restructured farm building dating back to the 1700s.
Alongside their wines, Cantina Lunae has a structure called Ca’Lunae. This is a resort with a restaurant (also open for non-resort guests), a liqueur production area called Essentiae, a laboratory where traditional food products and liquors are made (using exclusively local, seasonal ingredients), and a cultural center with its on-premises Museum of Material Wine Culture. Here, historical winemaking artifacts and tools are on display. Its objects were curated by Paolo Bosoni himself over the course of thirty years, and catalogued and presented by experts and historians.
Get your fill of ancient Rome in Luni and a dose of modern history at Ca’Lunae before setting in to a wine tasting with some of Liguria’s signature whites and reds.
The wines of Colli di Luni in Liguria
When you think of Italian wine, Liguria probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. But this region serves up some of Italy’s most crisp and unique labels alongside the freshest herb- and seafood-based dishes in all the Bel Paese.
The Colli di Luni wine zone is an Italian rarity. Located mostly in Liguria, this denomination is one of only fifteen, out of over four hundred in Italy, that spills into a second region—in this case, Tuscany. As such, its wines display qualities of both. Colli di Luni wines can be either red or white. In its red version, sangiovese is the most important grape, blended with other, often local varieties like pollera nero or ciliegiolo. Vermentino is the most important white grape of this area, and is often found in the white Colli di Luni as a blend or as a varietal wine—100% vermentino. It is quintessential Liguria, and at its best, the Vermentino wines are well-structured and savory, with fruity and herbal notes—a wine that can stand up to heartier Ligurian cuisine like stoccafissa, tripe, and the flavorful soups and fish of the region.
Cantine Lunae presents an excellent example of this pure vermentino Colli di Luni DOC with its Etichetta Nera, or “Black Label.” Vinified all in stainless steel, it shows vermentino at its best, clean and pure: it has elegant aromas of wildflower, spices, and herbs, ripe fruit, and honey; and in the mouth it is well-structured, balanced, and persistent.
The ancient Luni would be proud to be the namesake of such great wines.