The Village of Zavattarello in Lombardy’s Oltrepò Region

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The small, medieval hamlet of Zavattarello is one of Italy’s “Most Beautiful Villages”. Located about 70 km south of Milan in the Lombardy region, it is the perfect destination in any season and far off the beaten path of most tourists. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to begin planning your visit. Andiamo!


Of course, any village in Italy could have entire books devoted to its history alone, but here is a quick summary of a town that has been thriving for over a thousand years! 

We can’t talk about Zavattarello’s history without mentioning its castle. Historians believe that it was possibly built upon a former Roman temple dedicated to Saturn. The Castello dal Verme as we see it today dates to the 10th century and its incredibly thick walls (four meters in some places) have been protecting the village from sieges for centuries. It belonged to its namesake, the Dal Verme family, for 600 years before being taken over by the municipality. 

The only way to visit this completely restored castle is by guided tour during the months of April through September. The top floor has been transformed into an impressive collection of contemporary art and the castle is also surrounded by 80 hectares of a nature reserve. The Barino del Castello restaurant on-site is the perfect spot for everything from a classic Italian aperitivo to catering your wedding. Castle tours begin every hour but opening times vary greatly depending on the day of the week and month. You can check the official website here (in Italian only). 



The village’s main church is the parish church of Saint Paul located near the cemetery. Records of it date back to the year 929 when monks stopped here while transporting Saint Columbanus‘ relics from Bobbio to Pavia. It has been rebuilt and enhanced numerous times over the centuries and most recently underwent a complete restoration in the year 2000. 

As already mentioned, the castle hosts a contemporary art museum which was the private collection of the dal Verme family. It includes mostly 20th-century works with the exception of a few earlier pieces by Count Giuseppe dal Verme himself. Throughout the year, the museum also hosts various temporary exhibitions and events. 

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Cuisine and Culture

Even if you’re only visiting for a day, you must treat yourself to at least some of Zavattarello’s authentic dishes. A sample menu might include an antipasto of cured meat such as Coppa dell’Oltrepò Pavese; followed by a first course of ravioli al brasato; and a second course of wild boar. This area’s typical dessert is a delectable donut called brasadè which can be enjoyed after your meal or as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. 

Summertime events include Zava in festa in early July and a medieval festival in mid-August. You can taste some of its local specialties like honey, truffles, and mushrooms at its early autumn festival in September. The pro loco association’s Facebook page is the best place to get up-to-date information. 


Outdoor Activities

Zavattarello sits at 600 meters above sea level and has stunning views over the Tidone Valley reaching all the way to the Po river. From late spring to early autumn, visitors can enjoy the outdoors and the numerous hiking, biking, and horse trails. It is common for the village to be blanketed in snow in the wintertime. 

Two of the most popular and historic are the Sentiero del Tidone which is a 69 km trail meandering through the valley and also the Via Santi Columbani. The latter was named after the famous Irish monk Columbanus who founded the Bobbio monastery in the early 600s in the nearby Piacenza province.

A fantastic peculiarity of Zavattarello is that it is known as the “village of bees” due to its rich history of beekeeping. In fact, in 1869, Count Luigi dal Verme won a national prize for his precious honey. In the area, there are about 350 hives that are part of the Oltrepò Montano Beekeepers Association, and you can visit a beekeeping museum and the bee garden in the castle.



The best way to get here is by car but if you’re visiting northern Italy’s major cities of Milan, Pavia, or Piacenza, you can take a train to nearby Casteggio, Voghera, or Varzi and then take a bus or taxi. 

Many people feel that this part of Lombardy known as Oltrepò (a fancy way to say “beyond the Po”) is comparable to the countryside in Tuscany minus the tourists. Endless vineyards here produce some of Lombardy’s best wine including pinot noir. If you come in early autumn, you can enjoy the new harvest and witness the vines changing from green into a marvelous gold. 

Zavattarello will likely be a highlight of your trip to northern Italy and a welcome break from the big city crowds. So, get planning!