After 3 months without a weekend off, I found a dogsitter and a great excuse to escape into the north of Italy for the Merano wine festival. It is really a great event for wine lovers and I would definitely put it on your list of things to do in Italy worth a special trip. Merano is in Alto Adige, not far from Bolzano where the German influence is much noticed. All the roads are well kept, the streets and sidewalks are clean as a whistle and both German and Italian are spoken and almost all signs are in both languages.
It is well known for its house of cure and thermal baths and also the gardens of Trauttmansdorf Castle (none of which I visited, unfortunately)
The wine festival is by invitation only for the wineries and all wines must be judged by a panel to be accepted. The clientele is much different than Vinitaly where there are mobs of the young and those who are there to get plastered. Here, I noticed most visitors were knowledgeable wine types who were there to try new grape varieties and regions as well as famous vintners from France, Italy and the rest of the world.
My old friend, Matteo, from the slow food master's program and voted best young sommelier in Italy a couple of year's ago came over from Locarno to join me and he did his homework prior to arrival. With 70 of the best wineries and wines written out, 2 men on a mission proceeded to find 69 of the 70 in one day with a few extras thrown in.