Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Soave Traditional Vineyards, Italy

GIAHS since 2018


Detailed Information



Global importance

The traditional way to train the vines, the Pergola Veronese, is an iconic feature of the landscape in the area. Its structure is suitable to produce fine white wines in a changing climate, even though it does not allow a high rate of mechanization. The grape grower, in fact, must intervene manually both in the maintenance and in the management of the canopy, and they harvest by hand. This traditional processing and native grape varieties, which are in a complete balance with the soil and climate condition, have been conserved for generations.

Food and livelihood security

The traditional vineyards in the area has provided local farmers with income for more than 200 years. In order to raise net values of wine and maintain their price, the area obtained European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 1968. In addition, the farmers have established cooperative wineries and they give indications on the times and procedures for harvest, spraying, pest control so that products are more in line with the requirements of consumers. With a complex compensation system, the cooperatives guarantee to their members a fair income each year, despite the fluctuations in the market prices.


As territory guardians, the grape growers in Soave area have maintained different ecological features, such as ecological hallway, minor crops, and marginal areas. The farmers grow not only grapes but also other products, such as cherries, olives and peas. Regarding grapes, the area has two indigenous varieties that grow practically only in the region in the world.  One variety is Garganega, which represents an ancient and renowned vine, cultivated especially in the Veneto region and in the districts of Verona and Vicenza. The other variety is Trebbiano di Soave, which is also ancient and has been known since Roman age.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

To prevent soil erosion and exploit the gradients, the most widely system of planting in rows is the contour plowing. Contour plowing is a perfect method to retain soil and limiting surface runoff but is not suitable to mechanization. Rows are positioned in parallel to the contour lines and the storm drains are dug along them in order to lead rainwater in another drain which is located along the maximum gradient line.  Though this technique is common in other parts of Italy, it adapts perfectly to the Soave hills where the shape of the fields is irregular and of limited size because of the high fragmentation of the property. Dry stone walls are not necessarily soil retaining walls, but they can also be used in the fencing and delimitation of the roads connecting agricultural holdings. We can also find embankments to divide the lands into terraces.

In addition to the contour plowing, the area has developed a vine growing form called Veronese pergola, which is typical and unique. Compared to the most modern espalier structures, the pergola shows the maximum capability in its interception of the solar radiation and an excellent ability to achieve a good balance between growth and fruit production in the most vigorous environments.

Cultures, value systems and social organisations

In the area, a variety of agricultural festivals and events have been passed down over generations as important cultural activities supporting agriculture. These not only include grape and wine festivals but also carnivals. Among them, the Grape Festival, which occurs every year on the third weekend of September is the most prestigious celebration in Soave. It started in 1929, and it was the first of this kind in Italy. Today, there is an annual competition to decide who produced the best grapes and a local association hang the grapes under the medieval gate to make a particular sweet wine.

Landscapes and seascapes features

The landscape of the area has peculiar features, such as the vineyards that cover hilly lands, dry-stone walls, trees among the vines, historical chestnuts and buildings. Typical pergola landscape are tie-rods, which support vine shoots and can be found in the most ancient vineyards. In addition to the pergola, farmers have built dry-stone walls to delimit the roads, embankments to create terraces on the slopes. They are important components of the landscape in Soave.