The Piedmont Region, in Italy’s northwest corner just over the Swiss border, has one of the most achingly beautiful landscapes in the country if not on the whole face of the earth. Known for the uber expensive white truffle, and a hot spot during Truffle Season, this area of Northern Italy is tranquil and uncrowded at other times of the year.
Travelers who have been to the hidden gems in Rome, or explored the things to do in Rome, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, and even Tuscany, will find a relatively quiet, off-the-beaten path. Here are a series of hill villages where families have been making wine and digging for truffles for centuries.
The cities of Piedmont – Asti, Alba, Torino – are not swarming with tourists searching for Pucci and Prada goods. Consequently, you have to love solitude, excellent Barolo, Barbaresco, and other grape varieties, narrow winding roads, and have a sense of culinary adventure, to get the most out of a stay here.
The areas of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And Piedmont has been heralded as a center of the “Slow Food” movement.
If you have a few days and want to unwind in Piedmont, here’s a pictorial step by step guide:
1. Drive through the “Valley of Apricots”
It’s a spectacular road trip (3 1/2 hours) from Montreux Switzerland to Asti Italy.
So, be sure to stop at one of the many road stands along the way that sell just-picked fruit. You’ll be tempted to eat these fresh apricots then and there.
2. Plan to unwind at a Piedmont vineyard estate inn like Castello Di Razzano
Sip estate wines, indulge in truffles, take a cooking class, peruse a “winemaking museum” or sit by one of the most stunningly set pools in the world. In order to do all of these things, you need not leave this exquisite hilltop wine resort. Although you can: Castello Di Razzano is just a 15 minutes drive from Asti, Italy.
The pristine pool is set among vineyards with views of undulating hills in the distance.
Furthermore, you’re never too far from a glass of wine at Castello Di Razzano. The family produces its own wine and sells it to guests. Tastes are free.
The Castello also features a History of Winemaking Museum on the premises. It’s a cool, informative trip though time.
3. Try out a nearby traditional restaurant
Ristorante Da Maria in Zanco is just 4 km from the Castello. You might even get a ride back via the chef, Georgio and his maitre d brother, Roberto Penna.
Ristorante Da Maria in Zanco is family owned and family run.
4. Sign up for a cooking class
If staying at Castello Di Razzano, an Italian Mama comes to you. ($125 per person includes instruction and multi-course meal. Truffles and Wine additional). Otherwise, ask the concierge to set up a cooking class elsewhere.
Learn the fine art of pasta-making.
And then feast on the finished products! The views and wine could not be better.
5. Take a wine tour at a generations-old family vineyard
Montaribaldi Vineyards has been turning out the rich red wines that have put this region of Italy on the map.
There are plenty of hints that even the youngest members of the family are involved in wine production.
In fact, at Montaribaldi, the newest generation traditionally draws pictures that become signature wine labels.
6. Enjoy a wine seminar with bountiful homemade food pairings
Agriturismo Il Bricco in Treiso is a ten minutes drive from Alba. Sommelier, Serena, teaches groups about the Barolos and Barbaresco reds that have won over many a French wine loyalist. In addition to the wine tours and tastings, you can also stay in this 4 room farmhouse for less than $100 per night.
Be sure to arrive with a huge appetite (for both wine and food). Every morsel that comes from the kitchen is better than the one before. And there are many.