Piedmont, 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. Travelers who have been to Rome, Florence, the Almafi Coast, and even Tuscany, will find in Piedmont a relatively quiet, off-the-beaten-path series of hill villages where families have been making wine and digging for truffels for centuries.
The cities of Piedmont – Asti, Alba, Torino – are not swarming with tourists searching for Pucci and Prada goods. You have to love solitude, excellent Barolos and Barbaressca wines, narrow winding roads, and have a sense of culinary adventure, to get the most out of a stay here.
If you have a few days and want to unwind in Piedmont, here’s a pictorial step by step guide:
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1. Drive through the “Valley of Apricots” on the spectacular road (3 1/2 hours) from Montreux Switzerland to Asti Italy. Stop at one of the many road stands along the way.
2. Plan to unwind at a vineyard estate inn like Castello Di Razzano (about 125 Euro/night for a very large room). To try 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, you need not leave this exquisite hilltop wine resort. Castello Di Razzano is about 15 minutes drive from Asti, Italy.
2A: Try out a nearby traditional restaurant like Ristorante Da Maria in Zanco, just 4 km from the Castello. You might even get a ride back via the chef, Georgio and his maitre d brother, Roberto Penna.
3. 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).
4. Take a wine tour, followed by a wine seminar and bountiful homemade food pairings at Agriturismo Il Bricco in Treiso (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.