Traveling in Piedmont

Traveling in Piedmont

Located in northern Italy at the nexus of Piedmont’s storied Barbaresco and Barolo wine regions, the Langhe is a study in light and texture. Ragged Alpine summits and serrated crags backdrop melodic swells of vineyard plots, their mismatched trellis patterns resembling fingernail scratches on a piece of velvet. Fog washes down the mountains in thick layers, creating a dramatic play of shadow and sun. Visitors come for the wine, but stay for the views.

The Langhe offers world-class wine, food and cultural travel experiences, all reachable by car and possible to enjoy in stays of three days or more. Fly into the Turin or Milan airports and the region can be reached by car within 45 minutes or 2.5 hours, respectively.

“We have 19 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than anywhere else, and over 1,000 wineries to visit,” says vintner Angelo Gaja, a central figure in Piedmont’s wine identity. “People truly come here to explore their passion for food and wine.”

Below are two driving itineraries to help you discover the best of the Langhe, with insider tips and wine suggestions to match.

The Barbaresco Loop

The cheerful town of Alba is a fitting base for exploring the greater Langhe. Ferrero, which created the chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella, is headquartered here, and its delicious scents are carried by the winds. Colorful wine bars and boutiques line either side of the pedestrian Via Maestra that links the café-lined Piazza Savona to Piazza Duomo.

Although the lodging in Alba lacks charm, this bustling town is an excellent day stop for serious foodies. On the Piazza Savona, check out the reasonably priced Osteria dell’Arco, whose carne cruda all’Albese battuta al coltello (minced raw beef similar to steak tartar, but without the egg or spices) is not to be missed. Across the square, Enoclub Ristorante, which features an elegant dining room in a vaulted cellar, turns out memorable specialties like tortino di carciofi con fonduta di Parmigiano (artichoke heart patty on a bed of melted cheese).

One of Alba’s best restaurants is La Libera, which offers an exhaustive wine list to pair with local dishes. Ravioli di gallina nel suo brodo (ravioli in chicken broth) can be followed by capretto arrostito (roast kid). La Piola on Piazza Duomo was founded by the Ceretto wine family. This upscale bistro with a chalkboard menu and enclosed outdoor seating makes a mean fritto misto Piemontese (fried meatballs and vegetables). Upstairs is the prized Piazza Duomo, which offers a formal dining experience choreographed by chef Enrico Crippa.

Leaving Alba by car, head toward Treiso, home of the celebrated Roncaglia and Pajorè vineyard crus and producers Rizzi, Pelissero and Orlando Abrigo. This township boasts some of the highest-altitude vineyards in the Barbaresco zone, resulting in lightly nuanced and elegant wines. The road curves up to the ridge of the hilltops, opening onto infinite panoramas of cascine and casòt (farmhouses and small buildings) scattered among the never-ending vineyards.

Not to be missed, La Ciau del Tornavento is located in Treiso’s old post office and offers charming rooms and vineyard-facing dining. One tasting menu is inspired by fresh garden herbs and includes asparagus soup with oregano, Parmigiano, poached egg and black truffle shavings. For a quick lunch, try the colorful Profumo di Vino in Treiso’s main square. Located slightly outside of town, Ada Nada is a family-run bed-and-breakfast that’s located in an 18th-century farmhouse, with a friendly atmosphere.

Black truffles for sale at Tartufi Ponzio in AlbaThe next town is Neive, known for tannic and structured expressions of Barbaresco from the Serraboella, Gallina and Basarin crus. Locanda Contea serves up delicious handmade pasta and offers sundrenched rooms to rent in the upstairs inn. Cantina del Rondò offers well-priced Langhe country cooking.

The looming tower of Barbaresco draws you to the heart of this fabled wine region. The paved road takes you past well-known vineyard sites like Martinenga, Asili, RabajĂ  and Ovello.

Popular tasting rooms are Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy, which offers vineyard tours and tastings by reservation, and Produttori del Barbaresco, one of Italy’s most prestigious co-operatives. A visit here (with a reservation) allows you to taste through old vintages.

Every wine lover’s dream, of course, is to visit the cellars of Angelo Gaja (you can see his gate midway down the main drag in Barbaresco). Sadly, visits are limited to wine professionals, and even they must fill out an online questionnaire.

After you have walked up and down the short length of Barbaresco, you might book dinner at Ristorante Antinè for a bottle of local wine paired with roast lamb and crispy onion cakes. Loop back to Alba by way of the Tanaro River.

The Barolo Loop

A natural starting point for a tour of Barolo is the Castello di Grinzane in Grinzane Cavour. This imposing brick edifice was the residence of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour in the 19th century and a leading figure of the Italian unification. Today, it houses the most important visitors’ center in the Langhe.

You can taste Barbaresco and Barolo at the on-premise Piedmontese Regional Enoteca as well as purchase wine, cheeses and truffles. There is also a museum and an excellent restaurant that serves local cuisine paired with wines you select from the Enoteca. Delightful lodging steps away from the castle’s gate may be found at Hotel Casa Pavesi, which offers 12 beautifully decorated rooms.

Il Cubo is an artistic representation of Barolo at Ceretto's Bricco Rocche wineryLike Barbaresco, most family-run boutique wineries in Barolo require reservations for winery tours and tastings. Every wine lover will have his or her favorite producers to visit, but here are a few excellent starting points.

Located in Alba, Pio Cesare boasts some of the oldest cellars in Piedmont. Ceretto welcomes visitors daily without a reservation (for approximately $20) and offers a massive fiberglass dome from which you can admire the vineyards. Marchesi di Barolo has developed a beautiful visitor center that accommodates 40,000 wine tourists each year. Damilano has a terrific wine shop, and Renato Ratti offers a packed wine museum. Visually stunning, Fontanafredda is headquartered in a massive palace that once belonged to the royal Savoy family.

From Grinzane Cavour, follow the signs for La Morra. One of the most celebrated restaurants in the Langhe is located on the winding road that snakes toward town. Ristorante Bovio sits high on a ledge with views extending to the Alps. It also serves unforgettable house-made pasta. Raviolini del plin ai tre arrosti nel loro ristretto are hand-shaped pockets stuffed with meat and served in a reduction sauce made from three roasted meats. If you haven’t already feasted on brasato di manzo al Barolo (beef braised in Barolo wine), try it here. Osteria Veglio (Fraz. Annunziata, 9) and the less formal, Osteria dei Vignaioli are two local favorites.

At more than 1,600 feet above sea level, La Morra offers commanding views of the entire Barolo production area (a little plaque on Piazza Castello offers a map of the panoramic Belvedere in front of you). From the center of town, a dirt road leads down to the Cerequio cru and the delightful hotel recently inaugurated in its honor. Owned by vintner Michele Chiarlo and his family, Palas Cerequio Barolo Cru Resort is modern and sleek, with a sun-filled reading room, music by the pool and minimalist bedrooms that all deliver spectacular Cerequio views.

Barolo is the next town to visit, and the main attraction here is the WiMu Wine Museum housed in the spectacular Castello di Barolo. Designed by the people who created the Cinema Museum in Turin, there is nothing ordinary about the exhibits here. Music, light, touch and texture take you through a sensorial tour of Barolo wine. The museum tour ends in the castle cellars, where you can taste various wine flights at the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo.

Carne cruda (minced raw beef) is a local specialty served at Osteria dell'Arco in AlbaIf you are looking for a delicious, home-cooked meal in town, try the country fare at La Cantinetta (Via Roma, 33) or Osteria La Cantinella (Via Acqua Gelata, 4/a). Both offer hearty Piemontese classics like bagna cauda (vegetables in a hot anchovy dip), Barolo risotto, brasato or panna cotta. If you desire a more sophisticated dining experience, head for Locanda nel Borgo Antico, which has an amazing selection of main courses, a wide selection of cheeses like toma, robiola, caprino and blĂą, and more than 800 wines.

Monforte d’Alba is yet another destination for unforgettable food and wine. This beautiful town offers many tantalizing choices. Trattoria della Posta presents vitello cotto nel sale con salsa tonnata (veal cooked in salt and served with a creamy tuna sauce) and cipolla ripiena di toma di Murazzano e salsiccia di Bra cotta al forno (tomatoes stuffed with toma cheese and sausage). Hotel and restaurant Da Felicin is located in a beautifully frescoed country manor with a lushly shaded garden. Le Case della Saracca offers elegant room and board with a highly recommended restaurant. Hotel Villa Beccaris is yet another gorgeous piece of real estate that offers luxury accommodation in a country setting.

The last two towns on this loop are Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto, which take you to the far reaches of Barolo. Il Boscareto Resort & Spa was built recently by Barolo producer Beni di Batasiolo and remains the only five-star property in the Langhe. The hotel offers all modern amenities, a spa and an excellent restaurant named La Rei, which is enclosed in dark glass and filled with contemporary furnishings. Try the suckling pig in sesame crust. The scenery becomes more rustic and lonely near Castiglione Falletto before the road loops back to Barolo.


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Published on August 12, 2013