Gourmet tours in Piedmont
Piedmont, the hilly region around Turin, had been a closed book to long-time Italy resident John Brunton. But a weekend driving round its foodie towns and vine-clad hills opened up a land of friendly family-run hotels and rustic trattorias.
When you have lived in a country for many years there is inevitably one region that tends to get overlooked, the place you'll be sure to visit next year but never do. For me that was always the case with Piedmont, as I concentrated on classic destinations such as Tuscany, Umbria and the Veneto. But when I finally made it here last year, I immediately realised just what I had been missing out on, and why my Italian friends had always berated me for not discovering one of the most surprising and welcoming parts of Italy.
While the landscapes, castles, cuisine and fabulous wines are just as stunning as anything you'll see in Tuscany, Piedmont could be a million miles from Chiantishire. Tourism hasn't become big business yet, and prices for eating out in traditional trattorias and staying in charming bed and breakfasts or agriturismi could not be more reasonable.
The Piedmontese are reserved people, very proud of their culture and language, and while they may not fall over at first to ingratiate themselves with tourists, you soon discover just how hospitable and friendly they are. So, after our first successful visit we decided to head back for a long lazy weekend, driving round its two most enticing and contrasting provinces, Langhe and Roero.
Only an hour on the autostrada from Turin, we kicked off our Piedmont roadtrip at the medieval city of Alba, which sits at the crossroads of Langhe and Roero. Alba is one of the gastronomic capitals of Italy, famed for its white truffles and the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. The best time to arrive in Alba, we discovered, is on a Saturday morning, when the whole town is converted into one giant street market. Canelli is idyllically situated, surrounded by vine-clad hills that produce the Moscato grapes which give Asti Spumante wine its distinctive taste. Steep narrow lanes lead you past grand palazzi and ancient churches, towards a fairytale castle that resembles an ornate wedding cake. The castello is owned by the Gancia family, who invented spumante back in 1865, and today have a huge winery turning out 20 million bottles of bubbly each year. Unsuprising, then, to hear some locals calling their town "Ganciaville".
From Canelli we set off early in the morning in the general direction of Barolo, the town that gives its name to the most famous Italian red wine. The town is dominated by an enormous castle that has been transformed into the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, perfect for tasting a wide selection of the region's wines, which you can buy to take home.
While Langhe is almost totally devoted to growing grapes, with practically every hillside covered with vines, the landscape altered dramatically the moment we crossed over the Tanaro river and entered Roero. Vines are still cultivated here - excellent white wines are made from the local Arneis and Favorita grapes - but the panorama is far more varied, ranging from dense woods and forests that hide elusive truffles and wild mushrooms, to fields planted with crops and grazing land for cattle.
(From a part of John Brunton’s article on The Observer, Sunday 3 May 2009.)
Our tour operator
…is very competent on this unusual Piedmont corner.
What do we mean by “unusual”? Our goal is to help you to discover this region, far from mass tourism and from places too well known. We prefer that you discover the real life of this beautiful country. We are quite often in Piedmont during the year, to better advise you about the more typical and representative places to be visited in this region.
Making us confident, you will live an unforgettable stay without worrying about anything. Take care of your luggage, we take care of everything.
To establish the best offer for you, we need the following details:
Number of participants.
Number of days provided.
A brief description of your wishes.
Our payment terms are as follows:
Half the amount to offer confirmation, the balance 30 days before departure.
You can pay either in Euro (€) or Swiss Francs (CHF) currencies.
Before your departure, you will receive a travel document containing:
A detailed program of your stay.
Brochures from the hotel and restaurants booked for you.
Regional car maps.
Details of the structures to be inserted in a GPS.
General information for our stays
We have other visits and activities available on our book, such as an old Grappa distillery, The Gancia family winery who invented spumante back in 1865, the museum of arts and crafts of yesteryears, and the other one of cork-screw. In the same way, you can ask for sleep in a beautiful Bed & Breakfast instead hotels.
Our proposals are flexible and can be changed according to your wishes and the duration of your stay. A trip can also be prepared according to your own wishes and desires, or based on our seasonal offers.
The proposed themes may suffer if changes are made outside of the weekend, generally from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon. Adjustments will be proposed according to your wishes, season and day of the week.
High season runs from September to the end of November. If you plan to be there at that time, we recommend to book your stay at least at the end of July.
The nearest airport is Torino Caselle, ICAO Code LIMF. Easyjet (easyjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) together fly from nine UK airports to Turin, where Carrentals.co.uk offers car hire from around £24 per day.
Do not hesitate