Claudia Da Rin

Piedmont. Land of plenty – Italy’s noble north in the autumn

Have you tried a prized truffle yet?

Piedmont. At the foot of the mountains. This is the place where a realm of unexpected surprises unwinds in front of your eyes. Northwestern Italy may well have been off most people’s radars in the past, but the spell has now been cast. Visit Piemonte once and you will fall in love with it pronto. Although, to be fair, haste does not belong to this heavenly speck of land. This is the place where every produce is borne out of love and devotion – the Slow Food movement was created here back in 1986 - for here patience yields superb results. Piedmont offers a matchless journey of the senses that rests on an enviable, solid cultural background – Turin, its capital, was once home to the First King of Italy – where the warmth of the people fills you with joy. Not to mention an extraordinary food and wine bonanza and world-renowned harvest festivals – have you tried a prized truffle yet?

Autumn is the ideal time to visit, auburn and gold abounding and blessing the painterly landscapes.  It’s high time you hit the road.

1. Wine delights

Ask any Italian which region produces the best wine and they’ll proudly defend their own. You could actually spend a lifetime exploring Italy’s rich oenological wealth, with outstanding varieties across the peninsula, all worthy of a mention. Piedmontese wines, however, come close to the top of the list, the reason being the rich soil, the strong sun and heat in the summer, and the locals’ dedication to wine-growing and wine-making traditions. The Langhe-Roero and Monferrato areas, south-east of Turin, are UNESCO protected and wine has been grown here ever since antiquity. Pliny the Elder talked about the region as being one of the most favourable for wine-growing, a practice that has been going on ever since the 5th century BC. These days, Piedmontese wines have risen to stratospheric heights, with the most prestigious bottles of Barolo selling for thousands of dollars. Nebbiolo and Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera del Monferrato, Brachetto d’Acqui and Moscato d’Asti are some of the few excellent wine productions, so the best way to explore the area is to commit to an unforgettable wine tasting experience, whose memories will last – and last.

2. Food ecstatic

Foodies may believe they stepped into heaven when visiting Piedmont, the incredibly rich selection of cheese, filled pasta and biscotti reaching new stature. Piedmontese cheeses are a revelation. Most people only realise how varying their taste can be only when they visit. Local cheese sorts are in fact linked to changes in the soil, in the forage eaten by the animals and in the artisanal production. Simply try velvety smooth risotto al Castelmagno with the pungent and crumbly cheese; or nutty, savoury Bra in their hard or softer varieties, Robiola di Roccaverano, made with goat’s milk, or moderately spicy Raschera and delicately scented Murazzano. The list could surely go on… Piedmontese home-made filled pasta tastes divine and a bite of tajarin, agnolotti and agnolotti del Plin will show you why. If you are into sweet delights, do not miss the many delicious biscuits: appealing baci di dama, delightful krumiri, almondy brut & bon and the lovely Gianduiotti chocolate, made with Piedmontese hazelnuts and created in 1865. Are you ready for some memorable culinary pleasures?


3. Alba and truffles a plenty

Famous, much loved and exceptional truffles grow spontaneously and only practice and experience will lead you to their discovery. Their distinct flavour can make any dish an exquisite one and if you are a fan of this white treasure, the Alba International White Truffle Fair is the place to be. The festival has been going strong for over ninety years and it will take place from 9 October to 5 December 2021. The fair celebrates everything around truffle-related, so you will learn about its history, you could try a sensory analysis which will guide you to its recognition, take part in taste workshops, wine tasting experiences, cooking shows and pasta ateliers. The whole city of Alba gets festive at this time, with medieval re-enactments and a donkey palio. Alba, known as the Queen of the Langhe, should know one thing or two about a conscientious approach to food, as the Slow Food movement was created here. The idea is to protect and promote local products that may otherwise disappear; Piedmont offers 37 presidi (or strongholds) which include honey, cheese, vegetables and cured meats. Sensational.

4. From pharaohs to monarchs – Turin is king

An art lovers’ paradise, Italy can stun and confound when it comes to its artistic heritage. Piedmont is no exception, with royal collections and evocative castles, world-class museums and Turin should really not go amiss. Its Roman past is blatant in its square plan with apparently endless roads, while its regal history is seen in its lavishly decorated Palazzo Reale. Hosting the splendid Galleria Sabauda, with works by the likes of Rubens, Veronese and Rembrandt, you will also find the world famous Chapel of the Holy Shroud – although the Holy Shroud itself is kept in nearby Saint John’s Cathedral. Visit Palazzo Madama for four floors of stunning decorative arts and the equally marvellous Modern Art Museum, with splendid 19th and 20th century artworks. History lovers will adore the Egyptian Museum, second only to the one in Il Cairo, with brilliant displays and priceless Egyptian artworks. Outside Turin, the Reggia di Venaria Reale should really be on your top list: one of the largest royal residencies in the world and a UNESCO heritage landmark, it comes with its lovely Italian-style garden and it hosts exhibitions and various events. Are you ready to live your very own fairy-tale

5. The glory of autumn strolls

The colourful autumn leaves reveal sensational shades and now is the perfect time to go and discover new territories. In southern Piedmont, you are never too far from a good glass of wine and supreme food, so why not choose a “gourmet walk” to get to know the place? Try the vineyard path in La Morra - also home to the colourful Chapel of Our Lady Grace, restored by Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett - the Castle of Roddi or the Wolf Tour in Montelupo Albese. La Via del Dolcetto, by Ovada, goes along lovely vineyards and can be undertaken with a bike as well, while there exist several tours that can be done on a horseback. Riding a horse is the best way to explore a land, with several stables around Cremolino. Denice is home to an open-air museum, with its 63 ceramic sculptures dotted around the place, while Castagnole Monferrato hosts the biggest sundial in the world. Shall we go then?

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