10 things to do in Piedmont- Part I
10 things to do in Piedmont, on an autumn gateway
Wonder why “la dolce vita” concept comes from Italy? The food, the wine, the spectacular landscapes, the art and history, fashion, beautiful cars…is there anything Italy is missing?
As we happen to adore those particular aspects of life (with focus in landscapes wine and food) we decided again to visit Italy, after our vacation in Montalcino in the summertime and Bolgheri few years back on our first trip as a couple. And yes, we’re following the wine road again. This time in autumn and this one in Piedmont: amazing colors on the hills, the light and the harvest fuzz, the truffle festival, the perfect moment to visit this region.
- Just in time for Alba White Truffle Festival 2016 hold in Palazzo Tartuffo.
Alba celebrates with an incredible array of gourmet items, made with and without truffles: cheese, pasta, salami, honey with truffles, sweets, etc. And of course, plenty of wine is available for tasting. People all over the world come for this festival as it is a true celebration of truffles with many interesting opportunities to learn and taste, including various workshops. The truffle hunters are exposing in many stands and you can admire their hunts and a professional jury will judge for the highest quality, biggest & most beautiful truffles. After some serious shopping at the Fair, we are ready to head to one famous region:
- Barbaresco village, one of the Piedmont’s spectacular wine route.
The village center is very charming, set around the medieval tower, a symbol of the village datable to the 12th century. The Romans called it Barbarica Silva, for the oak forest that covered the biggest part of the land at the time of their conquest. The drive to the village is beautiful, with endless views over the rolling vineyards. The village surprised us with its old-world charm. Here you may pick a wine producer and make an appointment for some tasting: Montefico, Montestefano, Rabaja and of course Gaja- one of the most iconic names in all of Italian wine. In fact Giovanni Gaja put the names Gaja and Barbaresco on the map by confiding in the Nebiollo grapes grown in this area. The compact soils formed of limestone marls, sub-alkaline and rich in micro and macroelements produce well-structured, complex wines which withstand the test of time and make Barbaresco one of the most outstanding. It is known for being elegant, soft, an approachable wine that also ages well, with flavors of dry flowers, violets, white truffles, and anise.
Once you are in center Barbaresco, you have to go to the church… not your typical kind of church, but a unique exhibit of wines dedicated to God. Inside of the former Saint Donato Brotherhood, there is the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco, sitting pretty on the main square, waiting for its parishioners.. the wine lovers. That’s the thing in Italy: they think God might love a little thanks in a bottle of wine for the wonderful wine production of the hills surrounding the village. Quite an extravagance!
- Lunch in the town of Bra
Visit the elegant Bra for some lunch and here is the place to understand the slow food concept. Bra is the town were the slow food author, Carlo Petrini, was born. He first came to prominence in the ‘80s for taking part in a campaign against the fast food. “The note of regional gastronomic authenticity that has long been preached by Carlo Petrini and his Slow Food brethren is most clearly defined at Osteria del Boccondivino, a charming 16th century courtyard restaurant managed by Slow Food since 1984. Its menu promotes Slow Food Presidia projects, promoting small-scale production of superb-quality foods in dishes made according to traditional practices: carne cruda or snails with spring onions and beans to the irresistible fresh pasta tajarin (the famed “40 egg yolks” ribbon pasta) with butter and sage sauce, or a truly extraordinary panna cotta, made without gelatin and held firm by exceptional, thick local cream”. Osteria del Boccondivino impressed us all! We ordered a table for 7, as our friends and their adorable children joined us for this trip. We really had that tipical Italian Sunday family lunch in an atmosphere that you see in the movies. Such a great energy and a beautiful place! A stunning introduction to slow food in action: traditional foods, wines, desserts…everything amazing! From all the things we tried my favorite were Ravioli di zucca con Tartufo Nero paired with Rossj Bass 2015 and the rabbit- with a fantastic taste, cooked perfectly, melting in the mouth paired with some Albino Rocca Barbaresco Montersino 2012. For the dessert, the Semifreddo al croccante e pistachio and the sponge cake were my favs. They were paired with a glass of Moscato D’Asti Bricco Quaglia 2015 from La Spinetta. A real spoil!
- Visit Banca del Vino
The Pollenzo village, situated south from Alba-Bra is worth a visit. The beautiful restructured neo-Gothic country estate of King Carlo Alberto of Savoy now contains the University of Gastronomic Sciences (Slow Food association) and the Banca del Vino as well as a hotel and restaurant. The property is big and very romantic for a walk. The church behind it is Baroque architecture and was restored during the 1600s by the House of Savoy. Inside the Banca del Vino there are around 100.000 of wines from all over Italy, with descriptions and samples of their soil. We took a tour with tastings and a long walk through the cellar. They know that in order to best appreciate wine, one must get to know that land, along with and thanks to the wine.
As per the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the Gastronomes are a new type of food professional with an in-depth understanding of the entire web of food production, from agriculture to processing to distribution.
Choices and choices
- Cook at home (especially when travelling with kids)
Airbnb is the right place to find a wonderful holiday house. With all the facilities to make us feel like Italy takes us in, this house impresses with all its details from coffee cups and to linen, table cloths and impressive design. In the tranquil setting of our farmhouse accommodation, surrounded by the stunning Piedmontese landscape, we felt comfortable to stay in the evenings and involve everyone in the activity of cooking and table setting. The plan was to taste typical dishes & products, accompanied by the best wines of the area. So we had a lot of antipasti from the Fair and cooked some Tajarin- the Piedmont signature pasta- some with white truffles and some with tomato, garlic, basil, spices and plenty of quality olive oil accompanied by few glasses of Barolo and Barbaresco to try. I have to admit that the Tajarin with Parmesan and shaved truffles did fill us up. Some artisan desserts to enjoy on the balcony with a glass of Moscato D’Asti La Caliera from Borgo Maragliano, lots of giggles and, if I am allowed to say, plenty of “bonheur”.
The SCHEDULE for the Markets – for Food and Truffles!
MONDAY – La Morra, Monforte
TUESDAY – Dogliani, Alba
WEDNESDAY – Asti (big market) Bra, Neive
THURSDAY – Grinzane Cavour, Castagnole delle Lanze, Carru
FRIDAY – Bra (big market)
SATURDAY – Alba (big market)
SUNDAY – Costiglione d’Asti.
Saturday breakfast: antipasti and poached eggs paired with a bottle of Contratto
Pio Cesare 2004 for dinner, to join our appetizers
A great wine to enjoy with antipasto, with slight acid and balanced palate. menthol, eucalypti, cherry, floral, tobacco and spices.