Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian and literally meaning at the foot of the mountains) is a beautiful region of rolling hills and attractive market towns nestling at the foot of the Alps in the North-West of Italy perfect for a winetour. Apart from being the birthplace of the modern Italian state and the source of the River Po, it is perhaps the most classic of the Italian wine regions. The reputation is built on the serious wines made from the Langhe region made from the Nebbiolo grape: These are the elegant Barbaresco and the huge Barolo.
Barbaresco is the preferred wine of the Piemontese themselves, but when we are in the Langhe region, it is the single vineyard Barolos from the top estates which seize our attention. Although these wines which can fetch fabulous prices here are sometimes remarkably good value in restaurants in Piemonte, there are everyday wines too wuch as the lush and easy Dolcetto, the assertive Barbera, and the frothy, rather fun Moscato d’Asti. The region is also home to Asti Spumante, Vermouth and excellent grappa.
Alba is the principal town of the Langhe and is renowned as the epicurean heart of Piemonte, due in large part to the elusive white truffle. There is a very attractive old quarter and several wonderful classic cafes and wine bars where you can while away the hours watching the locals come and go.
Other interesting towns in the region include Bra, which is home to the ‘Slow Food’ movement. Cherasco, with its broad streets and Baroque churches is a ‘chocoholics heaven’ as there are several excellent artisan chocolate makers here. Indeed chocolate as we know it today was invented in the region. You should try a hot chocolate in one of the cafes, it should be so thick that your spoon can stand up in it!
The main gateway to the area is Turin. This gracious Baroque city on the river Po was once the capital of Italy. There are many splendid Palazzi and large squares with lots of cafes to indulge in the splendid coffee (Turin has a cafe society similar to that of Vienna. You must try the local speciality – a “bicerin” which is a cross between coffee and hot chocolate). The spacious arcades that line Via Roma are home to all the leading Italian designers. The 19th century tower, Mole Antonelliana, is worth a visit for the Italian museum of Cinema that it houses and to visit the viewing platform near the top, which affords splendid views over the city and, to the mountains. There is also an excellent Museo di Automobile and the impressive Egyptian museum.
Piedmont is a superb destination for a wine and food holiday.