The scenery is breathtaking and there are plenty of rooftop bars where you can experience the vistas with a negroni or a glass of wine in hand. At the Turin Palace Hotel, you’ll see ceramic tiled roofs to one side, and snow-topped Alpine peaks to the other. Here, you can really understand the name Piedmont – meaning “foot of the mountain”.
I knew I would be a regular to this region the first time that local aromatic white Alba truffle, foraged that day, was shaved over freshly made pasta in front of my eyes. Home to the wine regions of Roero, Gavi, Langhe and Unesco-listed Monferrato, this is the region of Italy for you if you enjoy wine tasting, outstanding local food and sunset walks among grape vines.
Whether you base yourself in Turin, Asti or Alessandria, here’s everything you need to know before travelling to Piedmont – from the wines and vineyards worth knowing to the best time of year to visit and where to stay.
How to get there
Piedmont can be accessed easily from Turin or Milan’s two airports of Malpensa and Linate, which gives you flexibility in terms of timings and outbound airports. British Airways operates flights to all three airports from London Heathrow and Gatwick. EasyJet runs flights from Stanstead or Gatwick.
Once you’ve arrived in Italy, hiring a car is the best way to navigate the area. Driving south from either Turin or Milan, past rolling hills and vineyards, in an hour or so you’ll find yourself in the centre of the grape-growing region.
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When to go
With the hubbub of harvest and the International Alba White Truffle Fair, autumn really is the best season to visit. From the ochre sunsets and tractor trailers piled high with glistening vine fruit to the chance to try the world-famous tartufi bianchi (white truffles) of Alba, this time of year is heaven for foodies.
Wine regions: Alto Monferrato and Gavi
Where to stay
If combining good food and relaxation is your thing, Nordelaia – with its fine-dining restaurant and infinity pools overlooking vineyards – is the place to be. Located in the east of the region, in the province of Alessandria, it’s a picturesque drive from either Turin or Milan. An independently owned hotel, situated amid the Unesco-listed Montferrato wine region, there are just 12 rooms and suites here. The ethos at this 800-year-old farmhouse encourages guests to enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). The owners even make their own wine from the surrounding vineyard. Their own-label Calligram wine showcases the region’s traditional grape varieties barbera and dolcetto in both a perfectly balanced red and rosé.
What to do
Once you’ve taken in a local vineyard and enjoyed a treatment at Nordelaia’s spa, it’s time to partake in the hotel’s gastronomic delights. Lorto restaurant is a relaxed fine-dining space led by British chef Charles Pearce. Views of the beautiful hills of Alto Monferrato, pastel colours, and natural materials make for a very special experience. Bounty from the hotel’s vegetable garden along with seafood from nearby Liguria are the cornerstones of the menus.
To add even more anticipation, as part of a seasonal pop-up series, the hotel has collaborated with some of the best chefs in the business. This September, it was the turn of London-based chef Ivan Tisdall-Downes from the iconic Native restaurant. In November, Jacob Kenedy, of Bocca di Lupo fame, is hosting a very special truffle experience.
Which vineyards to visit
Very rarely do you find a beautiful estate that also produces good quality wine. La Giustiniana is an ancient property that lies just north of Gavi in the heart of the DOC. It is a magnificent estate with a wine history dating back to the 10th century. Known for its crisp, nutty white wines produced from the cortese grape, the municipality of Gavi is internationally recognised. Built in the Neoclassical style, the lemon-hued La Giustiniana villa is typically Italian – all framed by the unique views of the sloping vineyard hills.
Province: Asti and Cuneo
Wine regions: Monferrato, Langhe and Roero
Where to stay
An hour’s drive west of Nordelaia, heading deeper into wine country, you’ll find yourself in Monferrato, famous for its rolling hills, umber sunsets and world-class wines. Langhe extends into lower Piedmont, between the provinces of Asti and Cuneo. Here, you’ll find the resplendent Marchesi Alfieri – a baroque castle dating back to 1696.
Hidden among the hills, this impressive estate is still the home of the influential San Martino di San Germano family. Now, a few paces from the cellar, the extensive estate houses seven elegant guest rooms, each with en-suite bathrooms. Instrumental in building Piedmont’s historical, cultural and wine-making heritage, this place is both beautiful and affordable (double classic rooms start from €140 (£122) per night, including breakfast).
Stunning views and bags of personality make it a great base when exploring the region. I’d recommend a wine tasting with head winemaker Mario Olivero. Unusually for this region, they produce a pinot noir, which is light, supple and utterly delicious.
What to do
After exploring the Marchesi Alfieri orangerie and gardens, head to the picturesque villages of Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. For lunch, Le Torri offers great views and classic local dishes such as vitello tonnato (veal in a creamy sauce). If you’d like a luxury experience to really make the most of the time of year, you can also book a truffle-foraging trip or rent a vintage car in which to enjoy the undulating countryside.
Which vineyards to visit
No trip to the area is complete without a quick visit to the town of Barolo itself to see the castle and the Borgogno winery. Borgogno has a reputation for being the rebel within the region, creating unusual labels and wines designed for long ageing in the bottle – the wines come at a reasonable price, too. You can pick up a couple of the current vintages to lay down, or enjoy the nebbiolo while it is young, fresh and fruity.
Tours start from €25 and include a tasting of the barolo. To book a visit, go to borgogno.com
Located just 3km from Barolo town, GD Vajra is famed for its selection of barolo and Barbera D’Alba wines. It was started in 1968 by Aldo Vaira, who pioneered organic farming and, in 1971, became one of the earliest certified producers in Piedmont. The Barbera D’Alba superiore is a real treat – floral with hints of violet and light smoke.
Tours start from €20. To book a visit, go to gdvajra.it
Where to stay
This ancient palazzo is in the centre of Turin and is just a 15-minute walk from the city’s famous spire-topped landmark Mole Antonelliana. Spacious rooms and vintage furniture give a Brooklyn-loft feel to this collection of apartments.
What to do
Start your morning with a cappuccino at Caffè Torino. Situated in the Baroque arcades of Piazza San Carlo, this Turin stalwart dates back to 1903 and is the perfect people-watching spot. Take time to visit Museo Egizio (the Egyptian Museum), which houses one of the world’s largest collections of Egyptian antiquities.
Turin is also home to the impressive Lingotto Fiat car factory, as featured in the classic 1969 film The Italian Job. Twenty-eight metres above the city, the rooftop’s iconic test track has recently undergone landscaping, and the views alone are worth the €2 entry fee.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat, the historic Tre Galline is a relaxed yet elegant affair packed with regulars. Famed for its truffle selection in autumn and Piemontese cheese trolley year-round, it is a must-visit in the city. Finish your night with a cocktail at D.One – a beautiful space packed with vintage furniture. The menu celebrates the Americano, a Torino classic cocktail.
Which vermouth house to visit
Grapes in Piedmont are not just used in wine. The region is famous the world over for its vermouth production. Take a 25-minute train ride from Torino Porta Susa to Pessione and you’ll find yourself at the most famous vermouth house of them all: Casa Martini. Here, you can experience the production, delve into the fascinating historical archives, enjoy a Martini cocktail experience and even blend your own unique vermouth to take home.
Tours start from €20. To book a visit, go to martini.com
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