Turin: The Piedmont region
Piedmont was named a top holiday destination by Lonely Planet in 2019 – for good reason. Beyond its culturally effervescent, enterprising capital, Turin, Piedmont is a region of serene beauty. Whether you’re attracted to the area by the famous red wine of Barolo or the white truffles of Alba – Piedmont is so multifaceted and delightfully green that whatever the season it is always worth a visit.
Having absorbed the art and culture in the metropolis of Turin, why not complete the experience by savouring the delights of the Piedmont region? Aside from Piedmont’s famous hazelnuts, precious truffles and chocolate specialities, it is the region’s wine that usually attracts return visitors.
The Nebbiolo grape, above all, has made Piedmont one of Italy’s foremost wine regions. It is used to produce wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero. But Piedmont has much more to offer, of course. Other widely known wines are Barbera, plus the white varieties of Cortese di Gavi and Arneis and the dessert wine Moscato d’Asti. However, if you really want to get to the true heart of premium Piedmont wines, then we would recommend trying the reds. There’s a good reason why Barolo has also been described as “the wine of kings – the king of wines”.
While Piedmont still tends to be regarded as an insider tip, once you’ve been to the area you’ll be keen to return. Ramblers, above all, become repeat offenders. From scaling the Alpine peaks to gently strolling the green, rolling hills of Piedmont, the region has more than 600 trails to suit all tastes and levels, meaning there’s something for everyone. Especially in the north, along the border with Switzerland, you’ll find untamed nature and forgotten mountains. Those who seek adventure and quietude will appreciate the benefits of walking here.
If you prefer something a little less adventurous, we recommend the Gran Paradiso National Park, which lies between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont. The National Park is the first of its kind in Italy, offering various trails graded according to difficulty and season. Guided walks with official park and alpine guides, as well as horse riding, are also available. Naturally, it’s always possible to take a less ambitious approach by heading into the hills and vineyards of Piedmont – followed, needless to say, by wine tasting at the source.
Alba and Asti
There is a legendary rivalry between the two communes of Alba and Asti in Piedmont which dates back to the Middle Ages. Asti is world famous for its wine and sparkling wine, Asti spumante DOCG, whereas Alba is globally renowned for the exceptional quality of its truffles.
Alba – the truffle capital – is a gastronomic Mecca roughly 50 kilometres south of Turin. The white truffles found there are one of the world’s most expensive foods. Like San Gimignano in Tuscany, Alba’s medieval townscape is dominated by towers.
One special highlight is the tremendous play of autumn colours that unfolds in the midst of the vineyards. The renowned truffle fair, Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco Alba, turns a trip to Alba in October or November into a genuine experience.
Less than an hour from Turin, Asti is a town that continues to prosper thanks to viticulture and the invention of the Charmat method, which when first introduced was an innovative technique for producing sparkling wine. As a former bishopric, Asti was long considered the most important city in Piedmont and upheld its position as a free commune from the 11th to the 14th century. Not only products such as Barbera d’Asti, Dolcetto d’Asti and, of course, Asti spumante, but also excellent hiking trails and golf courses, make Asti an ideal excursion from Turin.
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