Backdropped by the snowcapped peaks of the Alps, Piedmont is a superb destination for food and wine connoisseurs, as well as all Italophiles. Bordered by France and Switzerland, the rolling hills of this fertile region are planted with vineyards that produce some of the world’s great wines, notably Barolo and Barbaresco. And the elegant city of Turin charms with its spectacular Baroque architecture, fine museums and outstanding cafés and restaurants.
Piedmont abounds with delicacies, including exceptional beef, excellent cheeses such as Castelmagno, Gianduiotto chocolates and Arborio rice, which is grown on the wet plains around the towns of Vercelli and Novara. Its most famous culinary product, however, remains hidden until a brief season from late September to the end of November. This is when farmers using specially trained dogs take to the hills and forests of the Langhe and Monferrato districts in search of the pungent and astronomically expensive white truffles prized all over the world. Delicious mushrooms, including porcini, are in season at the same time.
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Easily reached by train from Milan or Rome, Turin is a refined and walkable place that remains under the radar of most travelers despite its many attractions. Two days are required to visit its excellent museums, including the Museo Egizio and the Galleria Sabauda. You may also wish to see the controversial and enigmatic Shroud of Turin, which is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
Elsewhere in Turin, the restaurant not to miss is fabled Del Cambio, which opened in 1757.
Those fascinated by the great wines of Piedmont may wish to visit Casa del Barolo, a wine shop and tasting venue that showcases the best Barolos, as well as Nebbiolos and Barberas.
From Turin, drive south for 90 minutes to Alba on roads through cornfields, hazelnut plantations and vineyards.
This charming city of 32,000 inhabitants is renowned for its Truffle Market on weekends. For lunch, dine at chef Enrico Crippa’s three-star restaurant Piazza Duomo, which overlooks the main square from its first-floor dining room.
The little village of Sinio is a 30-minute drive from Alba. Stay the night at Castello di Sinio.
Your next stop, the 30-room Relais San Maurizio, owned by Pier Domenico Gallo, a well-known Piemontese banker, is ideally situated for the Barbaresco and Barbera vineyards, as well as those around the town of Asti that produce excellent and underrated sparkling wines.
In 1989, Italian food writer Carlo Petrini assembled a group of journalists, restaurateurs and food producers to defend Italy’s rich gastronomic heritage from industrialized food production. His organization, which has become the international Slow Food movement, is based in the little Piedmont town of Bra, Petrini’s hometown. There, stop for lunch at Osteria del Boccondivino, adjacent to Slow Food headquarters, and enjoy an excellent meal of carne cruda (steak tartare), rabbit braised in red wine and panna cotta in the garden courtyard.
Afterward, drop in at the Slow Food shop to buy a copy of “Osterie & Locande d'Italia,” its celebrated guide to the best osterias in Italy.
Return to Turin for your flight home.
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