The Piedmont region of Italy is one of the least visited and most underrated areas of Italy. I’ve traveled extensively through Italy and absolutely loved my trips through the Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Puglia, Tuscany, the Dolomites, and more. Piedmont was one of those last frontier types of places that I had to finally see.
In a country that produces wine in almost all corners of the country, Piedmont is produces some of the most famous and best rated wines in the country. The wine region of Piedmont is by far the most beautiful wine region in Italy and perhaps in Europe. I thought Tuscany was nice, but Piedmont is in its own world. Huge rolling hills completely covered with vineyards, medieval villages, and incredible Italian foods of which the Alba truffle is its claim to fame are what you can expect when visiting the Piedmont wine region.
In addition, the town of Turin is also the gateway to the Piedmont and worth at least a few days visit. Throw in the fact that Nutella, Vermouth (Negronis yum), and various other famous Italian products all come from this region of the country.
Piedmont is totally underrated
Like I’ve already mentioned, I think Piedmont might be the most underrated part of Italy and certainly one of its least visited regions. While everyone flocks to Tuscany and parts of France, people are really missing out by not coming to Piedmont.
The views of the vineyards in Piedmont are among the top of anywhere I’ve seen and certainly is superior to Tuscany in my opinion. The food is absolutely delicious with such a wide array of different dishes.
Piedmont, while not cheap since it is part of Northern Italy is generally cheaper than Tuscany, especially to stay. The wines are fairly priced at restaurants and enotecas. You can wine taste
What makes Piedmont wines famous?
The region is known for its Barolo and Barbaresco wines; both are rich, full-bodied reds that take years to mature. Some of these grapes include Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. These grapes are used in both red and white wines from Piedmont. The most famous vineyards are located in the Langhe area, north of Alba. Here you will find vineyards dating back hundreds of years and some of the finest wines in Italy!
The history of Piedmont wine begins with Ancient Rome’s conquest of Gaul (modern day France). It was during this period that grape vines were introduced into the region and planted across the plains and hillsides.
The Langhe area is considered one of the most beautiful parts of Italy – here you will find rolling hills covered with green vines that overlook medieval castles and picturesque villages.
Different types of Piedmont Wines
The Piedmont region of Italy is the birthplace of Italian wine. It’s also the home of Grignolino and Nebbiolo, two grapes that are used to make some of the world’s most famous wines.
The Piedmont region is in northwest Italy, just south of the Alps and north of France. The northern part of Piedmont is known as Langhe, where you’ll find Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The southern part of Piedmont is called Monferrato and makes DOCG wines like Barbera d’Alba and Dolcetto d’Alba.
Here are some other red grape varieties you’ll find in Piedmont:
Barbera: This grape makes light-bodied red wines with a fruity aroma that can be floral or spicy depending on where it’s grown.
Dolcetto: Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, but these wines aren’t sweet at all — they’re medium-bodied with a rich flavor profile that goes well with food.
Grignolino: This grape comes from Grinzane Cavour in Langhe and produces a deep red wine with aromas of dark fruit and spice.
Incredible Views in Peidmont
I’ve been to countless wine regions in the world and never tire of the natural beauty of some of these landscapes. Amazing wine is of course the main highlight but it’s a nice accompaniment for me (I will drink most wines after all). While I think South Africa’s Cape wine region is the world’s most beautiful, I think the Piedmont region is definitely way up there as far as beauty.
Europe is also home to incredible wine regions like the Mosel wine region of Germany, Burgandy in France, and the Douro Valley in Portugal. However, I think the Piedmont was the most visually stunning of all of these regions to me.
From various viewpoints between Barolo and Alba, you can see vineyards that span the entire face of a hillside and stretches on for many kilometers. Many of these slopes have nothing but vineyards making it just a sea of green. Throw in beautiful villages like Barolo, La Morra, and Serralunga D’alba, and you have the perfect recipe for a beautiful wine region.
Words can only do so much to describe the beauty of the Piedmont so just take a look at these photos! The best time to take photos in the Piedmont is during sunset in my opinions. The orange hues bounce off the vineyards magically.
The most beautiful viewpoints in Piedmont
There are no shortage of beautiful viewpoints in Piedmont. You simply just need to drive around the region near Alba and you’ll be mesmerized.
If you can, drive in the smaller roads while cruising between winery to winery. These generally venture deep within the vineyards allowing you a closer view of the grapes.
The Strada del Barolo is probably one of the best viewpoints for starters. Venture here for your first glimpse of the wonderful Piedmont!
Where I went in the Piedmont Region
In total I spent 5 nights in the Piedmont region. This includes 2 nights in Turin, and 3 nights in the wine country. While in the wine country, I stayed in one town but drove to the nearby wine towns of Piedmont for my wine tastings and to enjoy the views.
I think this is the perfect amount of time to spend in the region. Unless you are a wine professional, you might get bored in the Piedmont after awhile.
These are some of the highlights of my trip:
- Turin (capital of the Piedmont)
- Bra Town
- Serralunga d’Alba
Getting around the Piedmont area
The Piedmont region is quite small in comparison to other wine regions I’ve been to. Having traveled to Tuscany the year prior, the Piedmont is probably less than half the size. You can drive from one end of the wine region to the other in less than an hour. This makes wine tasting and seeing villages much easier in my opinion.
You can get from Turin to Alba by train very easily but to really experience the magical aspects of the Piedmont, you’ll need to drive. The public transportation options when you’re in the wine country is limited. There are buses that travel from town to town but in my opinion, it’s not the best way to see the area.
I rented a car in Turin and drove to Alba before exploring the other towns in the area. The roads are in decent condition but you don’t need to drive far so it really isn’t much of an issue.
Rent a vespa to explore the Piedmont
A Vespa is an iconic Italian experience and nothing beats great photos while riding a Vespa overlooking the vineyards. The cost of renting a Vespa in Italy is absolutely crazy however. Expect to pay €70-80 a day per bike. Yes, I’m not joking. I don’t know why they charge so much for a bike when the cost of renting a car is half as much. You could also opt to rent another type of scooter which could be less than €50 a day (still crazy expensive).
I rented a Vespa for just the day and absolutely loved cruising around the Piedmont. Because of how small the Piedmont region is, the Vespa is a solid option (versus something like Tuscany where distances are too far).
How to get to the Piedmont?
There are a number of ways to get to the Piedmont. I actually visited the Piedmont as part of a trip through France visiting the Cote D’Azur and Italy. I took a bus over from Nice, France. There are many other ways to do this though.
Turin to Piedmont
Turin is the capital of the Piedmont and is the closest city to the Piedmont region. From Turin, it is a 1 hour drive to the heart of the wine country making this a very easy long weekend trip.
Similarly, if you do not want to rent a car, you can take the train from the Central Turin station to Alba or Asti. These trains leave once every hour and takes just over 1 hour. The cost of this train is under €10 one way.
Milan to Piedmont
Milan is the large international airport so this is another popular option for those that want to visit the Piedmont. From Milan, it is a 2 hour drive which isn’t that bad either. This is a great way to combine northern Italian highlights like MIlan, Lake Como, or even the Dolomites into one big trip.
Wine tasting in the Piedmont Wine region
The beauty of wine tasting in the Piedmont is that, unlike many other regions, you can simply drive around, look for signs and pull over to sample some of the finest wines in the world.
It is true that the best wineries in the Piedmont require reservations, but not all of them do. Some of them are more flexible and will accept you even if you haven’t booked in advance. However, it is still a good idea to call ahead to check their availability. Here are some of the most famous wineries in this area:
Castello di Ama
This is one of the best wine-tasting locations in Italy and it can be found on the southernmost tip of Piedmont next to Lake Maggiore. The castle dates back to the 13th century and has been owned by the same family ever since.
It has been renovated over time and now presents itself as an elegant venue with beautiful views across Lake Maggiore towards Switzerland. Guests can enjoy a glass of wine on its terrace overlooking the lake or wander through its gardens which include a vineyard that produces grapes for its own wine production. Excursions include a visit to nearby Alba where there are plenty more delicious wines waiting for you!
Where to stay in Piedmont? Asti vs Alba
Asti is larger the Alba, more central to all of Piedmont’s wine area and on the main train line so easy to get to Turin and Genoa . Asti’s historical centre is not as compact (translate cute) as Alba’s but is larger as befits Asti’s important historical role in medieval times, Alba was always a thorn in the Astigiano’s side (hence the Palio di Asti).
Alba does have more of a small town feel and is closer to Barolo and Barbaresco (although nowhere is that far in central Piedmont). If you don’t get a car I would say stay in Alba, but a car is almost essential for visiting the wine area hill towns and castles, and in that case, Asti would be a good option if you want a bit more life.
The heart and the most beautiful part of the Piedmont wine region is near the area of Alba however. For that fact alone, I would stay in Alba just for the proximity. Asti to Alba is a 30 minute drive so it would have been very annoying for me to constantly drive 30+ minutes every time I wanted to venture into the wine region!
The itinerary begins in Turin, the capital of the Piedmont area. Turin, or Torino in Italian is probably one of the least visited major cities in Italy. It’s often overshadowed by other cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, etc.
After spending two days in Turin, it is definitely worth a visit and is a totally underrated city. There isn’t as much to see here as say in Rome, but you can easily spend a day or two.
Turin is an industrial city, but it has a lot of art and culture. Since it is the capital of Piedmont, there are many museums that are related to the history of the region.
If you love art, you can visit the Museum of Ancient Art or the Museo Egizio in the city center. If you want to see something more modern, then head over to Palazzo Madama and Palazzo Reale.
The Mole Antonelliana is one of Turin’s most famous landmarks. It was built in 1863 by architect Alessandro Antonelli as a memorial for king Vittorio Emanuele II and his queen Maria Adelaide. It is also known as “La Mole”, which means “the mole”. In 1991, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Piazza San Carlo
Piazza San Carlo is one of Turin’s most beautiful squares and its main attraction is the Torre dello Standardo (Standard Tower). This tower was built in 1630 on top of an older tower which dated back to 1311 and was used as a watchtower during war times.
This large square is one of the first places you’ll walk to as you walk north into the old town from the Central Station.
Free Walking Tour Turin
There is a free walking tour of Turin that leaves every day at 10:30am just in front of the Central Train station. The tour mostly covers the old town including the numerous Piazza’s that make the city famous.
The tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave lots of very interesting facts about the city of Turin. I’m terrible at remembering these things but I did recall that Turin prides itself on being a city of modesty. Even the rich people of the city do not like to flash the high end labels like nearby Milan.
In addition, Pizza is not native to the area and only came to Turin after WW2!
Galleria Subalpina is a stunning covered shopping arcade, with a lovely fountain in the middle. There are many interesting old shops and cafes. Antique shops and very classy cafes as well as beautiful architecture to admire. This is one of the top sights to see in Turin and in the center of town and I even came back to have an aperitivo at one of the cafes.
Alba is the second largest city in the wine region of the Piedmont after Asti. After doing a lot of research, I decided to stay in Alba as it was more charming, a bit smaller, and closer in proximity to the most beautiful parts of the Piedmont wine region. I was very happy with my decision.
Alba is a small town in the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s known for its white truffles, which are harvested every year from October to December. I realized I had always heard of the term “Alba Truffle” and didn’t even put it together until I arrived in Alba that this is in fact the town! I absolutely love truffles and indulged in truffle pasta while visiting Slovenia in December. Sadly, while visiting in July, the white truffle season had not started so it wasn’t possible to have my long desired truffle pasta.
Alba’s main street is Via Roma and it runs from one end of town to the other. There are lots of shops and restaurants along this street – some with outdoor seating so you can enjoy the weather while you eat (and drink). There are also many hotels along Via Roma so if you want to stay overnight it’s easy to find something convenient.
The towns of the Piedmont are very empty
Alba was surprisingly empty compared to other similar Italian towns. I visited in July and expected it to be something like Montepulciano in Tuscany but it was far from it. The streets of Alba were eerily empty the entire time I was there. At night, there would be a few locals and tourists wandering the streets but nothing like what I had seen in other parts of Italy.
Barolo is a small town located 10km south of Alba. It is one of the most famous wine towns in the world and for good reason.
The town is known worldwide for its namesake red wine, produced from the Nebbiolo grape. In fact, Barolo wines were once deemed so good that they were banned by Napoleon Bonaparte! Barolo wines are similar in exclusivity and labor intensity as other wines like Brunello di Montalcino.
Barolo wines must be 100% Nebbiolo grapes and aged for a minimum of 48 months, 18 of those in oak barrels. The end result is a world class red wine with bold fruit flavors, high tannin, and deep flavors. The color is lighter than traditional red wines owing to the georgraphy of the Piedmont area that sees colder weather than wine regions further south.
Barolo wines are the top of the class of Piedmont wines and surely not to be missed!
There are many things to do in Barolo. If you want to learn more about its history and culture, then visit the Museo del Vino e della Terra Barolese (Museum of Wine and Landscape) or the Museo del Vino Antico di Barbaresco (Barbaresco Old Wine Museum). Both museums offer guided tours that take you through their exhibits and explain how wine making has evolved over time in this region.
Another must-see attraction is Castello di Verduno (Verduno Castle), which was built around 1269 by the Counts of Alba on top of an ancient Roman city called Vertuna. This castle has been restored many times over its life.
Petite Bistro Barolo
Petite Bistro is the spot to be in Barolo Town. This little wine bar is probably the best wine bar in the entire Piedmont (at last from what I found). They serve delicious Piedmontese wines by the glass and bottle at fair prices. In addition, they have a balcony in the back with beautiful views of the town of Barolo and the neighboring vineyards.
Most of the other enotecas I found in Piedmont looked more like a cellar with little outdoor space. There’s nothing better in my opinion than enjoying a glass of wine with a view and this is one of the only places I found!
We got a delicious bottle of Barolo for 40 which is an incredible price compared to how much you would pay in other parts of the world.
Other villages of the Piedmont
There is no shortage of iconic medieval villages to visit in the Piedmont. By no means is this the whole list but rather just the villages I had time to visit!
Bra is one of the larger towns in the Piedmont area. It is home to the slow food movement that focuses on sourcing local ingredients from local suppliers and to reduce the waste that’s befallen our mass produced food culture.
Barbaresco is a town in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont region, Italy. It is famous for its wines produced under the Barbaresco DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita). The best known wine is the Nebbiolo d’Alba, a red wine made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes.
Barbaresco is located on a hill with a view of the Langhe plain and Alba. The village, which dates back to the 13th century, is divided into two parts by Via Garibaldi, where the church of Santa Maria Assunta stands. The main street in Barbaresco is Via Roma which leads from Piazza Vittorio Veneto to Via Garibaldi.
This cute town is small but well worth a visit as part of the village hopping tour of Piedmont. It was very quite when I was there so there wasn’t much to do besides walk around for a few minutes, visit the tower of Barbaresco, and leave.
Tower of Barbaresco
One of the main things to do in Barbaresco is to visit the tower at the center of town. This tower is only 30 meters high but offers fantastic views of the town and the entire Piedmont wine region. Entrance is just €5 and it’s worth it for the great views and photo opportunities!
The town of Alba is the main town of the Piedmont. There are a few other smaller enclaves of the town of Alba nearby however. Serralunga D’Alba is a small village on the top of the hill about 20 minutes away from the town of Alba. This village is very picturesque with cobblestone streets, beautiful houses and a grand fortress at the top of the hill where you can have fantastic views of the Piedmont.
There are also a few wine bars in this village as well which looked charming and alive.
La Morra Town
La Morra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Piedmont, and it has been called the “Pearl of the Langhe”. The town was first mentioned as Murra in a document from 1004 AD as part of the March of Turin; it was also mentioned by Dante Alighieri as Mura.
The main square of La Morra is Piazza della Liberta’, which has been called “the most beautiful square in all Italy”. The square was built in 1515 by Giulio Cesare Procaccini. It has two large fountains, one made by Giovanni Battista Borra in 1630 and another made by Bernardo Falconi in 1635. The two fountains are connected by an arcade that surrounds the entire square. The arcades were originally decorated with statues but most have been removed to museums or private collections.
From the main square, you have almost aerial views of the Piedmont wine region. You’re at one of the highest points in the region so you can see from many many kilometers out. I actually preferred the view from within the vineyards as you get a better sense of the rolling hills that make Piedmont beautiful in my opinion. From La Morra, the Piedmont wine region looks rather flat!
Neive Town was a town I had spotted while at the top of Barbaresco that looked charming. To be honest, I don’t know much about this town but it is worth a stop to visit just because of its charming qualities.
Where to eat in the Piedmont wine region
Italy is the land of pasta and the Piedmont is no different. The local specialties in the Piedmont are Tajarin pasta which are a thin egg pasta (delicious) and agnolotti (small ravioli also delicious). The Piedmont is also a bit more meat centric than other parts of Italy except maybe Tuscany which has their delicious steak florentina!
Eating Truffles in the Piedmont – What to Know
No trip to the Piedmont would be complete with truffles, or at last understanding truffle season! Truffles, especially white truffles are what makes the Piedmont famous. Alba truffles is a name stay and known around the world for being the most delicious white truffles. Sadly the truffle season is only between September and December. Only during these months do you have a good chance of tasting the mythic white truffle.
Truffle pasta is very common in the region during this time and people from all over the world come to have a taste. Keep in mind that white truffles are among the most expensive things you can eat in the world so be prepared to pay up. White truffles cost €2,000 to €4,000 a kilo and a few shavings on your pasta can easily be €50. Truffles are becoming more and more rare these days so prices will only go up.
Black truffles are much more commonplace and can be found year round. However, if you’re thinking of that nutty and umami filled truffle flavor you can get from truffle oil, you’re mistaken. Black truffles lose their taste very fast and if you consume black truffles outside of the season, it will essentially taste like nothing. I made this mistake by ordering a black truffle pasta for €20 and it literally tasted like nothing.
Bovio Restaurant is located right outside of La Morra and is one of the most premier restaurants in the Piedmont. Located directly in the vineyards, Bovio’s upscale restaurant sits atop the hill and offers expansive views of the region. Bovio serves traditional Piedmontese food elevated to a modern level.
We made a reservation here a few days beforehand and it absolutely did not disappoint. I got the tasting menu which included all the highlights of Piedmont including
- Veal with Tuna (vitello tonnato)
- Agnolotti (small local ravioli with veal)
- Tajarin Pasta (local thin egg pasta)
- Veal Stew
- Panna Cotta
The lunch was absolutely phenomenal and for €50 (As of mid 2022), it was great value for money. We paired it with a delicious bottle of Barbaresco while enjoying views of the vineyards. Here are pictures of our tasting menu!
Osteria Il Cortile
Another one of my favorite restaurants in the Piedmonte is Il Cortile. This restaurant is like Bovio but less fancy. It’s located as part of a winery outside of Alba. They serve all the Piedmont classics and I had the best Tajarin con ragu while dining here.
The views from Osteria Il Cortile are out of this world. You can see the vineyards for many kilometers out and they have a beautiful outdoor balcony where you can enjoy these views. Make sure to reserve ahead of time. I’ll be sure to come back to this restaurant during truffle season!
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