In Italy, wine and travel go hand-in-hand. Many equate wine tourism with destinations like Tuscany and Veneto, but I recommend immersing yourself in one of Italy’s most revered, if elusive, wine regions: Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont.
Bordering France and Switzerland, Piedmont is Italy’s second largest region and famously home to haunting, noble wines and rich, savory foods. Most wineries are family-owned and you’ll often meet members of the family at your wine tastings — pouring your wines. This also means you should book appointments in advance. The Piemontesi are dedicated to maintaining the beauty of the landscapes, limiting development in this UNESCO-protected area, so you’ll rarely spot tourist buses and most hotels have under 10 rooms.
All of this means the area’s raw beauty is protected and preserved for an unforgettable, local experience. How do you plan a trip to such a serene slice of wine heaven? Let’s start with the lay of the land.
- Piedmont wine region: Piedmont produces more DOCG wines than any other Italian region — a top wine classification in the country — and is often used interchangeably with Barolo. Note that Barolo is a small section of the whole Piedmont region.
- The Langhe: The neighboring wine zones of Barolo and Barbaresco collectively make up the Langhe wine area, which is famous not only for its wine, but also cheeses and white truffles. The Langhe was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2014.
- Roero: The Langhe’s lesser-known wine making area sits across the Tanaro River from Barbaresco. Don’t miss the Roero’s high-value nebbiolo wines and the area’s top white wine of arneis. Once completely covered by sea, the Roero’s sandy soils give its nebbiolo wines more finesse and elegance, making them more approachable when they’re younger. Drink your Roero nebbiolo wines while your Barolo and Barbaresco age.
- Monferrato: Located nearby, the Monferrato is best known for Moscato d’Asti, a frizzante dessert wine, and the region’s most planted variety, barbera. Easy-drinking, fruity barbera and refreshing Moscato d’Asti wines make a welcome palate cleanser after rich, tannic nebbiolo wines. Work this part of Piedmont into the trip after more intense nebbiolo exploration.
- Alba, Italy: The Langhe’s primary wine town, Alba, lies about 20 to 30 minutes directly between Barolo and Barbaresco. The city of 32,000 comes alive each October and November during the area’s annual International Alba White Truffle Fair.
- Turin, Italy: The elegant capital of Piedmont, Turin is an important business and cultural center. In the 16th century, Turin was the capital of the Duchy of Savoy and later, the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861-1865. Today it is home to royal residences, Italy’s automotive industry and an impressive Egyptian Museum. Turin lies about 50 km / 32 miles from Barbaresco and Barolo.
Fun Fact: Barolo and Barbaresco are the biggest draw to the Piedmont wine region, but they only make up about 3% of the region’s total wine production.
When is the best time to visit Piedmont?
- High Season: July, September, October, November
- Mid Season: April, May, June, August, December
- Low Season: January, February, March
- International Alba White Truffle Fair: One of Italy’s most renowned food festivals, the annual White Truffle Fair runs every weekend from October to November. Everything in the area books up in advance, so try to book lodging, activities, and even dining 3 to 6 months ahead of your visit.
- Vinum: Alba’s annual spring wine festival features wines across the Piedmont region. The event takes place the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May.
- Collisioni, Barolo: The region’s biggest music festival takes places in July with international musicians playing in the center of the historic village of Barolo.
Wineries You Can’t Miss
Located in the Barolo winemaking area of La Morra, Aurelio Settimo has 7 hectares of vineyards, including the top Barolo cru of Rocche dell’Annunziata. In 1943, Aurelio’s parents settled in La Morra, selling the bulk of their grapes to large area wineries. They kept just a small amount of grapes to make wine for family and friends. After Aurelio’s death in 2007, daughter Tiziana took over, maintaining the philosophy the winery was founded on: quality and tradition. While most producers are in the vineyard area, not all have vineyards directly on-site, making a visit to Aurelio Settimo a unique experience. Weather permitting, they include time in the vineyards to see the grapes. Appointment required.
A unicorn European wine co-op, the Produttori del Barbaresco set the bar for quality long ago. Cooperatives are owned collectively by large groups and often have a reputation of foregoing quality for quantity, but that is not the case for this producer made up of 50 families and 100 hectares of vines. The Produttori have been making wines since the late 1800 and exclusively produce nebbiolo wines — setting rigorous quality controls around the grapes they accept from member families. If you visit during the harvest, you can see the grapes come in right in front of the tasting room. Cellar tours have been rare since the pandemic, but the walk-in tasting room open daily in the village of Barbaresco.
Founded by Antonio Scarpa in the 1850s, the eponymous Scarpa Winery is one of the oldest cellars in Piedmont and is located in the Monferrato area. The winery has changed hands many times in recent the years, but its commitment has always stayed true to the focus on native grapes and quality wine. Recent renovations give visitors a unique glimpse into the historic cellar and the winery boasts a magnificent event space.
Scarpa also has a wine hotel, Monvigliero Vineyard Villas, and a library collection of back vintages of Barbera d’Asti, Barolo and Barbaresco. You can even find the lesser known ruché and freisa wines here. Appointment recommended.
Wine Tasting Tips
Unlike more hospitality-centered wine regions, Barbaresco and Barolo wineries usually accept visitors by appointment only. Book your visits well in advance, especially during high season. In the Langhe, production is limited — numbers vary from 10,000 to 150,000 bottles annually — so you should expect to pay a tasting fee. Some wineries will waive the fee with a minimum spend, but not all.
A winery visit in Barolo typically lasts from 1.5 to 3 hours, including a cellar tour and extended tasting experience. Each visit is unique, highlighting different aspects of wine culture passed from generation to generation, so they can go over time. It’s best to book two, maximum three visits in a day, so you have time to move around the rural region.
Because the draw to the area is the tannic, complex nebbiolo wines, try to work in some breaks so your palate isn’t shot early into the trip. Luckily, Piedmont’s whites and sparkling wines are plentiful, so these can help freshen up the palate. These include Alta Langa Metodo Classico wines, whites of Arneis, Timorasso, Gavi, and Moscato d’Asti.
Where To Eat In Barolo and Barbaresco
From artisan meats and cheeses to truffles, Piedmont’s fabled cuisine naturally compliments its rich, complex, and robust wines.
Just off Alba’s main pedestrian street, the tiny restaurant has just eight tables indoors, though it offers al fresco dining in the city’s historic center during the summer months. Don’t miss the traditional tajarin egg pasta noodles served with slow-cooked ragù.
Located in Barolo’s Verduno village, Bercau offers authentic, rustic Piemontese cooking at its best. A great kid-friendly location with a playground outdoor, it offers plenty of indoor seating and a fantastic outdoor space for spring and summer. The wine list is epic and you never know what area wine maker will be at the table next to you. Reservations recommended.
If you’re looking for fine dining with a French flare, check out this restaurant helmed by longtime Michelin-star chef. Here, Lanteri incorporates his native French roots into his menu of traditional Piedmont dishes. Enjoy a selection of tasting menus with pairing options or a la carte dining. Reservations required.
Where To Stay
A heavenly villa property surrounded by the expansive Barolo vineyard landscape, this countryside property is run by the Scarpa winemaking family. It features four villas which can sleep up to 40 guests total; they are available individually or together. Amenities include an outdoor pool, temperature-controlled wine cabinets in each villa, indoor and outdoor kitchens, indoor and dinning space, and more.
A quiet hideaway tucked among the Barolo vineyards of Serralunga, this hotel is owned and operated by Luisella and Gianpaolo who also run the Paolo Manzone winery located on-site. Guests will enjoy authentic Piedmont country living right on the winery, with access to local products and ease of access to wine tastings.
Owned and operated by the Rivetto family, a winemaking mainstay since the early 1900s, these four stylish apartments are conveniently located in Alba’s historic center. This is a great option if you don’t want to drive in the area, as you can arrive to Alba by train and then hire a guide service for wine tastings in the countryside.
Located in the Barolo village of Castiglione Falletto, Villa Vitae features six luxurious apartments. Each ones pays homage to a historical figure that lived in the Langhe hills, like Napoleon Bonaparte, with elegant furnishings that echo the noble days of the past. The property overlooks the vineyard and features an outdoor pool. Each apartment has its own kitchen and features a private outdoor space. The sizes vary from one-bedroom to larger two-bedroom / two-bath suites with dining for large groups.
A family-run boutique hotel in La Morra, Corte Condina has a family history dating back to the early 1900s. Fully renowned in 2002, the property boasts 14 rooms and amenities that include spa and pool, poolside breakfast and apertivo, as well as a breakfast room and shared lounge.
Located just outside of Alba’s historic center, Hotel Langhe has been a traveler favorite for years. The renovated farmhouse is surrounded by greenery and is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine al fresco. Find a swimming pool and city bikes to explore Alba and beyond.
For a personalized trip around Barolo, Barbaresco and beyond, check out our Piedmont food and wine tours. From winery visits and cooking classes to truffle hunts and transportation services, we’ll help you discover the best of the region.