Do you like chocolate, truffles, and drinking some of the world’s best red wine while gazing out over the Alps? If so, Piedmont is the place for you!
A wine harvest, the charm of the capital city of Turin, and a handsome Italiano were all it took to make me fall for the region. Bordering both France and Switzerland, Piedmont is famous for its wine, elegance, and gorgeous mountains. Home to the Royal family of Savoy for centuries, a trip here can take you from grand palaces to the mountainous Alps. With a stop for a glass of Barolo on the way, of course.
Discover 8 experiences you can’t miss in Piedmont!
1. Spend a day in Turin
Turin, the first capital of Italy and the former home of Italian royalty exudes elegance and sophistication. No trip to the region is complete without setting foot under the beautiful covered walkways in the city center or a stroll past the Royal Palace. The trendy Quadrilatero Romano is one of the oldest parts of town; filled with cozy cafés and bustling trattorias. Climb up the hill to the Monte dei Cappuccini at sunset for one of the most romantic views of the Alps before strolling back along the river Po.
Refuel at Al Bicerin for the best hot chocolate-coffee-cream drink in town: the famous Bicerin. If you visit Turin during Easter, stop by Pasticceria Ghigo for a taste of their famous nuvola di Ghigo. This delicious dessert is a pandoro cake covered in a thick layer of powdered sugar. The Porta Palazzo Market, which dominates the octagonal Piazza della Repubblica, is the largest outdoor market in Europe. Here you can shop for seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
If you’re culturally inclined there are a ton of fantastic galleries to discover in the city. This includes the second-largest collection of Egyptian antiques in the world! Incidentally, the Museo Egizio is one of the most visited museums in all of Italy. Turin is a bustling commercial hub, so you can retrace Italy’s industrial heritage through a visit to the National Automobile Museum, the Lavazza Museum, and the Fiat Museum. Car lovers shouldn’t miss checking out the Fiat Lingotto Factory which features a rooftop test track designed by architect Renzo Piano.
2. Go Truffle Hunting for Tartufi Bianchi
Piedmont is world famous for its white truffle. The region actually hosts an annual truffle fair in Alba to celebrate this delicacy. While you can order and shop for truffles throughout Italy, you shouldn’t miss the chance to join a real truffle hunt in Piedmont. Out in the countryside, these hunts let you forage and scavenge for this delicacy. White truffles are exclusive and expensive partly because they’re in season only for a short time–from October-December. And, like other truffles, they can’t be cultivated (only found in the wild).
So throw on a pair of boots and join La Tartufaia in La Morra! This unforgettable experience in the woods and delicious lunch is sure to be a memorable experience. Your hunter and his clever dogs will take you to a secret location where truffles tend to grow. It’s incredible to watch the dogs catch the scent of truffles and start digging up the earth to find them. Afterward, you’ll take a tour of the estate’s vineyard before enjoying a wine and truffle tasting. You can also opt for a picnic or yoga session on the beautiful property.
3. Explore the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi
Piedmont is home to numerous Residences of the Royal House of Savoy which include 22 palaces and villas. All UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The luxurious Reggia di Venaria may be the most famous residence in the region but I recommend visiting the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi instead. Architect Filippo Juvarra designed this 18th-century hunting lodge for King Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia.
Built in the Baroque style, the Palazzina features intricate stucco detailing, as well as embellishments across 137 rooms and 17 opulent halls. The Palazzina sits on a large, verdant estate just a short drive from Turin. In 1805, Napoleon spent a brief time in this lavish property before continuing to Milan where he was crowned emperor. The Palazzina also houses an important furniture collection of priceless cabinets, fabrics, and chinoiseries decor.
4. Visit Vineyards in Le Langhe
Rolling green hills, fields upon fields of vineyards, and charming villages await you in the heart of Piedmont’s wine region. One of those villages is the famous (tiny!) Barolo. Home to the iconic red wine of the same name. Founded in the 1930s, the Ceretto winery is a dynamic place that fuses tradition with contemporary culture.
Ceretto doesn’t only produce excellent Barolo, Barbaresco, and Nebbiolo wines, but the winery is also a patron of the arts. Ceretto has commissioned several site-specific works like the colorful Barolo Chapel by Sol Lewitt and David Tremlett, which adds a pop of color to the vineyard. Overlooking the vines, a suspended bubble named “Acino” (The Grape) resembles a spaceship that offers 360-degree views of the countryside. Together with chef Enrico Crippa, the family is also the founding member of Piedmont’s only 3-star Michelin restaurant, Piazza Duomo.
For something more understated, go for a tasting at the family-run Monchiero in Castiglione-Falleto. They have a range of truly delicious wines at superb prices. In addition, they also make other classic Piemontese wines including a Nebbiolo d’Alba, Dolcetto, and a Barbera. If you’re in Monforte D’Alba instead or have a penchant for bio wine, try Principiano Ferdinando. These clean wines include Barolo and the classic reds of Piedmont, as well as a delightfully refreshing spumante.
5. Taste Local Piemontese Cuisine
Piedmont has a very distinct cuisine and is famous for its huge selection of antipasti. Try vitello tonnato (veal with creamy tuna sauce), insalata russa (Russian Salad), lingua with salsa verde, tomini cheese, anchovies with green sauce, and more. The typical pasta of the region is a rich egg pasta called tajarin, which is particularly delicious with local truffles, as well as the scrumptious agnolotti. The agnolotti are filled with roast beef and served with a buttery roast beef sauce. Rice is another popular ingredient, so watch out for a variety of risotto dishes!
Moving onto the mains, you can’t miss the braised beef in Barolo (how decadent!). The garlicky dipping sauce Bagna Cauda or the utterly classic fritto misto–courses of lightly fried vegetables, meat, and even fruit. Keep things traditional and taste these dishes at one of the oldest restaurants in Turin, Porto di Savona.
6. Wake Up in the Countryside
Set within the picturesque Bormida Valley, almost an hour’s drive from Alba, Villa La Madonna is a gorgeous boutique for a romantic weekend getaway in Piedmont. Owned by Swedish sisters Marie and Annica Eklund, the masterminds behind the flooring design company Bolon, the property has an inimitable feminine touch and charming boho-chic details that will delight aesthetes and hotel lovers alike.
All eighteen suites have balconies or a terrace overlooking the estate’s vineyards. The natural light helps create a holistic experience that “awakens your creativity… and gives you inspiration through the tangibles and the landscapes surrounding you.” In the summer months, enjoy long days lounging by the pool, carved from natural stone. You can also dine al fresco on the patio or amongst the vines.
7. Relax at Lago d’Orta
Move over Lake Como! And welcome to the lesser-known Lago D’Orta. Come for a peaceful day by the lake where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the many cafés and restaurants in the town of Orta San Giulio. Check out Ristorante Venus for views of the lake or order a tagliere of small bites at Al Boeuc before taking a short ferry ride over to the Isola San Giulio.
This tiny island in the middle of the lake is dominated by a beautiful Benedictine monastery. After visiting the church, don’t miss walking along a narrow street that takes you throughout the island. Named the “way of silence and meditation,” it blends spirituality with architecture and peaceful views of the lake. If you prefer to stay in the area overnight, the Hotel San Rocco is set within an elegant baroque building overlooking the lake shore.
8. Hike, Ski, and Picnic in the Mountains
Just one hour north of Turin lies beautiful mountains and the Val di Susa. This area is filled with charming villages and plenty of outdoor activities – which extends into France. For incredible views, hike up the Sacra di San Michele. This abbey is a symbol of Piedmont that was built between 983 and 987 on top of Mount Pirchiriano. It’s a medium-difficulty hike but worth the effort when you reach the top of the mountain and admire the valley below. Some members of the Royal House of Savoy are even buried here.
If you enjoy skiing, don’t miss the “Via Lattea,” the second biggest winter sports area in Europe. It features more than 400km (250 miles) of skiable pistes where you’ll be able to ski from Italy to France. If you visit in the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy nice hikes and picnics in the same valley. If you’d like something more challenging, try climbing up the Rocciamelone mountain which sits at 3,538 meters.
For more Northern Italy travel tips and help planning your trip, visit Livguine.com.