Nestled at the base of the Alps, bordering France and Switzerland, Piedmont translates to “at the foot of the mountains.” It is characterized by its imposing peaks that rise to 4,000 meters above sea level and the rolling vineyards of the Langhe, a UNESCO-protected area. Home to the famously rare white Alba truffles and wildlife like Alpine ibex, deer, as well as wild boars, Piedmont is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s also one that boasts a sophisticated food scene.
Here, prestigious wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco accompany elaborate dishes. These include vitello tonnato (veal served with a tuna dressing) and agnolotti al plìn (tiny, painstakingly-folded ravioli filled with roast beef or cheese and herbs). The bagna caùda (a hot sauce made with garlic and anchovies for dipping vegetables) is especially delicious.
Thanks to its culinary richness, Piedmont attracts a certain type of tourism—discerning, with a taste for the finer things in life. Italy, however, is a land of contrasts. The decadence of Piedmontese cuisine and viticulture is balanced by a growing movement of people committed to both quality and sustainability. This mentality is embodied in the global Slow Food Movement which was born in the Piedmontese town of Bra.
From sustainable 5-star hotels to sleeping under the stars, Piedmont has a lot to offer sustainably-minded travelers. Especially, those who wish to discover its natural and gastronomic wonders without compromising on comfort or experience.
Stay At Casa di Langa
Overlooking the UNESCO-protected hills of Langhe-Roero-Monferrato, Casa di Langa is a boutique 5-star hotel with a commitment to sustainability. Designed to resemble a Piedmontese cascina (or farm), it boasts majestic views of 42 hectares of land, as well as vineyards. Casa di Langa, and its 39 rooms, were built using sustainable local materials. Additionally, they are powered by geothermic and solar energy generated on-site. The rooms all have private terraces and, on a clear day, the peak of Monviso is visible in the distance.
The Krause family, who own the Parma Football Club and two wineries in the area, created the hotel. La Vietti and Enrico Serafino produce a delicious Alta Langa spumante wine that you can taste at Casa di Langa’s Fàula Ristorante. The property also has an herb garden. Additionally, plans are underway for a 2,500-square-meter organic vegetable garden which will provide most of the kitchen’s produce.
Guests can unwind at the spa, where they can hit the gym before enjoying a sauna or massage. Casa di Langa also offers experiences such as truffle hunting and wine tasting.
Hike in the Gran Paradiso National Park
Gran Paradiso National Park, bordering the Val d’Aosta, is the oldest and highest national park in Italy. Its peak reaches 4,000 meters. Gran Paradiso’s breathtaking scenery and relatively easy trails make it popular with hikers of all ability levels. Some routes are even suitable for families. The park is dotted with chocolate-box villages, and visitors are likely to get a glimpse of ibex, chamois, and marmots among its many natural wonders.
You’ll find a number of accommodation options in the area, from simple mountain lodges to boutique hotels. We love the charming Hotel Sant’Orso Mountain, a 100-year-old property with panoramic views of the park. Its cozy suites feature tartan wallpaper and feature an excellent spa that includes a Himalayan pink salt cave.
Heal Yourself in an Enchanted Forest
Il Bosco Incantato, or “The Enchanted Wood,” is a circuit of experiences based on the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku (forest bathing) which is proven to have numerous physical and mental health benefits. The route through the forest includes 10 areas designed to stimulate the nervous system in different ways. You can enjoy a walk through a botanical garden, hydrotherapy, yoga, and more. The sustainable property in Piedmont also has a treehouse where visitors can receive massage treatments.
The Bosco Incantato was conceived by Bruno Bossa to help preserve the forest while encouraging people to heal themselves by forging a closer connection with nature. It is tucked away below Monviso near the charming borgo of Ostana, one of the smallest villages in Italy. Those wishing to spend the night in the Enchanted Wood can book its only room, L’Albero Parlante (The Talking Tree), which sleeps 4. It also has exclusive access to the hot tub overlooking the forest.
Learn about the Slow Food Movement
The Università di Scienze Gastronomiche, dedicated to innovation and designing sustainable food systems, is the first multidisciplinary gastronomic school of its kind. Carlos Petrini, the creator of the Slow Food Movement, founded the school in 2004.
For Mr. Petrini, food is much more than a culinary experience. It is intimately linked to economics, the environment, history, and culture. Since establishing the academic institution, more than 3,500 graduates (aptly called “gastronomes”) from over 95 countries have walked its halls. They have gone on to become entrepreneurs, farmers, policy advisors, product researchers, journalists, and of course, chefs.
The headquarters of the university is located within a striking neo-Gothic palace in the historic town of Pollenzo, a short drive from Bra. Originally built by the Savoy King Carlo Alberto in the 1800s, it was designed to be a summer lodge for the family and spans 25 hectares (60 acres). The complex also includes the Banca del Vino, a wine bank with one of the most important collections of Italian wines in the world, and the Albergo dell’Agenzia, a hotel that embraces the Slow Food philosophy.
If you’re hungry after your visit, you can dine in the hotel’s restaurant. You can also head over to the Osteria Boccondivino in Bra for a taste of local cuisine. Try the wild rabbit stewed in wine and the vegetable flan with raschera fondue before enjoying bonet. Bonet is a traditional pudding made with chocolate and delicious amaretti biscuits.
Go Glamping in Gaia’s Spheres
Tucked away in the remote, wooded hills of Alta Langa — the wild sister of the rolling UNESCO vineyards, Gaia’s Spheres is where you go to lose yourself from the world. The glamping spheres are set in 10 hectares of wood. They boast impressive views of Prunetto and its 13th-century castle perched high on a hilltop. Marketa Tenglova, a Czech transplant, runs the project. She visited 200 properties before settling on the house in 2019. Gaia’s Spheres is named after her daughter Gaia, a name inspired by the Greek goddess of the Earth.
There are three spheres to choose from: Iris, Nigella, and Orchidea, each with its own private bathroom. Iris and Nigella boast the best views. Orchidea is hidden in the woods and has a private wood-heated hot tub. At the time of writing, there were plans to set up a solar-heated pool for Iris and Nigella. The stay includes breakfast and guests can spend the day relaxing in one of the many hammocks and hanging chairs on the property. Guests can also explore the local area. The nearby town of Gorzegno serves excellent seasonal dishes at Agribrasserie Bin Parei, including pizza made with wholegrain and kamut flour.
See More: 8 Experiences You Can’t Miss In Piedmont