The last leg of our northern Italian road trip was Piedmont, the northern wine-making region of Italy known for two of Italy’s greatest red wines Barolo and Barbaresco and the coveted white truffle. Like the “leave peepers” who make their annual pilgrimage to Vermont to see fall foliage, come October foodies from all over the world flock to this area just for white truffles. We missed truffle season by one week and would have to settle for the lesser black truffle variety. We managed.
We arrived in Piedmont late Friday afternoon and made our way to our agritourismo. This was a farm that had been in the same family for 500 years and was recently bought and converted into a small, rustic hotel and restaurant. It consisted of two main buildings: the opulent owner’s house and the more basic farm hands’ quarters separated by a large courtyard where they served food and drinks. We were staying on the more rustic side in a cozy suite with low ceilings, wide plank floors and period furnishing. I imagine on a sunny day this hotel would have been beautiful with the sun beaming into our room and the courtyard teaming with activity.
But as we made our way to Piedmont, mother nature had other plans. Clouds and fog dominated our drive. Periodic downpours settled into a steady drizzle that lasted for three days. We could barely see 25 feet ahead of us let alone the beautiful landscape hidden behind the fog.
With the weather so dreary it was clear that the only adventures we’d be embarking on here in Piedmont, would be of the epicurean variety. So we set off to sample some of the food and wine in each of the tiny villages.
The largest city in Piedmont is Alba. This has the most to offer when it comes to over dining and shopping. If you fancy a down payment on dinner, there’s certainly a place or two for you here. However you can also find a variety of other more reasonably priced restaurants, open markets and shops.
The more quintessential Piedmont experience, however, can be had at any of the smaller villages and driving the winding roads between them is half the fun. Barolo is of course the most famous village. The “Venice of Piedmont” it is perfectly manicured and teaming with pricey wine purveyors and tourists with open walltes . For a slightly more authentic experience Monteforte d’Alba is a short drive a way and has the most striking views of the area. We also visited Barbaresco and Neve. Both were quaint fortified villages with small streets lined with cantinas and restaurants packed well into the night.
We discovered that really need to work hard to find a bad restaurant in Piedmont but by far, our most memorable meal was at Ristorante La Volta Rossa, in a very small village called Roddi. Rated highly on Trip Adviser, we weren’t sure if we were falling into a “Trip Adviser Trap” a restaurant whose owners feverishly solicit positive reviews resulting in an OK place revered by tourists but rarely frequented by locals. Thankfully, this was not the case. Upon arrival, we rang the bell and were guided down three flights of stairs into a cavernous basement where they served local wines and interesting takes on traditional plates. Savory chic pea pancakes, egg pasta with truffles and lamb chops were highlights but every course was spot on.
While our first hotel had the best of intentions we did not find the location particularly inspiring and our damp, dark room was a bit depressing. So we switched hotels and spent our last night at a different Agritourismo, called Ada Nadia. This small family owned hotel was located on a fully functioning Vineyard. It was set up on a hill with a small pool and beautiful views of the surroundings. The owner was absolutely lovely and breakfast was to die for. Sweet and savory homemade tarts, local cheeses and meats. Yes. Please. We also made good friends with their chilled out pup. It was also half the price of our first hotel.
On our last day in Piedmont, the sun finally peaked through the clouds and the Piedmont landscape I’d heard so much about was revealed. Seeing the gently rolling hills, the perfectly aligned row upon row of grapes, and the small medieval towns and castles in the distance made the last leg of our Italian road trip feel complete.