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Oct 17, 2008 08:04 AM

Seeking Foodie Side Trip from Turin

After attending a conference in Turin, I have three nights before I have leave Italy (flying out of Milan).

I'm travelling by myself, will be taking trains and pullmans (coach buses), and want to spend the time in Piedmont or Aosta Valley.

Any recommended small towns or villages where I should go? I'd like to spend the time eating in small osterie (don't have the money for Michelin!), wandering around pretty towns and getting a feel for the region, where I haven't been before.

Any suggestions for destinations? Thanks in advance.

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  1. When are you going? Alba is very reachable from Turin. It is possible to take a direct bus and there is frequent train service though you will likely have to change in Asti. For a foodie destination, it doesn't get much better than Alba.

    4 Replies
    1. re: badwaiter

      Badwaiter I am considering a trip to the same area. Do you have a favorite hotel or B&B within wallking distance of Alba restaurants? Do you have favorite restaurants in Alba and around that you might care to discuss? Many thanks!

      1. re: erica

        You’ll have a great time in Alba. As a caveat I have only been to Alba during the month of Oct. During this time the town is geared up for the truffle fest. Still, there is a huge difference between a weekday and weekend night. Weekday night, the town goes to sleep really early but during the weekend it’s very lively and I would advise reservations. Also, I have only ever reached Alba by public transportation (bus, train) I can only speak to restaurants within the city though it seems there are many good places in the immediate vicinity.

        For eating I can recommend in my order of preference:

        La Libera Pertinace 24—Very minimal décor with a strong emphasis on the foods of the region. On my recent visit there I had zucchini flowers with gamberetti, a tajarin al ragu di coniglio and a maltagliata with broccoli and sausage. They had an appetizer plate with the classics of Piemonte like carne cruda and vitello tonnato, as well as a dish I had never seen before, ”Finanziera” which is a dish with chicken combs and livers, veal rump, chicken sweetbreads and more. Didn’t order that one. It goes without saying that the wines and cheeses are excellent here as is the service.

        Osteria Del Arco Piazza Savona 5—I ate here two years ago and in retrospect it was a good meal. I think that I was worn out from all of the samples and wine of the truffle fest, and the slow service (and more wine) kind of had me out of sync. They really play up their attachment to Slow Food and I think my expectations might have been too high. Later, I thought back to how at almost any other time I would have thought it an excellent experience. The restaurant is pretty big and I did go at the busiest time of the year but the same can be said for La Libera and there were no service problems. I would definitely eat here again, though. I remember getting a tasting menu which had robiola cheese with tartufi, tajarin, and brasato and if those details aren’t quite right I did have a nice Barbera.

        Vigin Mudest Via Vernazza, 11—Though Alba is very small this place is what you might call off the beaten path. I think the main difference between this restaurant and those above is that the former try to elevate the standard dishes of the region while this place gives a more classic presentation. My visit here was also a few years ago but they have a nice atmosphere (quiet, dim) vs. the others which are more loud (Del Arco) or bright (Libera).

        Vin Café—Right on Vittorio Emmanuele which is the main shopping street in Alba this place hasn’t let me down for lunch, a glass of wine or a plate of cheese and salumi. During the weekday they have outdoor seating and it’s a pleasant place to kill time.

        Lastly, if you like sweets there is a great bakery which makes amazing “baci di dama” cookies stuffed with nutella, dark chocolate or white chocolate. I still haven’t grabbed the business card for this place but it is on Via Cavour headed away from the center of Alba on the left side of the street (with the cathedral behind you) next to or two doors down from a barber shop. Never had better.

        I recommend the Albergo San Lorenzo (Piazza Rossetti 6) which is right behind the cathedral and about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station. The rooms are modest but clean and the location is as good as it gets in Alba.

      2. re: badwaiter

        Hi Badwaiter.

        I 've been doing some research, and I think you're right about a visit to Alba! I was thinking about staying in Alba, and doing side trips to Cuneo, Verduno and other towns in the area.

        Like Erica, I'd love any specific suggestions for central places to stay, and favourite food shops, restos, etc...

        1. re: Gooseberry

          Wow! GREAT information. Many thanks. My trip would not be until spring, so I will miss the truffles, but am sure I will find great things to eat!

          I drove through a corner of SE Piemonte last month, and if anyone is in the vicinity of Tortona (AL), I can recommend this place:

      3. Cherasco is well worth a visit. It is in the Langhe region, south of Alba & Bra.

        Cherasco has very good osteria (La Rosa Rossa) and a chocolate shop that makes excellent dark-chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts.

        Cherasco is also quite unusual, as the streets are straight and the corners are all at right angles.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DavidT

          I would also think seriously about renting a car. Many of the hill towns in the Langhe region (La Mora, Barolo, Nieve, Grinzane Cavour, etc.) are much more accessible by car than public transportation.

          I have also found the brochures & tourist info available in the tourist offices in the Piemonte to be probably the best in all of Italy. Almost all of it is available in English. Be sure to visit the main tourist office in Turin and see what they have available.

          1. re: DavidT

            David: Did you stay anyplace that you recommend that might be a good base for exploring? (I would have a car but would not want to drive far to restaurants at night..)

            1. re: erica

              We stayed in Cherasco at Al Cardinal Mazzarino for a couple of nights over 10 years ago. It was wonderful.

              However, I know the place has changed hands in the past few years. The new owners have added a 3rd bedroom and have opened a restaurant there as well. I have no idea what it is now like there. My guess is it that it is still pretty wonderful.


              Even if you do not stay in Cherasco, I would certainly recommend a visit there.