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FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Four too-short days in Piemont

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Ciao!

We have 4 nights (3 full days) in Piemont, en route from the Veneto to the Haut Savoie region in France.

Day 1 (a Monday), we will reserve a table for a relaxing lunch at Del Belbo Da Bardon, San Marzano di Oliveto. (Thanks to allede’s recommendation for another poster seeking a lunch hook en route to the Piemont region.)

We’ll be based at a B&B near Cocconato and are planning to spend the first full day in the Monferrato area and the next two days in the area near Alba.

I’ve done a heap of research on this Board and elsewhere (including using the Red Guide on-line) and am now in on overwhelming state of FOMO. This is especially the case given the quality:price ratio seems seriously reasonable given our exchange rate and eating in Sydney (recently ranked as one of the most expensive places to live in the world... sigh)

Based on eating one multi-course meal a day – which is probably all we’ll be able to manage without requiring medical intervention – I’m thinking that we’ll do the following:
-- Gener Neuv for dinner on Day 2.
-- Al Castello for lunch on Day 3, because it’s co-located with the the Enoteca Regionale Piemontese
-- Osteria Veglio for lunch on Day 4, which is the day we will visit the Enoteca del Roero and, after lunch, Neive.

Any other suggestions greatly appreciated....

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  1. Gener Neuv is second rate. Living off its long ago reputation. If you want to stick to the Asti area because of where you're staying, go for dinner at Il Centro in Priocca or Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti.

    For Day 4, would suggest La Torre in Cherasco for lunch rather than Osteria Veglio. Both are wonderful, but La Torre is in Cherasco which is a fun town to walk around in. Definitely visit Barolo rather than Neive after lunch. IMO.

    When are you going to Alba? If you haven't planned on it, you should go. City is alive in the morning and then again after 4:30 in the afternoon. Wonderful place to walk. Markets in the morning in Bra on Friday and Alba on Saturday are special food places.

    3 Replies
    1. re: allende

      Thanks allende - I was hoping for a sanity check from someone who knows the area. There is just so much you can glean from google searches from half way round the world.

      Neive gets a "most beautiful village” tag – so thought it might be worth a visit. We thought of visiting Barolo after lunch on Day 3.

      I’m glad you said that Alba was a “must see” place. I’d been vacillating. The original plan was to visit Alba after lunch in Del Belbo Da Bardon. But after a longish drive – if not by Australian standards – and a longish lunch, I thought some down time was warranted for the afternoon/evening. Then I couldn't make Alba fit into the rest of the plan.

      However, rejigging said plan:

      Day 2: Following a visit to the Enoteca Regionale Piemontese, lunch at Osteria Veglio then Barolo.
      Day 3: Following a visit to the Enoteca del Roero, lunch at Il Centro then Alba.
      Day 4: Cherasco and lunch at Osteria la Torre, followed by a drive through the Monferrato countryside en route back to the B&B.

      Any views? And just to throw a spanner in the works: any thoughts on winery visits?

      Ta!

      1. re: DexterDog

        Day 2 makes sense.
        Day 3. We've never been to Il Centro for lunch. I would advise going for dinner because it is a long meal (and a fantastic one).
        Day 4 makes sense. We've been to Osteria Della Rosa (see comment below). For us there is no comparison between that (which is okay) and La Torre.

        1. re: DexterDog

          Dexter, I would concur with Allende about Gener Neuv, if you want to eat in Asti try Angolo Beato, which is our best pick for this year.

          I am not so sure about Neive as "most beautiful village”, although Neive alto is very charming, but do avoid La Contea, its also well past its prime.

          Cocconato is in my my mind a "most beautiful village”, I like better then Neive, the views of the Monferrato are stunning, and the Cascina Rosengana agriturismo offers incredible value for money for lunch and dinner. But why are you staying in Cocconato when you want to spend so much time in the Langhe and southern Monferrato, its going to be long drives back and forth.

          I would skip the Enoteca del Roero in Canale, not much, except the restaurant upstairs Al Emoteca is IMO better then Il Centro. Grinzane Cavour has a great enoteca and restaurant as does Nizza Monferrato (La Signora in Rossa) and the Enoteca in the Barbaresco in the old church is worth a visit.

          If you are staying in Cocconato, I would tour the N. Monferrato area, an overlooked area of wonderful hill top towns and villages, small osterie and trattorie, real authentic Piedmont and not the same old restaurants which keep popping up on this forum, not that they are not good, but Piedmont has so many great places to eat waiting to be discovered. We reckon within 1/2 hour radius of Asti there are almost 2000 wineries and maybe as many restaurants and I only exaggerate a little bit :-)

      2. A visit to the "Enoteca Regionale Piemontese" in the castle outside the village of Grinzane Cavour is highly recommended. If you have an extra 30 minutes, be sure to take a tour of the castle where Count Cavour once lived.

        http://www.castellogrinzane.com/ing/i...

        I also recommend a visit to Cherasco, which is a charming town. A meal at Osteria Della Rosa Rossa will not disappoint.

        12 Replies
        1. re: DavidT

          Thanks allende - I was a bit concerned about an hours drive after a long meal and all of that tempting wine, but I guess one of us will just have to be designated driver. (Probably me - my husband is a serious devotee of the Barolo).

          DavidT: We have about two and a half hours at the Enoteca Regionale Piemontese - is that going to be enough time to check out the wines and the castle?

          Also, does anybody know if the Enoteca del Roero sells Davide Palluda's bottled antipasti? My mouth is watering for the cohiglio alla piemontese and the anatra all'arancia. (I noticed they can be purchased on line - wonder if they ship to Oz???)

          1. re: DexterDog

            At Il Centro, a great wine list, but as you'll see, Da Bardon has an even better one.
            Make sure after the meal at Il Centro to have Enrico Cordero show you the cellar. Not to be believed.

            1. re: DexterDog

              Yes, 2 1/2 hours at the Enoteca should be plenty of time for both a tour of the castle and a visit to the tasting room.

              It is also worth not that the tourist offices in the towns of Piemonte have the best info & brochures (especially regarding food & wine tourism) of any region of Italy I have visited.

              What time of year are you planning to visit? Will you be there for the truffle season?

              1. re: DavidT

                So I may be driving the entire time we're in Piemonte!

                Thanks, DavidT, for the tip on the tourist offices. Any websites you can recommend with similar information? FOMO drives me to plan way, way ahead (we will get to Piemonte in the second week of April next year)...

                1. re: DexterDog

                  I don't know of any specific websites. Even now Piemonte gets little recognition compared to Tuscany, Venice, Rome, Sicily, etc. in the travel press

                  I suggest doing a few web searches (maybe slowtrav.com?) and see what turns up. There will be English-language brochures in the tourist offices.

                  I would also suggest not worrying quite so much about FOMO. Sometimes the best experiences while traveling are the ones that are not planned!

                  Here is one website that might be worth a look:

                  http://www.piemonte-online.com/

                  1. re: DavidT

                    Dexter Dog,

                    These should keep you busy until April

                    http://turismo.provincia.cuneo.it/eno...

                    http://www.visitporiver.it/Piemonte/C...

                    http://www.stradadelbarolo.it/eng/ind...

                    http://www.samcooks.com/piedmont-chee...

                    http://piemonteislife.wordpress.com/2...

                    My 2 cents, but I think the Slow Travel website has a tendency to steer to people to favored places, without necessarily being sophisticated about food and wine, and there is a multiplier effect of Slow Travelers all taking each other's advice about where to go, and then singing the same chorus about how great it was. Kind of a closed circle, which may be a liability of all message boards, but I would look at a lot of other sources too. If you are a creative googler, you can find lots of interesting info about the region's bounty online, and hone it down to exactly where you will be so you aren't driving all over the place. There is always a lot to sample and taste in Italy right under your nose.

                    But I agree with DavidT's advice about not overplanning. Rural Piemonte in particular is not a target-sightsee kind of place (as in you "must see" this or that structure or town, with the possible exception of the synogogue in Casale Monferrato). You will surely need to make appointments to visit specific wineries, but otherwise, going to Piemonte is like getting to stay in some many-roomed mansion where somebody gives you a comfortable suite and a set of keys and just says: "Make yourself at home." Then you're left alone to explore, and it's a fun place to be nosy.

                  2. re: DexterDog

                    @DexterDog

                    Is there a reason you're staying in Cocconato? It's a nice area, but is not as convenient to the great trattorie/ristorante which are mostly south of Asti toward and south of Alba. There are many B&Bs near Alba and around La Morra and Barolo as well. It would seem to make more sense to stay closer to Alba than northwest of Asti? JMHO.

                    The Slow Traveler recommendations for restaurants in Piemonte are really poor. Very poor. Be very careful.

                    1. re: allende

                      Thanks, all, for the tips. The best thing about having a plan is that - while you have something to fall back on - you don't have to follow it! Judging by what I've been able to find online so far, the region looks so stunningly beautiful it would be hard to go wrong.

                      We're staying near Cocconato because I liked the look (and the price) of a B&B! Googlemaps reckons we're just over an hours drive to Alba - which seemed OK at the time we made the reservation. Oh well - I get the feeling Piemonte will be a place we keep coming back to...

                      It's a fair wait till April, but I will be sure to report back on our eating and drinking adventures!

                      1. re: DexterDog

                        Dexter,

                        Google maps may say an hour to Alba, but in my experience unless you know the roads and drive like a local you should allow about on hour and a half to Alba and then extra into the Langhe. I say this with certainty being an agriturismo in near Asti that send guests up to Cocconato or Barolo on a daily basis. So 3 hours in the car everyday back and forth, not to mention at night after a long day and a bottle of vino?

                        IMO don’t waste your time going back and forth everyday. By all means do a one-day trip to Barolo Langhe so beloved of many posters on this forum. Yes there are many fine restaurants down there whose names pop up with regular monotony and many of them on the high end if you are on budget. I would focus on being in one of the nicest and less touristy areas of “the zone” the Riviera del Monferrato around Cocconato and the Monferrato Basso. Not many foreign tourists venture into the Northern Monferrato hills, between Asti and the Po River. This is a country of gentle rolling hills blanketed by a tapestry of mixed forest, vineyards, orchards, crop-fields and pastures, studded with tiny hilltop villages, churches and small castles. It is quite calming and different from the better-known southern Monferrato and Langhe hills, which are in some parts wall-to-wall vines, although not too long ago they, too, would have had the same aspect.
                        This region shares the same traditions of wine, food and truffles and has other treasures, including some of Piedmont’s finest examples of Romanesque churches dating back to the 8th century (of which the Abbazia di Vezzolano is the most famous) and one of Italy’s “sacred mountains” at Crea, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
                        Here you will find many restaurants, osterie and trattorie not written about by the Chow posters, but IMO really representative of real Piemontese cuisine, I would urge you to explore of the beaten track, but here are some favourites:
                        Cocconato: Cascina Rosengana; Cannon D’Oro (Michelin starred) and one in the old upper town main square that looked great but I haven’t tried. Two good wineries, Bava and Dezzani.
                        Zanco: Da Maria, beloved of one of our friends.
                        Sacra Monte di Crea: Ristorante Crea, plus Tenuta Tenaglia winery on the slopes.
                        Castagnole Monferrato: Il Merlo Ghiattone.
                        Castelnouvo Don Bosco: La Ciocca and Cantina Sociale Terre dei Santi.
                        Do you like beer? Check out Grado Plato in Chieri (not too far on the road to Turin), home made beer and snails!
                        Also IMO Asti has better quality restaurants then Alba, which are more touristy.
                        Are you here in November? This is THE time for truffles, many local festivals in the North, skip Alba’s commercial one for tourists.
                        Enjoy getting off the well beaten track and let us know what you find.

                        1. re: Villasampaguita

                          @ DexterDog

                          Over the past 35 years, we've spent a lot of time in the area north of Asti and the area around Alba. Both areas are splendid. With all due respect to Vallasampaguita who lives near Asti, we far prefer the area around the Alba and Langhe, for two reasons... the vineyards and the ristorante/trattoria food. I agree with him on the length of travel times; you are underestimating the time to the Alba area.

                          Knowing what I know, if I were you, I'd switch B&Bs to something closer to Alba and The Langhe.

                          1. re: Villasampaguita

                            Villasampaguita: you've significantly increased my FOMO!!!. Seriously, thank you for your post and for giving me so much to think about. Luckily I have till April next year to agonise (so, sadly, not there for the truffles).

                            Allende: Can't switch B&Bs without losing a non-refundable deposit.

                            Thanks for all the pointers and I will definitely report back! I *so* wish I'd given us more time in Piemonte. Oh well, next trip...

                            1. re: DexterDog

                              what kind of deposit policy is that - And for April??? Hopefully its not more than a cost of a dinner! We just got back from 8 days in a small slice of liguria and did not do more than sample - Piemonte is such a rich region that you are unlikely to do better, so better to look at the other side of the coin.