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Mar 14, 2013 03:59 PM

I just cant decide where to go!

HI all,

Planning a trip to Italy in late October/Early November. Can only get away for 10 days. It originally was going to be just Venice but family is encouraging us to drive through Tuscany and now husband is thinking of starting the trip in Rome! I dont want to shuffle around the whole time. I'm a chef so I'm mostly interested in the food but he wants to see some of the "sites". I just want to eat a truffle in Italy! This is getting confusing. What would you do? What would you skip? How long would you stay in each place. I know we will be back but it could be awhile. What will be going on at that time besides truffle season?

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  1. I think if you want to focus on truffles you need to go to Piemonte. Torino is a great little city.
    4 days in Torino (there is an airport there) followed by 5 in Venice would be great.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jangita

      If you want to eat truffles and eat well in Piemonte, it is best to get out of Torino.

      I would not go to Venice in late October/early November, and I would not pick it as an interesting destination for food over sights.

      You can have quite a wonderful, utterly genuine and hihgly varied experience of food and food culture in Rome in late October/early November if you choose your restaurants and market-going wisely to give you breadth and a window into history. Bonus is your husband actually wants to go there. (Personally, I would pick Napoli over Rome for food and urban food culture).

      There are at least half a dozen flights a day from Rome to Genoa, where it is extremely easy to rent a car at the airport and be in prime foodie Piemonte in 90 minutes or less.

      My recommendation would be to start in Rome, spend enough days there to truly enjoy it, take the one-hour flight to Genoa, rent a car, and drive into the strike zone for truffles and the best Piemontese food and wine. Fly out of Milan (you can drive there from eastern Piemonte, even if you have a morning flight).

      If you would rather take a train from Rome than fly, the fast trains from Rome can get to you Torino between 4-5 hours. Rent a car in Torino, or Asti.

      Tuscany is one of Italy most's popular tourist destinations for its picturesque-ness, but much of the rest of Italy, including Piemonte, is rural, history-rich and enchanting too and i think has better food.

    2. I second the idea of spending at least a 3 or 4 days in Piemonte. Late October/early November is just about the perfect time to go for dining with white truffles. I have been there twice at that time of year.

      While Torino is worth visiting for a day of sightseeing, I would look to stay somewhere in the Langhe region. Anywhere within 15-20 miles of Alba (or in Alba itself) would be quite suitable.

      If you do a search for Piemonte, you will find several threads with a good number of dining recommendations.

      1. Wow, I gotta say I'm surprised no one suggest emilia bologna!

        2 Replies
        1. re: DERECKSWIFEY

          You said you wanted to eat truffles!

          1. re: wally


            Like wally pointed out, you said that above all you wanted to eat truffles, so if I felt that way, in late October/early November, I would go to Piemonte (and hope it was a good truffle season!). For other tastes, I would go to delicious Emilia-Romanga and I also enjoy Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Le Marche as autumn food destinations.

            In autumn in Piemonte, in addition to truffles, there are many other great funghi, hazlenuts, stuffed vegetables, pears, cheeses, cured meats and game dishes, and great chocolate makers.

        2. If you are starting your trip in Rome, you should think about Umbria! It is famous for both white and black truffles (in fact, many of the truffles sold in Piedmonte come from Umbria). The fall is perfect for truffles and there are still some fun festivals going on as well. But most importantly, there is the olive harvest/ pressing of the new olive oil beginning the last 2 weeks of October - it is a fantastic experience and the olive oil in that period has an amazing flavor - not to be missed!

          6 Replies
          1. re: LifeItalianStyle

            @ LifeItalianStyle

            Not sure why you misled the board. "Many of the truffles in Piedmonte (sic)" do not come from Umbria.

            If you go to most of the good ristorante and trattorie in Piemonte, none of the truffles come from Umbria or anyplace else. The smell and taste of those from Piemonte and Umbria are totally different. IMO, there is no comparison; Umbria's pale. As you know, black truffles are totally different and aside from the name, have nothing to do with white truffles.

            Piemonte, particularly around Alba and Asti, have, again IMO, the greatest concentration of great ristorante and trattorie in all of Italy. One right after another... and you get the greatest wine in Italy as well.

            If you want white truffles, great places to eat and great wine, there really is only one place in late October or early November.

            1. re: allende

              @allende - I didn't intend that all truffles in Piedmonte are from Umbria, but it is true that Umbrian truffle companies sell truffles to Piedmonte. If you were not aware, Umbria also has an extremely high concentration of prized white truffles that come from the area of Gubbio. Both regions have great truffles, I was merely making a suggestion of another area to visit.

              1. re: LifeItalianStyle

                I know you didn't say all truffles, you said "many of the truffles sold in Piedmonte (that is really Piemonte) are from Umbria."
                That is simply not true.

                These Umbrian truffle companies that sell truffles "to Piedmonte"... to whom do they sell them to?

                I am very much aware of the truffles from Gubbio. Again, in my opinion, they do not begin to compare with those from Piemonte.

                1. re: allende

                  Oh my goodness I didn't mean to start a civil war. This is so helpful though. I'm printing out your replies so I can study the places because honestly I've never heard of the smaller places you are talking about.

                  Also, on the trip advisor boards a lot of people mentioned that the "truffle festivals" were not what they expected... basically vendors trying to sell truffle products, truffle oil, etc. But not like a true cultural experience or capturing the spirit of Italy or the integrity of truffle season for the locals... more of a tourist trap. Have you had better experiences?

                  So now I feel like Venice its out and it breaks my heart. :(

                  1. re: DERECKSWIFEY

                    It really depends on the festival - it is true that in some of the bigger towns they can feel pretty commercial. A lot of times there are more vendors selling random products from other parts of Italy than actual vendors selling truffles (or whatever the festival is for). That said, I think they are still fun to go to, and a good experience if you have never been to one.
                    The best way to experience truffles, however, is not at a festival (in my opinion) - I would try to go on a truffle hunt - there are plenty of people offering this service now, and it usually includes a great truffle-based lunch afterwards or just go to a fantastic restaurant known for simple truffle dishes and eat your heart out! :-)

                    1. re: DERECKSWIFEY

                      @ Dereckswifey

                      As far as where the truffles sold, go to some of Villasampaguita's posts. They live near Asti and know the smaller towns well. This is where the best truffles are sold.

                      As far as eating truffles. In many prior posts, I've listed my favorite trattorie and ristorante in Piemonte. Go to any of them, including the great trattoria Da Bardon. Have pasta or eggs shaved with truffles. Do not have a whole meal with truffles... it is overkill on any one night. Have one dish at lunch, one for dinner, repeat.

                      Truffle hunts are a joke. It's cold and depending on how the trip is "fixed" you'll be hunting (not really) and then magically find a truffle. They are tourist traps.

                      One last thing and this is very important. Don't ever have a dish served with truffle oil. It really is an abomination. Any restaurant in Piemonte using it is not a good restaurant.

                      Hope this helps. Have fun and f you go to Piemonte you will have fun in the truffle season. You walk into a place and the aroma of truffles hits you.

            2. I would add my vote to the recommendations of several others that you spend at least three or four days in Piemonte, if food, wine and truffles are priorities. Search this board for recommendations on restaurants (particularly anything written by Allende). Consider staying in one of the many converted estates in the region (for example Il Castello di Villa near Isola d'Asti) or at one of the small hotels in La Morra in the Barolo wine country. While I would not stay in Alba or Asti, Alba is a wonderful walking town and has a great Saturday market.

              You could combine Piemonte with Florence or even Rome, if seeing churches, museums, etc. is your other objective. As long as you have a car, the distances are not a problem. Or consider a couple of nights in Liguria or the Italian lake country.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peter Rodgers

                Many restaurants in Liguria and the lakes close in November because the weather is so unfavorable and owners use the time to do renovations and make repairs (or take a vacation themselves).

                Many highly regarded restaurants in Piemonte offer rooms or are in very pleasant small towns with excellent hotels and b&bs within a 5 minute walk. If sampling the regions great wines figures to be an important part of your nighttime dinner experience, then I would recommend picking your restaurant targets first and accommodations based on that rather than parking yourselves in in a remote spot that requires driving steeply twisting rural roads after dinner, possibly in the rain.