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Asti Vs Turin as base for Piemonte

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TkNeo Aug 28, 2013 02:53 PM

Hi everyone, just wanted to ask the people what they thought is a better location , Asti or Turin , for what we like to do.

As a summary, we will be in the area for 16 days and here is the itinerary (Feel free to critique). We are reaching Milan on Sep 21. This will be our third trip in 3-4 years so obviously we love Italy.

Lago D'Iseo -> Turin/Asti -> Lyon -> Avignon -> Genoa/Santa Marghertia with 4 days/3 nights in Turin/Asti. We will have a rental car so this itinerary will be a loop.

We like architecture, people watching, shopping, good food and wine and not too many tourists.

City - We don't like staying in the countryside nor do we like major cities. We like the middle. To be more specific, last year we really liked Bologna as it was a very walk-able city, not too big and not too small and had a little bit of everything. Rome was too big. I worry that Turin might be too big or Asti might be too small ? When in the area we only plan on going to Asti, Alba and Turin.

Food/Wine - We love eating good food and wine. Last year when we spent a month in Italy, we loved the Piemonte wines during our stay around Lago d'iseo. Regarding food, we get tired of restaurants with too much presentation so we like to eat at simpler places that make flavorful dishes with simple ingredients not requiring a complex palette.

Don't like to be in too much countryside...Like seeing people, shopping areas, coffee shops, architecture, and of course have a good lunch and dinner.

  1. b
    barberinibee Aug 28, 2013 03:11 PM

    I don't know if Chowhound will let your questions or my answer stand because so much is not food related. If you find my answer deleted, you can ask on the Frommer's travel forum for Italy, I will tell you there.

    1. b
      barberinibee Aug 28, 2013 03:17 PM

      Choose Torino. The historic core is the same size as Bologna, and Asti will feel way to small for you. As soon as you can, buy a copy of the Osterie d'Italia and use it throughout Italy to choose places to eat. I have seen copies sold on Amazon. If you haven't got one by the time to you get to Torino, you can certainly buy it there. (You can also buy it on iTunes as an app. Never used it. Prefer the book.)

      This is nice brief on cafes in Torino

      http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/nov/14/turin-best-cafes-coffee-shops

      But you really should do as much research as you can about Torino's bars and cafes, because they are a lot of fun. So are the chocolate makers and cheese shops. This is old, but it the basics about food are still current

      http://www.extratorino.it/ENG/list.php?categoriaID=40

      this is good regarding food themed visits to the city, even though it is from the tourist office

      http://www.turismotorino.org/docs/EN/A82/food_andamp;_wine/theme_routes

      and this is really useful: a restaurant search feature for Piemonte that lets you narrow you search by guidebook (meaning, you can narrow your search to restaurants listed in the Slow Food Osterie d'Italia guide, or Gambero Rosso, or other guides). Plus you can narrow the search by price.

      http://www.turismotorino.org/vetrinaR...

      3 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee
        t
        TkNeo Aug 28, 2013 10:14 PM

        Hi barberinibee, Thanks for your suggestions. This is about food ! The reason we are going to Piemonte is for food and wine. However, thats not the sole purpose of the trip and i am not looking to revolve my entire trip around michelin rated restaurants. Hope chowhound considers this as legit.

        I like your idea about Torino. I have posted this on the frommers forum and my post is on the top of Italy and Malta forum.

        1. re: TkNeo
          b
          barberinibee Aug 29, 2013 02:29 AM

          Hi, I agree that if you are going to Piemonte for food and wine that the legendary restaurant experiences of food and wine are not in the cities of Piemonte, but in the small towns and country inns of Piemonte. You don't need to go to "michelin-rated" restaurants to have stellar meals. While some of the restaurants frequently mentioned on Chowhound may be more formal than what you are looking for, just as many are not and would fit your description of "simpler places" serving dishes made with local ingredients, simply prepared.

          You can review past threads of the Chowhound legends and see what appeals to you (maybe Peter Rodgers could help you out with a link for starters). If it not clear to you what ambience these restaurants have from reading other people's descriptions, you can revive the thread by asking or many of these restaurants have websites.

          There are fun and illuminating experiences of eating and drinking in Piemonte other than in Piemontese restaurants, however, and some of those experiences are only in the cities. Depending on how many restaurant meals you want to eat, you might consider combining nights spent in a city with a countryside lunch, and also consider spending one night in a small town on your way to or from someplace else so you can enjoy a relaxing meal with wine without driving afterwards. Personally, I would not want more than 2 or 3 "destination" meals on a 4 day visit to Piemonte no matter where I was staying.

          I have already given you some links to the tourist board of Piemonte, and I agree with DavidT that they do a standout job of helping people sample the famous food and wine in the region. I will also suggest that if white truffles are still on your agenda that you reverse your trip so that you begin in Santa Margherita Ligure and end in Piemonte. You might even be able to catch some of the white truffle fair in Alba.

          I'll go check out your post on Frommer's.

        2. re: barberinibee
          l
          lagatta Aug 30, 2013 09:24 AM

          I loved the Guardian article and must go to San Carlo next time I'm in Turin. I have friends there.

          One thing I really loved about cafés in Turin after many months studying in Central Italy, before returning to Montréal via France, was the fact that there were good-quality flaky croissants, not those awful cakey things with a sweet filling one finds in much of Italy. I love food in Italy, but there were a few French things I missed there.

          Another site worth looking at is slowtrav.com - it has a lot of information about food and travel in that part of Italy.

          I really enjoyed Turin, but I like big cities. Yes, the historic core is no larger than Bologna's, but of course Turin was long an industrial city with many manufacturing districts and more modern high-density suburbs. One time my friends and I had dinner under a roof-topped terrasse by the Po; I don't remember the meal (20 years ago) but remember the hard rain and the angry river, much narrower there than at its mouth.

          Turin is a big city, but does not have the sometimes ponderous feeling of Milan, for example.

        3. p
          Peter Rodgers Aug 28, 2013 04:50 PM

          Neither. The best way to get in touch with the region is to stay either in Alba or in one of the little towns outside of Asti and Alba. Depending on your budget, check out places near Isola d'Asti, Costigliole d'Asti, La Morra and Serralunga d'Alba. If Alba, there is a budget option called I Castelli. In the smaller towns, there are B&Bs, as well as some upscale properties at various levels of grandeur. Most importantly, from all of these towns, you can access Piemonte's abundant vinyards, wineries and restaurants. For the latter, have a look at Allende's posts on this board for great ideas.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Peter Rodgers
            d
            DavidT Aug 28, 2013 07:59 PM

            I agree, if you visit Piemonte you should plan on spending at least a few days among the towns and villages of the Langhe region, the area around Alba and to the south of it.

            In addition to the towns cited above, Bra and Cherasco are certainly worth a visit.

            For wine tasting, I have several times recommended visiting the Regional Enoteca in the castle outside of the village of Grinzane Cavour.

            If you really want to get off the tourist-beaten path, travel south to Cuneo for a day trip.

            The tourist board for Piemonte/Langhe.produces some of the best guides for visiting I have seen in any of the regions of Italy I have visited. A number of the brochures are food & wine focused. Be sure to stop by the tourist office in any town you visit.

            1. re: DavidT
              t
              TkNeo Aug 28, 2013 10:15 PM

              DavidT, thanks ! can you share what is your main reason for suggesting to visit a bunch of small towns ? I am not sure what is exactly that you want me to experience.

              1. re: TkNeo
                d
                DavidT Aug 29, 2013 06:57 AM

                It has been a number of years since I have been to Piemonte. I would suggest thumbing thru the PIemonte chapter of a copy of Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." It will show you what these towns & villages have to offer from a chowhound point of view. It is far more than Michelin starred restaurants.

                The countryside in the Langhe region is also quite pretty.

                http://www.decanter.com/people-and-pl...

              2. re: DavidT
                KarenDW Sep 23, 2013 08:00 PM

                I too am a bit curious as to what you have suggested. I'm planning to visit Piedmonte in 2014, for about 6 days, at the end of October. Hopefully there will be some wonderful food and wine experiences within the town and its surrounds. As a smaller bodied person, it's not possible for me to imbibe in more than a few sips of wine before being legally "over the limit" for blood alcohol. Perhaps there will be some affordable tours and excursions as part of the SlowFood week.

                1. re: KarenDW
                  l
                  lagatta Sep 24, 2013 05:10 AM

                  Karen, I don't drive, and I've always managed to get around pretty much anywhere in northern and central Italy (transport can be very poor in parts of the south). Look into tours and excursions, but also simple public transport. You can't get everywhere, but you can most certainly get to enough interesting destinations for about 6 days, while enjoying some lovely views, especially from the train.

                  The Man in Seat 61 is a great rail travel site: http://www.seat61.com Look up Italy. slow travel is a good site for northern Italy: http://www.slowtrav.com/ Chowhound is foodcentric, so we can't provide detailed travel advice not directly related to food and wine, but I assure you that you'll be fine. And the food and wine are lovely, in particular in the autumn.

            2. Villasampaguita Sep 28, 2013 03:13 AM

              I would agree with Peter Rogers that if your primary purpose is for the food and wine of Piedmont, than better to stay in the central wine area around Asti or Alba. Turin most definitely has some fine restaurants, but most Torinese like to go to the Langhe and Monferrato hills on weekends for dining out, there are so many wonderful little osterie and trattorie, it hard to go wrong. If you search this board for Piedmont you will find so many restaurants mentioned.

              Driving is a must in Piedmont as most of the wineries and small restaurants are located outside of the bigger towns, and you will miss the essential Piedmont experience.

              As far as which location, I am biased in favour of Asti as I live close by and its a most central location for all of Piedmont's eno-gastronomical zone as well as being close enough to go for a day trip to Turin, whereas Alba, although closer to Barolo, is in one corner of the "zone" Although both cities are charming and have many restaurants (we favour Asti over Alba here too), I would still suggest a car to drive around.

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