Piemonte in November
Hello Everyone - I've read some amazingly helpful trip reports on the board that I don't even need to ask for restaurant recommendations at this point in my planning. I've been to Italy many times but have not made it to Piemonte yet. I would love to get thoughts on which areas to base for a 10-12 day trip. We will likely rent a car.. and I was wondering if you think it's best to stay around Asti, Cuneo, or both. Then, once I figure out where we'll be, I can follow up with some questions about eats. As of now we're thinking of staying around Asti but where would you recommend the second half of our stay? La Morra? or, closer to the mountains?
For wineries, there are so many great ones to take note of.. and I noticed a lot of posts on here shy away from the "touristy" place of Alba and Barolo but if you could chime in about your favorites i would love to hear. We'd like to visit wineries that are relatively unknown but loved by locals.. we dont mind visiting a big name winery but also like to get a taste of the local stuff that you cant get in the US.
I have been to Piemonte in late October and November. The better restaurants will be crowded with Swiss & German foodies. Otherwise, I don't think you will find the area to be particularly "touristy" at all. In fact, I think you will be surprised how few tourists there are about, especially if you get as far south as Cuneo.
Many of the smaller wineries are not equipped to handle visitors, especially on a drop-in basis. I highly recommend visiting the enoteca in the castle just outside of the village of Grinzane Cavour. You will be able to sample the wines from a sizable number of smaller local wineries there. The tour of Count Cavour's residence is also worthwhile.
The Ratti winery is worth a visit as it has a small museum of old winemaking equipment.
Cherasco is a interesting (and different) village that might be a nice place to stay for 3-4 nights.
The tourist offices in Piemonte have some of the best/most helpful brochures of any region of Italy that I have visited.
Have a great trip!
By November the tourist season is starting to drop off although the area around Alba and Barolo does attract more tourists then Asti.
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).
November is a good time to visit as its usually the best time for white truffles, besides the big Alba truffle fair (touristy but worth visiting)there are many small truffle fairs with local flavour as late as December. Also wineries are relaxed as their harvest is in, wine is bubbling in the vats and they are more amenable for visitors. There are are many many smaller family run wineries always happy to take visitors although a call ahead to book is advised.
We note that on this board many of the rave reviews are for restaurants south of Alba in the Langhe, however the whole of Piedmont is famous for its many trattorie and osterie, many of them "mom and pop" as befits the region where the Slow Food movement started.
Can't advise you about the area around Mondovi, not so famous for its wines, there will of course good place to eat, an if you like cheese its closer to the mountain valleys where Piedmont's great cheeses come from.
Thank you for your feedback. If I have 10 days, does it make sense to stay in both Asti (not city center but in the area) as well a town like La Morra or Diano d'Alba? I know they are only about 40 minutes apart so I'm trying to decide if we should stay in both or pick one.. since we have the time I figured it would be nice to stay in 2 places.
As of now I am trying to consolidate some trattorie/osterie that came highly recommended from this board.
A few are:
I Caffi in Acqui di Terme
Gener Neuv - Asti
Tacabanda - Asti
Angolo Beato - Asti
La Grotta and Pompa Magna - Asti
Al Enoteca in Canale
Crota in Calosso
Rosengana in Cocconato
Pergola in Vezza
Madama Vigna in Baldiechieri
Rabaja and Tre Stelle in Barbaresco
La Torre in Cherasco
Il Centro in Priocca
Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti
Cascina Rosengana - Cocconato
Cannon D’Oro - Cocconato
Da Maria - Zanco
Osteria Veglio in Annunziata
Da Renzo in Cervere
Please let me know if you would remove any from the list or add.. Definitely not making it everywhere but it would be great to have a solid list to keep in our back pocket.
The following restaurants that you listed I would put in the category of don't miss: La Torre in Cherasco, Il Centro in Priocca, Osteria Veglio in Annunziata, Da Bardon in San Marzano Oliveto. I would add La Coccinella in Serravalle Langhe. We ate at each of these places last month at the recommendation of Allende (just search for his postings) and each in its own way was excellent.
Regarding planning, keep in mind the days in which each restaurant is open--there is no uniformity at all among restaurants in the Langhe. In fact, we established our itinerary each day based upon where we were going to eat that day, instead of the other way around. Also, take the guess work out and call to make reservations in advance. Finally, unless you have spent a lot of time driving in this area, either rent or bring a navigation system for your car. Our Garmin Nuvi performed almost flawlessly and gave us great confidence, even though it was our first visit to Piemonte.
As for wineries, contact them in advance for an appointment: we had a lot of success making appointments by e-mail. Our best visits were with smaller, family-owned wineries such as Vietti, Voerzio, and Azelia.
so great to know.. Thanks Henjef. I love the smaller, family run wineries the most. I appreciate the big guys but the smaller ones really are something special and unique.
Also, good tip about the nav and restaurants.. about my question regarding where to stay. do you think it's ok to stay in both the area of Asti (not in the city) and a town in the Cuneo province (la morra danio d'alba etc) or does it not make sense given the short distance between? I figured it would be nice to split up the trip with two different towns over the course of the 10 days or so. Otherwise, we can just pick one and spend the last couple days in Genoa while we're in that area. After all its quite accessible especially from Asti..
The answer will depend on whether you might get bored staying in one place for 10 days or not. We chose to stay in Barolo for 14 days because we wanted to relax and get to know the area, and not worry about having to pack up as soon as we arrived. Even still, we drove up to Asti from Barolo for their wonderful Wednesday market, and made the 45 minute drive to San Marzano Oliveto to have dinner at Da Bardon. We were surprised and pleased at how easy it was to cover a lot of ground in our car.
True. I have no problem staying in one place - I just heard Asti is more central and easier to get around from there. It's nice to just relax and not have to be "on the go" though.. The issue is that I have about 3 places where I want to stay and can't pick one because they're all so beautiful (ha, not a bad problem to have). themandy just chimed in below.. curious to see how far in advance we need to book dinner reservations and winery appointments.. is one month plenty of time?
We arrived in Barolo on 5 July, and began requesting appointments around 15 May. Many of the wineries responded that was too early and to contact them within 10 days of our arrival. All in all, we contacted 15 wineries, 13 responded, and we confirmed 6 appointments. Very easy process.
I focused on appointments with wineries that were my favorites, rather than size, but learned quickly that the family-owned operations were more congenial to a visit than the larger operations (e.g. Ceretto). Best visit hands-down was at Vietti in Castiglione Falletto where Luca Currado poured each of his 2010 cru Barolos and his wife Elena personally conducted the tour. We also enjoyed the tour at Roberto Voerzio in La Morra where we had an intensive seminar in the vineyard and then tasted 7 of their wines afterwards. We also visited Azelia, Elio Grasso and Sori Paitin (in Neive; wanted to mix in a Barbaresco visit).
Also, don't forget that incredibly Marie Teresa Mascarello lives in Barolo a couple of doors down from our favorite coffee shop and on her front door is a sign explaining the hours and days of the week when you can walk up and knock on the door for a visit.
My 2 cents. The town of Barolo is a great base for staying in the southern Langhe. I get the touristy label, but did not feel overrun by tourists in July until the Collisioni festival, which the mayor promised me will not be coming back. Barolo's restaurants are mediocre, but it has the best coffee shop (Cafe du Vin) and the best enoteca (La Vite Turchese) that we tried (and we tried a lot). If that is not enough, the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo in the Castle has 32 different Barolos available for tasting on enomatic machines. Most important to us was that Barolo is small, and easy to get in and out of each day in our car with ample parking. Added bonus is that you can walk past Cafe du Vin and knock on Maria Teresa Mascarello's door and ask to taste one of the greatest Barolos, Bartolo Mascarello.
We just got back from our first trip to Piemonte, which was highly enhanced by other Chowhounds' research and advice. We split our trip into two sections -- we stayed first on the Monferrato side, and then moved west to explore the Langhe.
Monferrato: We stayed in a B&B in the hills of Canelli called La Luna e i Falo, after Pavese's last novel of the same name. We stayed there for a) the food (the proprietrix is justly famous as a chef and revivalist of ancient Astignano recipes) b) its proximity to Bardon, c) its proximity to some of our favorite Asti winemakers, and d) more generally, for the opportunity to explore the "forgotten" side of Piemonte, the Monferrato region which, having been, I can assure you is every bit as wondrous as the Langhe.
Langhe: We based ourselves at an agriturismo in Monforte, thinking it would situate us equidistantly from a bunch of spots we hoped to visit (we were as eager to visit Serralunga as we were La Morra, Verduno, and Barbaresco). Having done this I can recommend it as a base of operations.
Renting a car is essential.
In terms of wineries, one of the things that is worth noting is that -- unlike Napa, say -- some of the "big name" wineries in Piemonte are also rather intimate family operations. For every Clerico or Ratti in Piemonte there are dozens of equally acclaimed producers whose tasting rooms are as unadorned as anything you'll find. Elio Grasso, Silvio Grasso, Renato Corino, Luigi Pira, et many al, all make highly acclaimed juice while treating you like a guest....
In terms of visits, you definitely need to make arrangements ahead of time; drop-ins are hard to come by. Partly because they lavish you with time, energy, and pours....