October and November marks the season for the celebrated fungus, the tartufo bianco (white truffle), in central and northern Italy. The northern Italian region of Piemonte (Piedmont) in particular is not only a popular destination for the delicious local delicacy but also famous for its wines – primarily the Barolo, the Barbaresco, the Barbera and the Moscato D’Asti. And all just a 5-hour drive from Zurich!
What better reason to go back to Italy than for truffles, food and wine? Mike and I ventured out for a weekend of gluttony with our friends Mark and Tina. Since it was a weekend all about food and wine, let’s get right to it!
Treating Your Taste Buds
Alba Truffle Festival
Alba’s annual White Truffle Festival, now in its 84th year, is a month-long celebration and exhibition that brings people from all over the world to experience the white truffle. You’ll find a plethora of booths selling both black and white truffles, cheeses of all varieties, sausages, mushrooms and wines. Even if you don’t make any purchases, having a look around and taking in all the different smells and tastings is a unique experience. Admission is only €2.50 so why not? 🙂
Our first wine tasting brought us to the historical cellars of the Marchesi di Barolo, where it was said that the Barolo wine was born more than 200 years ago – named after its town where it was first produced. Today, it is a winery run by the Abbona family, where its knowledge of vineyards and wines have been passed down for 5 generations.
This family-owned winery in La Morra was an ideal stop for our wine and food weekend. We were lucky enough to spend a couple hours with wine maker, Massimo Negretti, who shared with us a little about his family’s history, the grapes grown in the region, the harvest and wine-producing process. This winery specializes in the varieties of noble Barolo, classic Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera and the Dadà (a truly invigorating Chardonnay, which was new for me). Overall, I enjoyed the experience and the wines here over the Marchesi di Barolo – the intimacy and the attention we received from Massimo at his winery was first class.
Oh the deliciousness of Piedmont! Here’s what I ate over the weekend 🙂
Dinner at Massimo Camina (La Morra):
We found the staff to be on the pretentious side, always a damper on the experience…however, the food was inventive and delicious and our taste buds could not complain!
Dinner at Ristorante San Marco (Canelli):
We loved this restaurant in Canelli. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the staff was friendly and patient with our tough decision-making…what to eat! Here, we could pick a truffle for our table – they weigh it before purchase (cost is by the gram) and then it’s ours to share for the meal. Truffles on everything, please!
Bar Roma (Santo Stefano Belbo):
This little bar in Santo Stefano Belbo is a great family-run local hangout. Whether it’s a cup of perfect foamy cappuccino or a sparkling glass of Moscato-secco, you’ll feel right at home and be treated like family. We went back the next day!
Lunch at Il Cascinalenuovo (Isola d’Asti):
We stopped by this restaurant for lunch on our way home. Since I was already stuffed from the weekend, I opted out of the tasting menu and went for the primi, which was a seasonal pumpkin risotto…hit the spot!
Where We Stayed
La Residence delle Rose (Monforte d’Alba):
This quaint hotel has only 2 guest rooms, both done with great care. Each room has a view and the larger guest room is a suite with a small kitchen and rooftop terrace, boasting a 360-degree view of the vineyards.
Residenza San Vito (Calamandrana):
This charming and brand new B&B has 5 guest rooms featuring original woodwork from the 18th century and high ceilings. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with private balconies. The hospitable owner, Angelo, welcomed his guests through friendly chatter, an amazing breakfast and even free bottles of wine from his small vineyard.
Overall, a very full weekend of sampling Italy’s famed food, wine and the tartufo bianco! Before you plan your trip however:
Two Important Tips>
- Bring a detailed map or have access to Google Maps – we found that destinations were not always easy to find as every other street was named Via Alba or Via Roma, without street numbers. Our GPS could not locate the destination half the time and we were lucky to have access to the Internet.
- Make appointments with the wineries and restaurant reservations well in advance of your trip, especially during high season to make the most of your holiday in Piedmont.