Here’s a little piece we put together for Need Supply Co all about the wonders of undiscovered Italy.
From the waterways of Venice to the ruins of Rome, Italy is brilliantly iconic. Synonymous with food, style and history, this boot-shaped country is immediately recognisable. Thankfully though, some north-eastern Italian corners, while brimming with wineries, mountains and 17th century castles, still remain relatively undiscovered – just as they should be.
Framed by France and Switzerland, Piedmonte is where the Milanese escape for the weekend and English is infrequently uttered. Tradition and wilderness thrive, but what sets this region apart is its diversity. In the southwest, lost in the smaller town surrounding Alba, it’s easy to believe you’re in Central Italy. Grape vines hug undulating slopes while farmhouses, villas and tolling church towers dot the hills. Yet around Cuneo the landscape becomes more dramatic. There is the promise of snow and peaks seem to rise is every direction – Mont Blanc, after all, isn’t that far away.
Piedmonte’s variety is best explored by getting amongst it, by cycling or hiking past the vineyards of Lower Langhe or through the Bavarian-esque forests (frequently dotted with farms and cheese makers) of Upper Langhe. By feeling every heart beat as you push yourself higher and higher towards alpine Ferrere. In sight of the French border, Ferrere – a petite town that essentially closes in winter – was once a mighty smuggling hub, although when viewed bathed in the summer sun it seems nothing but quaint. Explore this outdoor wonderland at the start of the season and you can break your journey up by picking cherries form the trees, replaced with peaches and figs as the cooler month set in.
Replenishing your exhilarated body with fine wine and Italian fare is essential. The wineries of Piedmonte may be considered small (some only span a few acres), yet they’re often family run and thus brim with passion and flavour. A Barolo here will change your life. Interestingly, Piemonte also has one of Italy’s highest concentrations of Michelin starred restaurants (Guido Ristorante within Villa Contessa Rosa, a gift from Vitorrio Emanuel to his mistress, is particularly memorable) yet you can’t go wrong with a trattoria. Like the wineries they are intimate and welcoming, specialising in traditional recipes prepared with both love and respect. Pasta melts, cheese delights and the simplest flavours cause you to pause and savour. The homely fare at L’Aromatario in the medieval town of Neive, proves this point perfectly – as does Ristorante Osteria Della Pace. Suitably wined and dined, you’ll no doubt pause to consider your mountain, sun and adventure filled escape and be thankful, at least for now, that Piedmonte can remain your own little Italianate secret.