Now that London is back in ‘Lockdown’ after having managed to squeeze in a quick trip in to Sweden, I’m desperate to getaway again. While reminiscing all of my favourite places to visit, very few remind me of my precious Oregon; however, Piedmont, Italy definitely comes close! Majestic mountains, lush green valleys covered with vineyards, close proximity to the ocean and one of the best food scenes in the world makes this region a place that I will always visit time and again. Simply said, there’s just so much to see, savour and indulge in that one trip won’t suffice.
I first visited Piedmont way back in December 2007. My husband and I were visiting Turin, Italy for his work’s Christmas party and one of his Italian friends invited us to stay in his hometown of Saluzzo and then go wine tasting. Well, with an offer like that, how could we say no?!?!
Our adventure began in the town of Saluzzo, which quite honestly, is probably one of the most scenically beautiful Italian towns I’ve ever been to. Located in the foothills of Piedmont’s tallest mountain, Monviso, this historic town definitely didn’t disappoint. We spent a snowy day exploring the city and indulging in local Piemontese cuisine. A climb to the top of Torre Civica would normally provide the perfect vantage point to take in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and valley; however, due to the wintry conditions that day, our view was a bit blurry. Oh darn…an excuse to return!!
During the afternoon we ventured out to the Langhe, which is the region made famous by its Barolo and Barbaresco wines. We found ourselves traveling through winding hillsides covered with snow covered vineyards, dotted with cantinas, a magical, wintry, viticultural wonderland!
Our first stop was Barolo! Honestly, there is wine everywhere in this town and you really can’t leave without having tasted something. We headed straight for the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, which is a great place to sample wines from several producers all under one roof. I just couldn’t get enough of this historic town and it’s incredible wines!
Our next stop was the cantina Carlo Boffa in the town of Barbaresco. The views over the vineyards really set the scene for an amazing wine tasting experience. Our second stop was Cantina Parroco in Neive. Initially, I was a bit sceptical when our friend stopped outside the cantina, as it looked just like any typical Italian house, not my idea of a winery. However, a quick knock on the front door, followed by a warm Italian greeting and a journey into the winemaker’s cantina, led to a very memorable experience. The winemaker gave us a personal tour of his winery which included a tasting of his beautiful wines and the ability to see the very large ‘Botti’ barrels made from Slovenian oak. .
Well, despite only being able to stay for a few days, I was hooked! Determined to return.
Fast forward ten years…2017…and we’re back, celebrating our 10th anniversary!
It’s always such a wonderful opportunity to visit a place for the second time and this time we decided to experience it regally…so we stayed in a castle! The Hotel Castello di Sinio to be precise. Located just a short drive from the towns of Barolo, Barbaresco and Neive in the tiny village of Sinio, this castle…castello…is quite simply the perfect place to relax after a wine-filled day of tastings, tours and amazing Piemontese cuisine. The rustic, yet understated elegance of the castello surrounded by aromatic flower gardens with friendly cats scampering about and the most beautiful swimming pool definitely sets the mood for a tranquil, yet fairytale-like stay.
I can honestly say that this is quite possibly the best hotel I have ever stayed in because everything was exemplary and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s owned and operated by Denise Pardini, an American expat from San Francisco, who personally greeted us upon arrival with a glass of bubbly in hand. Not only does she manage and own the hotel but she is also the restaurant’s chef. Her culinary creations are vibrant, creative and so so good! Oh and did I mention the breakfast? Well, it’s worth staying here simply for the regal morning feast meant to give your weary, slightly hung-over self a bit of a boost!!
Additionally, Denise organised two private winery visits for us with the winemaker! A job well done! Thanks, Denise! We will be back again in future…I guarantee it!
The first winery we visited was Franco Conterno in Monforte d’Alba. To say that this winery is nestled amongst the vines is an understatement. They’re everywhere! Upon arrival, we were greeted by the winemaker’s wife. She provided a very thorough and insightful overview of the Barolo region, the different grape varieties grown here and the Franco Conterno wines, which she generously poured for us to taste as well offering us a savoury selection of traditional Piemontese cured meats and cheeses. We purchased a few bottles, one of which was a 2007 Barolo to honour 10 years of marriage. It’s still in our cellar at home waiting for the right moment to be opened.
The second winery we visited was Fontana Bianca in the town of Neive. During our 2007 visit, Neive was covered in snow surrounded by bare grapevines, but this time, the village radiated under the afternoon sunshine, surrounded by lush, green vines. Such a difference between the seasons, but what a fantastic way to fully understand and experience the unique terroir of this region. Completely, and utterly breathtaking!
Fontana Bianca is one of the top producers of Barbaresco in the region. It was founded by the winemaker Aldo Pola and was named after a natural spring “the white fountain” that sustains their vines. My husband and I were very impressed with the passion and knowledge that his son Matteo Pola, the next generation winemaker of Fontana Bianca, provided us during our visit. Impressive wines combined with a memorable wine tasting experience made this one of my favourite stops on our journey around the Langhe.
Piedmont never ceases to amaze me and inspire me. This region is by far my favourite place to visit in the world. It’s quite possibly my perfect pairing…amazing wines, incredible food, passionate people and and breathtaking terroir. I’m already planning our next visit!
Where to Stay
These are merely two places that I thoroughly recommend, as I’ve been a guest. I’m sure there are others that are good, but these two really stood out as winners!
Antico Podere Propano ~ Saluzzo
Hotel Castello di Sinio ~ Sinio
Where to Taste Wine
I definitely recommend making appointment, if possible, as some wineries are family run. Otherwise, you might be left with an empty glass!!
Enoteca Regionale del Barolo ~ Barolo
Carlo Boffa ~ Barbaresco
Franco Conterno ~ Monforte d’Alba
Fontana Bianca ~ Neive
Cantina Parroco ~ Neive
Where to Eat
Honestly, you’re going to be well looked after and well fed just about anywhere you go in Piedmont…however, these restaurants were memorable!
Vineria San Giorgio ~ La Morra ~ Amazing risotto, great local wine and cute town square location.
Davide Palluda ~ Canale ~ Fantastic food and wine! I even tried the snails!!
Hotel Castello di Sinio ~ Sinio ~ Enjoy the amazing dishes prepared by Denise Pardini.