I have broken down these travel tips into three groups and have listed some of the best best for visiting the region in each. To begin with we'll be taking a look at some of the best bets for accomadations, including some of my favorite "under the radar" spots.
I've also included a list of the finest restaurants in the region for a truly authentic Piemontese experience. These may not be the most famous, and while you may not find them in every guidebook thay are certainly tops in mine.
I'll be following up next week with a list of does and don'ts for winery visits as well as tips on who to visit for the best tours and experiences in the Langhe. One standout among the entries actually falls in each category. The Hotel Barolo, Ristorante Brezza and Cantina Brezza are all among my favorites!
What to expect: PiemonteThe Villages of Barolo and Barbaresco are surprisingly small, so it should come as no surprise that the feel of the region remains decidely rural. There are significant distances to drive if you want to cover much ground, so a car is a necessity, and a GPS a good investment. Expect a slow pace of life for most of the year, and a lifestyle that revolves around the cycle of the vine. The food of Piemonte is some of the best in Italy, but expect to see the same dishes frequently.
When staying there for long periods of time it only makes sense for me to find more modest accommodations. After all I spend most of my day out visiting wineries and really only need a desk, good bed, and nice bathroom to make my evenings pleasant.
Below please find my list of recommendations.
Options abound across all price point for both Dining and Accomodations alike.Agriturismos, Hotels and B&B's abound
Piemonte is rife with great accommodations that run the gamut from the quaint to the most luxurious. Agriturismos, rooms rented out in farmhouses, as well as properies amongst the vines, are affordable and a great way to really connect with the locals. More upscale accomadations can be more convenient and amenity filled.
Osteria, Trattoria, Ristorante; Whats in a name?
What's the difference? An Osteria was originally an inn for travelers to rest their bones and to dine simply. It remains the simplest of your dining options, generally with a limited menu. Trattorias are frequently family run and feature a region's local cuisine. Ristorante are a step up in service, style and cuisine.
Casa Roagna- Castiglione Falletto
This lovely, quiet, and modern agriturismo has provided me with a several wonderful evenings. It’s located in, or more accurately below the village of Castiglione Falletto. When I last visited however, the property was in the midst of construction, as a new winery building is being added directly below the agritur.
Agriturismo Albachiara – La Morra
A classic Italian home that has been converted into a guest house, Albachiara offers modern baths, spacious rooms and wonderful balconies that have a stunning view out across the Langhe, and over the towns of Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga and beyond. The Location of Albachiara is excellent, just below the village of La Morra, though it is close to a small turning circle, which may disturb some. I enjoy the location here since there are a small supermarket, newsstand, wine bar, bank and several restaurant in la Morra.
Hotel Barolo – Barolo
I mentioned the Hotel Barolo in my intro. This landmark Hotel dominates the village of Barolo and features a swimming pool, excellent restaurant, as well as modern rooms. There are the classic rooms in the hote,l as well as a new wing overlooking the pool area and the lower piazza of the village. From the Hotel it is easy to walk to all the attractions in the village, from great winemakers to the famous Museo di Cavitappi, or Corkscrew Museum.
Hotel Savona -Alba
Alba is the local city, though that might strike some as surprising. The Hotel Savona has an excellent location, just on the edge of the city center and affords easy access to everything in the city, as well as the main routes out of the city toward neighboring villages. The hotel itself is an Italian classic. Nothing special in many ways, but perfect for a good nights sleep with spacious baths and an ample breakfast buffet.
Art Suites – La Morra
The Art Suites are four newly renovated rooms that form the upper floor of the Rocche Costamagna winery. These are centrally located in La Morra, at the very crest of the ridge so they have access to a patio with an incomparable view of the Langhe. The rooms are modern and luxurious, with all the amenities one expects from a larger property, yetit retains the intimacy of a private home.
Villa d’Amelia – Manera
While this property is out of the way, several kilometers from the main Barolo villages, and somewhat in the middle of nowhere, it is one of the premier properties in the region. Everything is first class here from the luxurious linens, comfortable bed, top-notch breakfast and scenic swimming pool. This is a great choice for someone who wants to relax and enjoy days at the hotel as opposed to those looking to spend more time in the vineyards.
Dining is special in the Langhe, and again my tastes run to the rustic rather than the refined. I am fortunate to live in New York City so when I travel abroad I would rather experience the local as opposed to the aspirational. Nowhere is this more true than with food!
The best meals I have had In Piemonte have been at the establishements that offer home style cooking, as opposed to those trying for a more refined, restaurant cuisine.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing restaurants in Piemonte producing innovative interpretavie dishes that compete with some of the finest on earth. It’s just that when I am in Piemonte I would rather have home made pasta, the local raw beef, Vitello Tonnato, and the like prepared with love by someone's aunt. Fortunately there are several places that fit the bill.
Torre Antica _ Barbaresco – In the small hamlet of Barbaresco one finds the Torre Antica Restaurant, source of some of the finest tajarin al sugo I’ve had the pleasure of eating. All the dishes here have never failed to please, and it is a must visit restauarant for me each time I return to the region. It also just across the street from the Produttori del Barbaresco winery!
Ristorante Brezza- Barolo
On the main floor of the Hotel Barolo one finds the Ristorante Brezza, with it’s expansive patio perfect for warm weather dining. The food here is fantastic with some of the best Vitello Tonnato and Carne Cruda to be found anywhere in the Langhe. Again, I’ve never had a bad dish here, and the food is always wonderfully fresh, with a real home made authenticity.
Locanda Del Centro - Castiglione Falletto
This unassuming little restaurant in the middle of Castiglione doesn’t look like much but it offers that soulful home cooked style of cuisine that one can’t find outside of the region. The tripe here is magnificent, and the pasta, light and flavorful. The coffee happens to be excellent as well and the owners also have rooms to let, though I have never availed myself. This is really an Osteria as the Locanda, or Inn, in the name refers to both the rooms and the restaurant.
Trattoria La LIbera – Alba
This is among the best places to dine in Alba, though I have had wonderful meals all over town. It’s very conveniently located near the center of town, and close to the pedestrian thoroughfare. The food here is slightly more modern in preparation and presentation, but with a fine balance of flavors and due respect to traditions.
Enoclub – Alba
As the name implies this is a wine centric establishment with a menu that pairs perfectly with the local wines. The restaurant is somewhat hidden off the central Piazza Savona in Alba. The food is solid, and the rustic room inviting, especially when warmed by a fire in the fireplace.
Il Falstaff – Verduno
The food here is fantastic if a bit non-traditional. I have enjoyed several fantastic meals, with service that has no equal in the area. This is a small restaurant in the somewhat out of the way village of Verduno. It is a find and really not too off the beaten path, and besides one of my favorite producers is alsolocated in Verduno.
Da Felecin – Monforte
The finest of the fancy restaurants in the region. There are certainly more expensive, more adventurous, and more refined meals to be had in the Langhe but none satisfies the soul like one at Da Felecin. The food is a blend of classic elements and inventive accents, and the wine cellar is brimming with gems so if you feel like a splurge Da Felecin is worth a look.
Next week I’ll give you a rundown of some of the best wineries to visit in the region and some great shopping tips as well.