Langhe and Roero, located in southern Piedmont, are as world-renowned for outstanding food and wine specialties as for their beauty. Rolling hills of vineyards, punctuated by medieval towers, noble castles and old hamlets have kept their ancient flavor. The welcoming attitude of locals makes the whole experience a real treat. Up-to-date services and up-scale accommodations complement tradition with a contemporary twist. Here, sleek architectural inventions showcase the old tradition of wine making, as new generations of wine growers reinterpret their heritage.
The soul of this area lives along vine lines. Over time, Langhe and Roero have become legendary for their high-quality DOCG (controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin*) wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, Dolcetto di Dogliani, Roero, and Roero Arneis —along with various DOC wines ( Controlled Designation of Origin**). For your wine tasting experience you may choose among a list of well-established wine banks (Regional Wine Shops) and wine producers ranging from the highly sophisticated and world renowned to small family run private cellars. Regardless of your choice (depending on your personal taste), expect to be carried away by enchanting bouquets offered by these quality vintners.
A place for gourmets and tourists alike, Langhe and Roero offer an outstanding culinary tradition through quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants and many old-style trattorias serving cuisine of days gone by. Be ready to taste tajarin (fresh handmade pasta), agnolotti del plin (tiny handmade ravioli), white truffle-based dishes (such as risotto) and hazelnut pie, to name a few . The woods of Langhe and Roero are where truffles – underground fungi with a unique aroma —grow. Their properties and mystery, have been fascinating people for centuries. The Alba white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) is an international brand and this land’s standard-bearer.
You can come and explore all year around, even in the winter when vineyards are at rest. But if you want to be in the middle of the bustling activities of the harvest and truffle-hunting seasons, then you want to come from September to the first week in November when the Alba International White Truffle Fair usually takes place. In October, a donkey race takes place in Alba, another old tradition dating back to medieval times.
* ** DOC and DOCG Wines
“These designations mean that the wine has been made from a specific grape variety cultivated in a defined geographic area. The wine has been produced and aged according to standards of color, aroma, flavor, alcohol content, acidity, etc. Producers have to request DOC recognition from a national committee with proof that their wine has a deep-rooted tradition in their area. DOC status is granted only upon the issue of a government decree after acceptance by the DOC committee. A special commission has to check the wine before and after production. DOCG wines are the crème de la crème. A wine’s producer can apply for this category if it has been DOC for at least 5 years and if it can demonstrate that it has a high reputation at national and international levels. DOCG status was conferred on Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino in 1980.” From “Speaking of Wine” by Maria Farone Rosso, Patricia Guy, Josephine Taylor, Omega Edizioni.
To see more pictures go to Langhe and Roero picture gallery.
Alba [1-hr drive from Turin]
The welcoming city of Alba is the capital of the Langhe district and is known as “the hundred-towers city” because of its dominant medieval architectural feature that still embellishes the town’s center: tall brick and stone square towers built by local noble families. Founded as a Roman colony and the birth place of a Roman emperor, Alba grew in the middle ages as a vital trade center and later became a strong base for anti-fascist opposition. Today, Alba is the heart of the wine producing industry and home to the producer of Nutella, the Ferrero food company. Its civil and religious life is reflected in its architecture that includes many churches, piazzas and private buildings from Roman remnants and Romanesque doorways to baroque and neo-classical design. Strolling around the two main streets one can stop at first class wine and truffle tasting places experiencing first-hand local delicatessens. A good selection of gourmet restaurants and trattorias will make a trip to Alba complete and unforgettable. If you visit on Saturday you’ll get an extra bonus: the street market that has been held that very same day since the XII century.
At a short drive from Alba’s town center you’ll find many villages whose wine-based culture is the main purpose for a visit. To name just a few:
Terracotta-colored Barolo from which the world famous wine takes its name and that boasts an intriguing Wine Museum;
Grinzane Cavour with its castle that hosts a Truffle Auction;
La Morra— perched on top of a hill with a scenic view of the hills, a popular stop over for wine lovers;
Serralunga —sporting a stately medieval castle;
Barbaresco —dominated by a massive tower overlooking the river Tanaro valley and
Neive —that looks like a precious box full of surprises.
Bra [1-hr drive from Turin]
Capital of the Roero region on the northern bank of the Tanaro river, Bra is a small city whose historical buildings dating from the XV century are mainly baroque in style. It has a strong culture based on farming and meat and cheese are the queen and king of local cuisine. Meat is the base for a unique sausage (salsiccia di Bra) and cheese (Bra cheese) is the theme inspiring a bi-annual international fair named “Cheese”. It is not by accident that the Slow Food movement was founded here. *
Worth mentioning In the surrounding areas only a short drive from Bra are:
the medieval town of Cherasco with fine architecture, beautiful views of the Alps range and chocolate places worth a visit . The city hosts the annual Snails Breeders National Fair in June;
the old Roman town of Pollenzo transformed into a neo-Gothic estate by a king, and the home of the one and only Italian Universita’ del Gusto (Culinary University); and the town of Canale— home to the Roero and Roero Arneis wines.
* The Slow Food movement is an international organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who link the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment, promoting good, clean and fairly-produced food.