The Italian Summer Road Trip: Discovering Piedmont

The beautiful vineyards of Barolo

We initially planned for a summer holiday in Greece but after being told that I need to go to Torino for work, we thought, why not just do a road trip in Italy instead? We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for it, but as they say, spontaneity can be rewarding. True enough, it was one of my favorite trips – ever.

We started our road trip in the beautifully elegant wine and gastronomic region of Piedmont. First stop: Torino. Okay, this was a mandatory stop because I was on official travel for 6 days here.

Torino is the first capital of Italy and the current capital of the Piedmont region. This was also the birthplace of Fiat – it still has its headquarters there. I’ve been in Torino 2 years ago and I’ve done some of the touristy activities there. I was at work during the day so, I skipped touring the city this time. I can tell you though that my favorite meal in Torino was at Pastificio Defilippis. Established in 1872, this restaurant is known for their fresh pasta to traditional Piemontese cuisine and a great selection of local wines. I highly recommend this restaurant but I also suggest booking a table in advance as they can get busy.

Zucchini flower stuffed with buratta
Fresh fettuccini with stracciatella di burrata and guanciale

On our way out of Torino, we decided to check out the Torino Outlet Village.  It’s a fancy outlet village with really good deals. They mostly have high-end fashion brands but they have Addidas, Nike and few non-high end brands too. It is worth checking if you’re up for a shopping spree.

The Torino Outlet Village

Our next stop was in Alba – home of the white truffles, Ferrero/Nutella, and so much more. Alba provided us a good base to explore the neighboring towns as well.

Cattedrale di San Lazaro in the heart of Alba’s Old Town

We arrived in Hotel Langhe late in the afternoon and we were greeted with a complimentary drink. We decided to rest in our room for a bit before heading out to dinner. There are so many things I like about this hotel: first, is that it is a little bit away from the town center (still walkable though). Alba is a small town but it can get busy. Being away from the road and the town center means quiet and restful stay. Second, they have a pool for those parts of the day that you just need to rest. Third, it is a small hotel with only a number of rooms. Fourth, the hotel staff are wonderful.

Hotel Langhe has a pool with natural (salt) filter. It was perfect for cooling down.

For dinner, we went to Trattoria del Bollito – casual dining and specializes fresh pasta. I got the ravioli with burrata and black truffles. It was one of the best meals I’ve had during our trip.

Fresh ravioli with burrata and black truffles

The next day, we drove around the neighboring towns. First stop was the lavender fields of Sale San Giovanni. Yes, you read it right. Italy has its lavender fields too. It’s not as big as France’s Provance but they are beautiful. Sale San Giovanni is just one of the areas in Piemond region with lavender fields. Unfortunately, they have harvested most of the lavender flowers when we go there but there was still a small section left (probably for tourists like us).

The lavender fields of Sale San Giovanni

In the afternoon, we visited Marchesi di Barolo a historical winery in Barolo. I’ve done a number of winery and wine tasting tours and this is the best experience so far. The tour had a good balance of history, technical information on winemaking, information on local wines, and other interesting trivia. It also helps that Barolo is my favorite Italian wine.

The original wine barrels of Marchi di Barolo that are centuries old.

Barolo wines during the war. They had to hide the bottles in a book-like storage.

The personal favorites from the wine tasting

In the evening, we had dinner at Campamac Osteria Gourmet in Barbaresco. I had 2 top 1s in my favorite restaurant experience during our road trip and one of them is this osteria. It’s a casual dining but with sophisticated interior and menu. It is one of those restaurants that you can come in jeans and sneakers or in a lovely dress or tie – no dress code, in short.

View outside Campamac Osteria Gourmet

We were greeted by the Executive Chef himself and the staff were very welcoming. We came in at around 7:30 pm and only few tables were occupied. The service was quick around that time. By 8:00 pm, the place was full and buzzing (it was Saturday night too). That was when service started to get slow a bit. We had our drinks and starter served then had our main course served in the first 30 minutes. When the place got busy, it took us another at least 60 minutes from asking the dessert menu (after finishing our main course, we were asked at least thrice if we want a dessert but we never got the menu) to asking for the bill. Then, the bill was another waiting game. We had to go to the cashier ourselves to pay because we were already waiting for at least 30 minutes since we first asked the bill and followed up several times. It turned out that there were issues with the billings. We weren’t in a hurry but since we were unfamiliar with the area, we didn’t want to drive back to our hotel in the dark.

Despite the long wait, it’s still one of my favorite restaurant of our trip. We had the fried porcine mushrooms as a starter and we shared a kilo of aged porterhouse. The steak came with 3 different types of sauces but I didn’t even touch them because the steak itself was cooked to perfection.

Fried porcini mushrooms as a starter
Aged porterhouse steak in medium rare

The following day, we packed up and drove to the region of Liguria. We loved our time in Piemond region. After this trip, I can say that Piemontese cuisine and wines are one of my favorite gastronomic experiences in my 36 years of life.

 

 

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