Piemonte is for Italy what Lyon is for France; an incomparable food capital – and not least an important source of income! The region bursts of national delicacies and it’s a true gem for travelers and foodies seeking the very best the Italian kitchen has to offer. Continue reading if you’re in for an Italian treat – and if you’re looking for a great place to stay as well!
Last year I went on a 3 day trip to this beautiful area to explore what people say is ‘the foodie region’ of Italy. I had no expectations beforehand, but since Italy had already stolen my heart decades before, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed! If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Italy someday I can highly recommend a trip to Piemonte and the small village of Nizza Monferrato, which is located approximately 60 km. southeast of Turin. It takes about 1,5 hour by car from Milan Malpensa Airport, but the trip is definitely worth it. Curious? Here’s what you need to know.
Luscious truffles and wild rabbit
Ok, I know. Rabbit might not be for the faint-hearted, as there’s a clear parallel to Bambi’s best friend, but once you decide to taste this North Italian delicacy, there’s no way back. Marinated rabbit is simply cooked until it’s as tender as tuna – hence the name tonno di coniglio (coniglio is rabbit). If you’re not a fan of the whole rabbit thing, there’s no way around the truffles. These expensive and highly appreciated little things are almost a trademark of the region and one understands why! The truffle which grows in Piemonte is called ‘Tuber magnatum pico’ or the Alba white truffle, and professional truffle hunters gather them during Autumn. They grow in forest floors and usually around oaks and poplars.
Antipasti is another very popular eating in Piemonte and the region is famous for it’s enormous selection of the small dishes, which are served before a meal. Fiori di zucca ripieni is fried, stuffed squash blossoms and, one of my own favorites, crochette simply consist of rice or potato croquettes with cheese. Other Piemonte delicacies count Vitello Tonnato – a dish also known as veal in tuna sauce – and Agnolotti piemontesi (similar to ravioli). And the list goes on and on…one thing’s for sure though; both meat lovers and vegetarians will be spoilt rotten in this region!
A Michelin experience
It’s easy to get your hands on good and well-prepared food in Piemonte and so it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. However, I can definitely recommend visiting one of the many gourmet restaurants as well. It might be a bit more expensive, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny! I had lunch at ‘Al Vecchio Tre Stelle’ – a small hotel and restaurant located on a panoramic road between Alba and Barbaresco. The speciality here is the traditional and white truffle (when in season), vegetarian dishes and fish. This hidden gem provides exactly what you’d expect from the North Italian kitchen and the view is incomparable. For more info go to www.vecchiotrestelle.it
Risotto and cheese
Two other delicacies which mustn’t be forgotten when discussing the food culture of Piemonte are Risotto and cheese. The flatlands of the region are Europe’s leading supplier of Carnaroli rice, which is used for making creamy risotto. My own favorite includes butter and shaved truffles, but if you’re brave (or hungry) enough you should go for the risotto with frogs. I haven’t tried it, but it’s on my list!
The cheese production has always played an important role in Piemonte’s countryside – and it still does. Cheese appears in numerous local dishes, such as the Fritto misto piemontese – a selection of meats, vegetables, fruit and cheese, but cheese lovers will also embrace a simple plate of homemade grissinis (bread sticks) and a selection of local cheeses such as Castelmagno, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Murazzano.
Barolo and Asti
Shame on you if you visit Piemonte and miss out on the wine, cause this region literally bursts of vineyards and recognized wine producers! During my trip last year I visited several local vineries – including an organic one, which was really quite interesting! Read more about it here.
The most famous wines from Piemonte include the Barbaresco and Barolo made from the Nebbiolo grape. Other variants include the Dolcetto and the Barbera. And of course the sparkling wine, Asti Spumante, shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s made from the Moscato grape and it’s mainly produced in the regions of Alessandria, Cuneo and Asti. A number of travel agencies specialize in wine tours in Piemonte.
Villa Vigneto – a historical winery
During my trip to the region I stayed at Villa Vigneto – a 200 year’s old vineyard turned into a comfortable hotel. The hosts here are Norwegian and Danish and they will tell you everything you need to know about Piemonte. Villa Vigneto is located approximately 2 hour’s from Milan Airport and just 10 minutes from the picturesque medieval town of Nizza Monferrato. In Nizza, you can take a stroll in the winding streets while shopping for delicacies, local wine and much more. Villa Vigneto is surrounded by winding vineyards and fruit trees, and it’s the perfect spot for a weekend get-away or a family vacation. The property even has its own organic wine production, La Mano Verde, which can be visited during a stay.
For more information go to www.well-life.as.