Immersion Kit: PiemonteItaly | Piemonte
At The Slow Road we pride ourselves on getting in deep and up close. If knowledge of a region is power, access is authenticity—and we’ve spent decades forging the relationships that grant us both. But the road, like so many of life’s great pleasures, is better shared. So allow us to shed some light on a few of our favourite places and give you a head start for getting in deep. As for the other half of the immersion equation—getting up close—well, it should go without saying that we highly recommend it.
Piemonte: A Wealth of Contrasts
From the heights of the Alps to the plains of the Po Valley, Piemonte is a wealth of contrasts. Spangled with Michelin stars, it’s a veritable Shangri-La for foodies. Located in Italy’s northwest, Piemonte’s varied landscapes—hills, valleys, orchards and vineyards—yield some of the best food and wine in Italy, while the drop-dead-gorgeous countryside, dotted with elegant castles, is among the finest in Europe.
Growing out of the Arcigola association formed in Langhe in 1986, the Slow Food movement has expanded from a local initiative into a worldwide network. Today, its members describe themselves as “eco-gastronomes.” They’re not so much against fast food as they’re for biodiversity, authenticity, sustainability, and “the right to good taste.”
Among other initiatives, the organization works to save authentic local products, such as handmade cheeses and heritage apples, from extinction.
Although most people associate Piemonte with its wines (more on that below), the region is just as famous for its tartufi bianchi, or white truffles. A truffle is a fungus (tuber magnatum pico), which grows on the roots of certain types of trees, including oaks, medlars, chestnut trees and hazelnut trees.
The Piemontese truffle is among the most sought after truffle in the world, although restaurant owners and other buyers must be extremely experienced to distinguish a local Piemontese truffle from an imported Eastern European one. Dishonest merchants have been known to sell imported truffles, especially in years when truffles are scarce. Since Piemontese truffles are known for their intense aroma, one trick used by swindlers is to put a local truffle in a plastic bag with inferior imported ones so that they pick up the scent.
Trifulao (truffle hunters) must have a license to hunt truffles. The white truffle season officially begins September 15, and can extend well into November, when the best truffles are often found. The local black truffles are also quite delicious, and hunted almost year-round.
Truffles are never cooked, only shaved raw over simple dishes like pastas, or even fried eggs.
For more about Piemontese cuisine, check out Cuisine 101: Piemonte.
Piemonte produces the best red wines in all of Italy, along with great white wines and dessert wines. Many are registered as DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllato, a controlled regional appellation) or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllato e Garantito, Italy’s highest-status appellation), denoting careful quality controls and typicity.
Barolo “The king of wines and the wine of kings,” Barolo is a wine with infinite complexity, one of the strongest and most distinctive wines available. With age, the wine turns to a brick colour, revealing a rich palate of dark fruits like cherry and blackberry, as well as more earthy tones such as truffle, mushroom, leather and tobacco. While more structured and imposing, Barolo is also more “masculine” and austere than Barbaresco and varies more, since it can be grown in the towns of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi, Serralunga d’Alba and Verduno. By law it must be aged at least three years before release, though many producers age it longer.
Asti (spumante) The province of Asti produces one of the world’s most famous moscato wines, made sparkling with the Charmat (tank) method. Registered as a DOCG since 1993, the wine’s reputation has waxed and waned over the years, but at its best this sparkler is memorably full of ripe fruit, and is incomparably refreshing. For more about this world famous wine region, check out Vines 101: Piemonte.
We’ve partnered with Longitude Books, experts in travel literature, to prepare a comprehensive list of books, from novels to great guidebooks, that have really opened up the region to us. Find one of our favourites below, and check out the full list at Longitude Books. National Geographic Piedmont & Northwest Italy Tim Jepson A practical guide to Piemonte (also called Piedmont), Northwestern Italy and Turin in the visually attractive National Geographic style, complete with photographs, illustrations, maps, and information about culture, nature and history.