We sip our coffees in Piazza Umberto like locals (well they’re Americano’s – so not quite like locals), and nibble our brioche al cioccolato’s as we discuss our plans for the day. We want to do justice to the area, but not too much that we rush through, ticking boxes. After all, Bra, where the Slowfood movement originated, is nearby, and we want to embrace their philosophy.
Monday is market day here in Monforte d’Alba and asking “posso assaggiare – may I taste?” a few too many times, we end up buying more than we can eat. Salamis and Parma ham, bright red tomatoes, fresh ciabatta, fresh basil, and four types of cheeses. The variety available in these mobile markets as the vendors travel across the region for the set market days always amazes us.
The fish man is doing a roaring trade in fresh calamari fritti and we buy a tub as a mid-morning snack.
Armed with the makings of a picnic we set off on our daily drive through the beautiful Langhe region.
Langhe is a hilly area to the south and east of the river Tanaro in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont, northern Italy. It is famous for its wines, cheeses, and truffles—particularly the white truffles of Alba. They are only available in October/November, so we didn’t get to try them.
Tonda Gentile del Piemonte (literally, “round noble from Piedmont”), also known as “Nocciola Piemonte” hazelnuts are grown in abundance here, The original home to Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. We certainly tried them!
(These nuts help produce 200,000 gallons of Nutella a year.
The world famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines are made from the nabbiolo grape that grows around Monforte, Barola and La Morra. Most villages have a cantina communale where you can try a range of wines from the local area.
Nabbiola Grapes as far as the eye can see
Capella della Brunate
The road snakes through the rolling hills with fortified towns and castles perched on some, providing views for protection in earlier centuries, now just for breathtaking panoramas. Many of the vineyards have a structure, sizes vary, possibly according to the wealth of the vintner. They were constructed for the shelter of the workers from storms and hail.
One such outside the town of La Morra had fallen into disrepair and the Ceretto family commissioned artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett in the 1990’s to bring it back to life in a very modern way.
It is refreshing, fun and so different.
Each day we drive in a different direction. Barolo, Barbaresco, La Morra and Neive. All charming villages. Each with its own character. Each with its own enoteca!
Barolo, the wine, claims that it is the “king of wines and the wine of kings.” Barolo, the town, is dominated by Castello Falletti, and the enoteca in the basement has a wide selection of local wines and vintages and a resident art exhibition.
The prettiest village we visit is Neive in the Barbaresco wine region, which has been selected as one of the Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia(most beautiful villages of Italy)
We have based ourselves in Monforte d’Alba, a quiet historic town well situated to explore the Langhe region. We choose a different area every evening for our passeggiata and over the course of 3 days, we become quite familiar with the town.
The lower part around the Piazza has a number of restaurants and cafes where the locals congregate in the morning and early evening. We had a delicious pizza at In Piazza one evening. We particularly liked the water ATM where you insert your coins and fill your container with sparkling or still.Moving up the hill, the homes are a mix of stone and coloured plaster with doors full of character interspersed with a few more upmarket restaurants. We came across the Horszowski Auditorium, an open space shaped like an amphitheatre, which plays host to a popular jazz festival every July.
Another evening we joined the locals at Le Case della Saracca for Aperitivo. A wonderful selection of delicacies with excellent wine.
What a glorious few days meandering slowly through the Langhe region, photographing the pretty villages and the rosy hue of their terracotta buildings, glowing in the setting sun. We enjoyed our drives along the scenic, winding country roads, admiring the endless vines soaking up the Piedmont sunshine. All rounded off with tasty local food and delicious wines. 🍷