The big trip

Italy food and wine travel: living it up in southern Piedmont

This Unesco-listed area ‘rivals the hills of Chianti as a poster child for the good life’

In the decades after the Second World War, life in rural southern Piedmont was tough, and many locals left for Argentina, the US or jobs in the factories of Turin. But today, this Unesco-listed area of outstanding natural beauty “rivals the hills of Chianti as a poster child for the good life”, said Lee Marshall in Condé Nast Traveller. One reason for its transformation was the rise of the local wine industry in the 1980s. The vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco now turn out some of Italy’s most “highly prized” red wines. The region’s gastronomic scene has followed suit: there are now 22 Michelin stars spread over 20 restaurants in the countryside around Alba and, more recently, tourist accommodation has improved, too. The “stylish” Relais San Maurizio resort and spa led the way when it opened in 2002, and last year there were two further big openings – the “Alpine chic” Casa di Langa, and Nordelaia, “a boutique stay in a coolly converted farmhouse”.

Alba is lovely, with its “pugnacious” skyline bristling with medieval towers and its abundance of “boutiques, wine bars and delis”. Nearby Bra is the headquarters of the Slow Food movement: it was founded here in the 1980s to “defend the local culinary culture”. It has plenty of “flowery charm”. And there’s much for enthusiasts of both wine and art to see nearby, including the Ceretto winery (which has a transparent domed tasting room like “a Bond villain’s lair”, and a wayside chapel that was transformed into a wildly colourful “site-specific installation” by the artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett in 1999).

Visit relaissanmaurizio.it, casadilanga.com and nordelaia.com for more information.

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