Dis­cov­er­ing Pied­mont

Avant- garde winer­ies, a legacy of world- class cui­sine and mar­velous land­scapes. All of these things have earned the ar­eas of the Langhe, Ro­ero and Mon­fer­rato UNESCO World Her­itage sta­tus, re­sult­ing in an elite tourist des­ti­na­tion.

Where Turin - - OUT OF TOWN - BY CHIARA ZAC­CARELLI

This is UNESCO's of­fi­cial rea­son for adding the wine- grow­ing re­gions of the Langhe-Ro­ero and Mon­fer­rato to its world her­itage list in 2014. “An ex­cep­tional liv­ing tes­ti­mony to the his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion of grape grow­ing and wine­mak­ing pro­cesses, of a so­cial con­text, and a ru­ral econ­omy based on viti­cul­ture. The vine­yards of the Langhe-Ro­ero and Mon­fer­rato are an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of man's in­ter­ac­tion with his nat­u­ral sur­round­ings.” This area is pro­tected as a ‘ cul­tural her­itage' which is sym­bolic, be­cause man has man­aged to shape it, giv­ing it the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics that it boasts today.

In this area, the vine­yards of sev­eral of the world's most fa­mous wines, in­clud­ing Barolo, Bar­baresco, Asti Spumante and Bar­bera, stretch as far as the eye can see, in a dis­play of chang­ing colours and softly rolling hills. Al­though ge­o­graph­i­cally the Langhe, Ro­ero and Mon­fer­rato are neigh­bour­ing re­gions, they all have dif­fer­ent mor­pholo­gies, and cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics. The re­gion's var­ied land­scape pro­vides fer­tile soil for an im­pres­sive ar­ray of lo­cal spe­cial­ties: from su­perla­tive wine, to the prized white truf­fles of Alba, porcini mush­rooms and IGP hazel­nuts. Lo­cated just an hour's drive from Turin, these re­gions can be ac­cessed by car (sev­eral of the larger cen­tres can also be reached by train). Other op­tions in­clude one of the many or­ga­nized wine and tast­ing tours on of­fer. Ask your concierge.

THE LANGHE

The Langhe are sit­u­ated be­tween the Ta­naro River and Lig­uria, be­tween the prov­inces of Asti and Cu­neo. Par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy among the area's many tourist at­trac­tions are its nu­mer­ous cas­tles, in­clud­ing that of Grin­zane Cavour. Built in the 13th cen­tury

and cur­rently home to the head­quar­ters of the ‘Cavour Re­gional Enoteca', the cas­tle, in ad­di­tion to stock­ing sev­eral of the re­gion's finest Doc and Docg wines, also hosts the in­ter­est­ing Langhe Mu­seum (www.castel­logrin­zane. com). Other must-sees in­clude the Cas­tle of Barolo and its sur­round­ing town, which gives its name to the most fa­mous Ital­ian red wine and is thought to date back to me­di­ae­val times. The town is home to WiMu, a unique wine mu­seum that takes vis­i­tors on an im­mer­sive jour­ney through the his­tory of viti­cul­ture via light, film and in­stal­la­tions. The mu­seum is set over three floors of the vil­lage's stun­ning me­dieval cas­tle, and the tour in­cludes a visit to the build­ing's panoramic ter­race and its an­cient wine cel­lars (www.wimubarolo.it). Af­ter vis­it­ing the mu­seum in Barolo, stop in the vil­lage of

La Morra, bet­ter known as ‘the ter­race of the Langhe' thanks to its spec­tac­u­lar views, and head to Mas­simo Camia's starred restau­rant for a fab­u­lous gourmet meal (www.mas­si­mo­camia. it). In ad­di­tion to other spe­cial­ties, the area is renowned for its fa­mous three-lobed hazel­nut, boast­ing ‘Pro­tected Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion' sta­tus and used to make var­i­ous sweet treats. If you want to pur­chase these tan­ta­liz­ing spe­cial­ties and see how they're made, visit Gio­vanni Cogno's ar­ti­sanal work­shop (www. gio­van­nicogno.it). Lastly, an ab­so­lute ‘must' for lovers of me­dieval his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture is a visit to the Cas­tle of Ser­ralunga d’Alba, a beau­ti­fully pre­served Gothic strong­hold (www. castel­lodis­er­ralunga.it). Af­ter the long walk up to the cas­tle, take a break and treat your­self to a de­li­cious gourmet meal at the Da Guido restau­rant lo­cated in the na­ture re­serve of Fon­tanafredda (www.guidoris­torante.it).

MON­FER­RATO

Stretch­ing south­wards, as far as the foot of the Lig­urian Ap­penines, the Mon­fer­rato area oc­cu­pies a fer­tile tract of ter­rain be­tween the prov­inces of Alessandri­a and Asti. In ad­di­tion to nu­mer­ous his­toric, cul­tural and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, Mon­fer­rato is renowned for its gas­tro­nomic spe­cial­ties. Na­ture, cul­ture, art and re­li­gion com­bine in a walk that takes vis­i­tors on a jour­ney to dis­cover the Na­ture Park of the Sacro Monte di Crea, in the prov­ince of Alessandri­a, a real feat of ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign that en­com­passes Mount Crea and its sanc­tu­ary, which in turn, is a UNESCO World Her­itage site. If you pre­fer a his­tor­i­cal visit to an ex­cur­sion, don't miss the Eco Mu­seum of ‘Pi­etra da Can­tone' – a type of sand­stone only found in this area – in Cella Monte. In ad­di­tion to in­form­ing vis­i­tors about the his­tory, land­scapes and art of Mon­fer­rato, the mu­seum also or­ga­nizes ini­tia­tives and events tar­geted at high­light­ing the his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the place. For some years now, the mu­seum has un­der­taken the ar­du­ous but worth­while task of tak­ing an in­ven­tory of the ‘in­fer­not' in the area. 'In­fer­not' are dark, air­less un­der­ground spa­ces, carved out in stone, lo­cated be­neath houses and cel­lars that, in some in­stances, are real un­der­ground tun­nels. These works of arts, carved and mod­eled by artists, were ei­ther used to store bot­tles of wine, or as pantries, be­cause the tem­per­a­ture in­side them re­mains con­stant. Sev­eral of these old ‘in­fer­not' are open for pub­lic view­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing the ‘vendem­mia' (grape har­vest) or on spe­cial oc­ca­sions (www.eco­museopi­etra­can­toni.it). If you feel like sam­pling some wine, you'll be spoilt for choice. Al­though the ma­jor­ity of lo­cal wines are red and full-bod­ied, like Bar­bera, Grig­no­lino and Freisa, you'll also find a good se­lec­tion of whites, in­clud­ing Moscato. An ab­so­lute ‘must' for wine con­nois­seurs vis­it­ing the area is the Enoteca Re­gionale di Vig­nale Mon­fer­rato. Lo­cated in a mag­nif­i­cent 17th cen­tury ‘palazzo', the Enoteca is a great place to taste and pur­chase some of the area's best lo­cal wines (www.enotecadel­mon­fer­rato.it).

RO­ERO

Ro­ero is sit­u­ated in the north­east­ern part of the prov­ince of Cu­neo, to the left of the Ta­naro river. Like the neigh­bour­ing Langhe, this area is renowned for its enogas­tro­nomic and cul­tural of­fer­ings. Among its cas­tles, the Cas­tle of Govone is par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy. The cas­tle is lo­cated in the prov­ince of Cu­neo and was for­merly one of the royal res­i­dences of the House of Savoy (www.castel­lo­re­aledigov­one.it). Lo­cated just a short dis­tance from Alba, the Cas­tle of Mon­ti­cello is one of the most im­pos­ing and best-pre­served me­dieval build­ings in the area ow­ing to the fact that since 1372 it has been owned and in­hab­ited by the Ro­ero fam­ily of Mon­ti­cello (www.roerodi­mon­ti­cello.it). There's noth­ing that says ‘royal high­ness' more than a cas­tle. Ex­pe­ri­ence what it feels like to be a prince or princess for one night and stay at the Cas­tle of Guarene, an im­por­tant stopover on the Pied­mon­tese Baroque itin­er­ary which also hosts a ho­tel be­long­ing to the Re­lais&Châteaux chain (www.castel­lodiguaren­e.com).

For real food­ies, an ab­so­lute must is the fa­mous sausage of Bra, a de­lec­ta­ble prod­uct made from lean beef and ba­con. Since it re­quires hardly any age­ing, it's eaten fresh year-round and tra­di­tion­ally served raw, usu­ally as an an­tipasto, or cooked in a sauce that is used to dress ‘ta­jarin' (typ­i­cally fresh Pied­mon­tese pasta) or po­lenta (www.sal­s­ic­ciadi­bra.it).

Only a few kilo­me­ters from Bra, a trip to the ar­chi­tec­tural com­plex of the Agen­zia di Pol­lenzo is well worth your time. Built in 1833, as a coun­try res­i­dence for the House of Savoy, it now hosts the first Univer­sity of Gas­tro­nomic Sciences in the world.

This univer­sity was founded and pro­moted by the in­ter­na­tional Slow Food as­so­ci­a­tion, which stud­ies, pro­tects and dis­sem­i­nates the agri­cul­tural and enogas­tro­mic tra­di­tions of coun­tries world­wide (www.agen­ziadipol­lenzo.com).

His­toric wine cel­lar in Langhe

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