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Nearly every state in Italy lays claim to being the nation’s gourmet capital. However, the Piedmont region in northwest Italy is a connoisseur’s wonderland — thanks to robust Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera red wines, coveted white and black truffles, decadent egg-based pastas, and a fleet of chocolate producers, especially within its Langhe e Roero and Monferrato areas.
Turin, Piedmont’s CapitalFoodie travelers should start their culinary journey in Turin, Piedmont’s capital city. One obvious reason is that Turin is the location of the original Eataly, which launched an international juggernaut of emporiums offering the greatest hits of Italian gastronomy. The marketplace is worth a visit if you’re a vermouth enthusiast (with the Carpano Museum on its first floor) or crave a truffle tasting lunch at Bistrot La Taverna del Re, an offshoot of Michelin-starred restaurant Guido in Serralunga d’Alba.
Turin is also home to Porta Palazzo and Mercato Centrale Torino. Porta Palazzo is the city’s beloved expanse of outdoor vendors. Meanwhile, the recently opened Mercato Centrale Torino features casual outposts of top-tier restaurants Farmacia Del Cambio and Mare Nostrum; cooking classes; and artisanal producers of pasta (such as tajarin, a type of angel hair pasta, and agnolotti del plin, a meat-stuffed pasta), baked goods, gelato and vegetarian dishes.
If they’re still hungry, clients should head to some of Turin’s best eateries, including Porto di Savona (operating since 1863), Pastificio Defilippis (with its own specialty foods shop), Tre Galline and Gelateria Pepino. D.One Torino is worth a stop, with its inspired bar snacks and inventive vermouth-accented cocktails. Sweets lovers will be delighted by the city’s overflow of chocolate and gelato shops, mostly featuring dazzling art nouveau, art deco and belle epoque interiors.
Essential chocoholic spots include the aforementioned Pepino — the inventor of the “original” ice cream bar, aka “The Pinguino,” in 1939 — and Caffe Al Bicerin, which still whips up the definitive “bicerin” molten chocolate, cream and coffee drink.
Small Towns With Big FlavorsOther destinations within Piedmont have a culinary edge, as well. Alba draws thousands of visitors in October and November with its annual White Truffle Festival. However, every weekend is a gastronomic celebration thanks to the town’s Saturday markets, including the Mercato della Terra and the vendors at Piazza Marconi. Truffle devotees should not miss the Tartufi Morra shop, founded by Giacomo Morra (aka the father of the Alba truffle industry) in 1930.
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By night, Enoclub is a choice destination with its full menu and extensive Piemontese wine selection. Here, clients can enjoy a deliciously theatrical dinner where truffles are shaved onto the courses.
There are other wonderful towns in Piedmont for foodies. Casale Monferrato, for example, is home to Krumiri Rossi Portinaro, a 140-year-old bakery that has made and sold only its signature butter cookie since 1973. Don’t miss Enoteca Regionale del Monferrato inside the town’s namesake castle, either; the artsy-cool wine bar has an excellent staff who are happy to help customers find the right wines to try and buy.
Where to Stay in Piedmont, Foodie Edition In Pollenzo, the Albergo dell’Agenzia hotel is an Eden for gastronomes. Not only does it follow the philosophy of the Slow Food movement, it’s also housed in the same neo-Gothic complex as the University of Gastronomic Science and Banca del Vino. Here, travelers will find cooking classes, wine tasting and plenty of other food-related clients. Additionally, Albergo dell’Agenzia’s morning breakfast buffet features tasty cheeses, charcuterie and more that are all painstakingly labeled in accordance to the Slow Food movement’s guidelines, with names of producers, provenance and nutritional benefits.
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Meanwhile, in Mombaruzzo, clients can book a stay at Relais Villa Prato. Made up of eight connected historic buildings in the center of town, the hotel welcomes guests with liqueur-almond cookies; containers piled high with the treats are even artfully worked into the decor of guestrooms and public spaces. Relais Villa Prato’s owners, the Berta family, also produce grappa — a type of brandy distilled from fermented grapes — at its Berta Distillerie. Guests can enjoy the globally acclaimed spirit inside the hotel’s Officina restaurant, alongside refined presentations of antipasti and main courses. Homemade hazelnut yogurt, meanwhile, is a highlight on its breakfast spread.
Other options for a fantastic Piedmont stay include Locanda Del Arte, a minimalist property in Solonghello whose kitchen serves hearty tajarin and agnolotti pastas with flavorful sauces. Its public areas double as art and photography galleries, and individual rooms have unexpected luxurious touches, such as Missoni blankets on the beds.
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Oenophiles who dream of living like a Savoy noble for a few days can splurge on one of 11 suites at Marchesi Alfieri Castle and Winery, which dates to 1696 and is perched on about 52 acres of vineyards.
Last but not least, Winery Cinque Quinti in Cella Monte works closely with Dalla Nonna inn to create a truly familial experience, promising hearty meals and winemaking discussions with the owners.
The Details Alessandria & Monferrato Tourismwww.alexala.it/en/
Turismo Torino Official Websitewww.turismotorino.org/en