Tucked into the northwest corner of Italy, Piedmont brings to mind luxury and history, from the great Barolos and white truffles that adorn its tables to the seat of Italy’s first king. While luxury often comes with a price tag, Piedmont’s riches can be enjoyed on any budget.
What to do and see
Regional capital Turin is well known for hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics and for the mysterious Shroud of Turin, but did you know it was the Kingdom of Italy’s first seat of government? The controversial shroud itself has not been displayed since 2010, but you can visit Turin Cathedral and see the chapel where it’s housed. Next door, the Royal Palace marks the history of the House of Savoy, which ruled a unified Italy. Equally worth a stop is the world’s first Eataly, which, unlike New York’s, feels spacious thanks to glass-paneled ceilings.
Outside Turin, the city quickly gives way to wine country. This is the land of Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco, wines prized the world over. Famous towns Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto perch on hills above the valley, tiny medieval labyrinths ripe for exploring, each with its own castle and expansive views.
While the top wines can be pricey, you can still enjoy or even buy many at enotecas — tasting rooms showcasing each area’s local varietals. Drop in to taste wines for just a few euros. Barolo has a tasting room in the Castello Falletti but you can taste more wines at the town’s diverting Museo dei Cavatappi. Barbaresco’s enoteca is housed in an old church, while at the Castello Grinzane Cavour you can explore lesser-known wines such as the herbaceous Barolo Chinato.
For a side trip, Acqui Terme has hot thermal springs reputed to have curative effects. Forget booking an expensive spa; the water bubbles up in the town center at the Piazza Bollente, where locals drink it all day for free.
It is said that you cannot eat poorly in Piedmont. Regional specialties like vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce), ravioli del plin (meat ravioli) and tajarin pasta tend to be found on every menu. In the fall, you can enjoy white truffles shaved over your pasta at a fraction of the price they command in New York.
Make your base one of the many agriturismos — working farms or wineries with guest accommodations. Two good options are La Torricella in Monforte d’Alba and Enolocanda del Tufo in Dogliani. For a stylish spot in Turin, try the Town House 70 Suite Hotel.