Piedmont wine tour
Tour Barolo, Barbaresco & Gavi at festa time
Two distinctive regions of Piedmont rolled into one tour: the Langhe hills, home to Barolo & Barbaresco, and the white-wine region of Gavi
Private sit-down tastings at the Marchesi di Barolo, Silvio Grasso, Marchesi di Gresy, Il Poggio & more
Kick off truffle season with an exuberate medieval festival and crazy-funny Palio degli Asini (donkey race) in Alba
Feast on artisan cheese and salumi during a buffet lunch at a cheese farm in the Alte Langhe
Enjoy a hands-on cooking lesson at the company owners’ medieval townhouse in Arquata Scrivia (near Gavi) and catch a peek at village life
Hunt for truffles in a hazelnut grove with a truffle hunter and his dog
DAY 1 – THE DONKEY PALIO OF ALBA
There’s nothing like a Barolo tour at harvest time! Alba is the white-truffle capital of Piedmont, and every October truffle season kicks off with a medieval festival and artisan food fair. After a pick-up at the Tortona train station, we'll shuttle to our hotel in Alba (1 hour). A welcome lunch introduces Piedmont cuisine, then it's on to the medieval festivities! These include a colorful parade of a thousand costumed locals, followed by the day's centerpiece: the donkey race or palio, a comedy of errors which dates back to Alba's defeat by Asti in 1275. Afterwards, there's time to roam the food & food fair and taste samples of mountain cheese, salumi, wine, chestnut honey, and nougat candy.
Tonight we dine at the Marchesi di Barolo winery and delve into the French-influenced cuisine of Piedmont, such as ravioli del plin, braised veal, and pannacotta.
L, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 2 – IN THE BAROLO HILLS
Today begins in Monforte, the township where the most robust, long-lived Barolos come from. We’ll visit Conterno Fantino. Here you’ll get a sense of Barolo’s typical boutique winery: family-run, with the owners living and working on the same property. You’ll taste some exception wines, including several single-vineyard Barolos and possibly some stellar whites (if they’re not sold out).
Lunch is your choice, but we could go to your guide’s favorite spot in Barolo, Cantinetta Barolo, where one can order a parade of classic piedmont appetizers, such as vitello tonnato (veal with delicate tuna sauce), served family style.
Afternoon takes us to another boutique, family-run property, GD Vajra. In contrast to this morning, this winery is on the western ridge, meaning the place where Barolo’s more perfumed, feminine side shows itself. Then if time allows, we visit the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. Now a museum, this was the home of Italy’s first Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Like an Italian Thomas Jefferson, this politician was equally adept at wine and became a seminal figure in the creation of Barolo in the 1800s. Dinner features more piemontese fare. We’ll look for agnolotti (a variation of ravioli) and bonnet (chocolate-amaretti pudding) on the menu.
B, D • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 3 – A TRUFFLE HUNT & MOUNTAIN CHEESE
Don your walking shoes! This morning we stroll through hazelnut groves with Carlo, a truffle hunter and his dog. We’ll see how canines are trained to sniff out the precious tubers, which grow beside certain tree roots, and hear why they don’t use pigs anymore. Then it’s on to another top Barolo winery, Damilano, whose wines have consistently offered an exceptional price/value buy. Here we’ll be able to compare Barolo single-vineyard cru side by side—always a fascinating exercise.
For lunch, we drive to higher elevations in the Alte Langhe. Too high for grape-growing, this is cheese country. Our buffet lunch is at a Murrazzano cheese farm, where we’ll have a tour, then feast on freshly made mountain cheese, salumi, fruit, and light-as-air hazelnut cake.
The afternoon takes us back to Barolo. Our winery is on a boutique scale, but gets the big scores: Silvio Grasso. Grape-growers since the 1920s, the Grasso family began bottling their own wines in the 1980s. Our gracious host, Marilena Grasso, will pour an array of Barberas, Barolos, and Super Piedmont blends. But most fascinating will be the side-by-side comparisons between cru and vintages. Dinner is on your own in one of Alba’s many fine restaurants.
B, L • Hotel I Castelli
DAY 4 – TOUR BARBARESCO & TIMORASSO
Today we focus on Barbaresco. More perfumed, elegant, and supple than Barolo, Barbaresco is considered the queen to Barolo, the “king of wines and wine of kings.” We’ll visit one of the largest, most historic Barbaresco producers, Marchesi di Gresy, which makes several cruas well as a rare (and very good) Piedmont sauvignon blanc. If we’re lucky (and we usually are), the cellar master (a New Zealander!) will pop in for a hello and a chat.
En route to Gavi in southeast Piedmont (1 hour drive), we’ll stop in the hills above Tortona, where the timorasso grape grows—a favorite of the Slow Wine movement. You’ll get acquainted with this versatile white grape at the family-run La Colombera winery.
Next, we continue to Gavi. Our hotel is a beautiful restored villa a few miles outside of town, surrounded by quiet grounds. Dinner is in the vicinity.
B, D • Villa Pomela
DAY 5 – THE WINERIES OF GAVI DI GAVI
This morning we have a cooking lesson—and get to peer inside life in a small Piedmont village. We head to Arquata Scrivia the frazione of Varinella (pop. 200), home of La Dolce Vita’s owners. After a tour of Claudio Bisio’s old stomping grounds and his renovation-in-progress of our medieval townhouse, we’ll have a fun, hands-on cooking lesson. On the menu: bagna cauda (vegetables with a creamy garlic/anchovy dip), risotto al Gavi, and tiramisu. We’ll also raid the cellar for a sampler of aged Piedmont wines.
After lunch, we visit the town of Gavi for coffee. Here shop windows proudly display Gavi di Gavi wine, fresh ravioli, and soft, puffy almond cookies—a local specialty. But you won’t find a single postcard or touristic t-shirt here. Being off the beaten track, Gavi is an unadulterated, locals-only Piedmont spot. We’ll also visit the grounds of the Fortress of Gavi, a massive 11th C. fort perched high above the town, which once guarded the salt roads leading from Genoa to Milan. Afterwards, we’ll have a tour and tasting at either Villa Sparina or the boutique Il Poggio. Our farewell dinner spotlights more Gavi di Gavi wine.
B, L, D • Villa Pomela
DAY 6 – BUON VIAGGIO!
A shuttle to the Arquata Scrivia train station (between Milan & Genoa) and assistance with your travel plans. B
Want other Piedmont options? Check out the wine-intensive Xtreme Piedmont and the 3-day mini tour Trufflemania. If you'd like some exercise along with your wine, see our Piedmont & Cinque Terre Trails wine & walking tour. Finally, Slow Food Festa is custom foodie/wine tour in Parma, Modena, and Piedmont.
Milan’s Malpensa or Linate. Both have convenient airport shuttle buses to Milan’s central train station, the Stazione Centrale (50 minutes from Malpensa, 30 minutes from Linate).
Plan to land in Italy a day before the tour begins; that's necessary to be at our starting point on time. Most people spend the preceding night in Milan, though one can head straight to Tortona. For hotel suggestions, email us or consult a good hotel search engine, such as TripAdvisor or Venere. We recommend staying either near the main train station, called the Stazione Centrale (more convenient for catching the train on Day 1), or in the historic center near the Duomo (more convenient for pre-tour sightseeing). From one area to the other, it's about a 45-minute walk, a few stops on the subway, or a 15-minute taxi ride.
Our meeting point is the train station in Tortona, a small town on the rail line from Milan to Genoa. Assuming you spend the previous night in Milan, you'll go to Milan's Stazione Centrale and take the 9 A.M. commuter train to Tortona. (We'll provide precise train details in your information packet.) It takes less than an hour, and we'll meet you at the Tortona station. Please let us know if you're coming from elsewhere or spending the previous night in Tortona. From Tortona, we shuttle to Alba (about 1 hour), where the tour gets underway.
On our final day, we’ll shuttle you to the train station of Arquata Scrivia. The station is about 7 miles from the hotel, so we can offer a choice of two shuttles: either early in the morning to catch the 8:20 train to Milan, or later that morning to catch the 12:30 train. During the tour, we can help you buy your return train tickets.
Italian train schedule
Click here for an English-language version of TrenItalia. Be aware that the schedule is posted only several months in advance, so if you're looking for long-range dates, try something sooner, just to get an idea of departure frequency and trip length.
Two popular destinations that are within easy reach of Piedmont are the Lake country and the Italian Riviera, including the Cinque Terre. Because Malpensa airport is about halfway between the city of Milan and Lake Como, a pre-tour stay in Como and/or along Lake Maggiore is quite do-able. Post-tour, one could continue south from Gavi to Genoa (only 30 minutes by express train). A working port city, Genoa is the birthplace of Christopher Colombus and offers a world-class aquarium, waterfront promenade (designed by architect Renzo Piano, a local son), wonderful art museums houses in 18th palaces, and a fascinating medieval section. Continue further down the coast, and you'll reach Portofino and the Cinque Terre. Both offer hiking trails and boat excursions, while the Cinque Terre also has scuba diving and public beaches.
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to "Asti, Italy" to get a general idea of temperatures and forecast. In July, expect summertime temperatures, with comfortably hot, dry days (85º average) and cooler evenings (65º). In October, it's jacket weather: Fall will have commenced, with morning mists, an equal chance of overcast or clear days, with the possibility of sporadic rain. Average daytime temperatures are 60º, and 45º at night.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
Single supplement: $350
Tortona train station
Arquata Scrivia train station
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in two 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- 3 lunches: welcome lunch, cheese farm, cooking lesson
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Admission to Alba's Palio and the Castle of Grinzane Cavour
- Shuttle at beginning/end of tour, as described
What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & most lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included