Celebrate Barolo, Barbaresco & Gavi wine 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, Villa Sparina & 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 

ITINERARY

DAY 1 – A DAY AT THE RACES
Welcome to our fall Piedmont wine tour! 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 – BAROLO AND TRUFFLES
Don your walking shoes! This morning we stroll through hazelnut groves with Carlo and Lara, a truffle hunter and his dog, to see how canines are trained to sniff out the precious tubers, which grow beside certain tree roots. Then we'll hop over to the museum in the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. This castle was home to the first Prime Minister of Italy, a Thomas Jefferson-like politician who was also a winemaker—and a key player in Barolo's creation.

After lunch, we'll explore the eastern communes of the Barolo DOCG, where the magnesium-rich soil creates more structured Barolos, rich with tannins. We'll begin at Massolino in Serralunga, then continue south to Monforte for a tasting at either Elio Grasso or Fantino Conterno. All are family-run wineries with top ratings and loyal followings. Dinner features more piemontese fare, such as vitello tonnato (veal with delicate tuna sauce), agnolotti (a variation of ravioli), and bounet (chocolate-amaretti pudding).
B, D • Hotel I Castelli

DAY 3 – MOUNTAIN CHEESE
One of our favorite Barolo wineries is Silvio Grasso, where the founder's wife, Marilena, always provides a warm, effusive welcome—and a generous tasting, pouring comparisons between their Barolo cru and various vintages. 

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. On our way back to Alba, we'll stop at another top Barolo winery, Da Milano, whose wines have consistently offered an exceptional price/value buy. Then it's back to Alba, with free time to explore the shops brimming with truffle oil, chocolate-hazelnut spreads, and aged vintages of wine, or visit the baroque churches. Dinner is on your own in one of Alba's many fine restaurants. 
B, L • Hotel I Castelli

DAY 4 – BARBARESCO & BARBERA D'ASTI
Today as we transfer to Gavi, we'll focus on the other B's of Piedmont: Barbaresco and Barbera. More perfumed, elegant, and supple than Barolo, Barbaresco is considered the "queen" to Barolo's "king." In the eponymous village on the Tanaro, we'll visit one of the largest, most historic Barbaresco producers, Marchesi di Gresy, which makes several cru as well as a rare (and quite good) Piedmont sauvignon blanc. If we're lucky (and we usually are), the cellar master will pop in for a hello and a chat. 

After lunch, we'll head to Barbera territory near Asti. Our afternoon tasting spotlights Braida, the estate of Giacomo Bologna, the man who revolutionized Barbera. This is a true Cinderella story, with a humble grape and rustic wine transformed into a polished, powerful red that competes on the international stage. Next, we continue to southeast Piedmont, land of Gavi wine (1 hour drive). Our bucolic 4-star hotel is on the property of Villa Sparina, a leading Gavi di Gavi winery. Dinner is in one of the tiny hilltop villages. 
B, D • L'Ostelliere of Villa Sparina

DAY 5 – 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 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 is at Villa Sparina’s elegant restaurant, La Gallina. 
B, L, D • L'Ostelliere of Villa Sparina

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 (May 22–27) 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 (September 10–16). Finally, Slow Food Festa is custom foodie/wine tour in Parma, Modena, and Piedmont.


TRIP NOTES

Airport
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). 

Pre-tour
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.

Meeting point
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.

Departure day
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.

Trip extensions
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.

Travel insurance
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.

Weather
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.

2017 dates
October 1–6

Price
$3,195
Single supplement: $350

Meet
Tortona train station

Depart
Arquata Scrivia train station

What's included
- 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

Our favorite moment was the morning spent with the truffle hunter and his nephew, sipping great wines in the shed, eating local cheese and white truffle chunks (no slicer!). The nephew brought out his best bottle from the Golden Year 1997—it was a golden moment!
— Herb & Sara Drower, Wilmette, IL