A Slow Food tour in Parma, Barolo & Turin
- See three wine regions: Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont & Lambrusco in Emilia Romagna
- Private sit-down tastings, plus dinner at a winery
- A day at the Salone del Gusto, Slow Food's biannual bash in Turin
- See the cities of Turin, Parma, and Alba
- Visit a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese producer and a balsamic vinegar maker
- Lunch at prosciutto producer
- Accompany a truffle hunter and his dog
DAY 1 – BALSAMIC & LAMBRUSCO
One hour south of Parma is Modena, famous among foodies for two things: fizzy, fun Lambrusco and traditional, aged balsamic vinegar. After a pickup from the Modena train station, we head to the Acetaia del Duca, a historic balsamic producer founded in 1891. Here we'll see how the authentic aceto balsamic tradizionale di Modena is made, spending years rotating through small barrels of various woods until it turns into a sublime, dark nectar. Lunch is on your own in the Romanesque town of Modena.
Then we get a crash course in Lambrusco. Forget whatever preconceptions you had about this sparkler! Lambrusco's a real charmer, and it comes in a whole array of styles: off-dry and dry, pale pink and deep violet, with delicate flavors and full-throttle fruit. All are perfect accompaniments to the region's salumi and rich meats. We'll visit one of the few wineries that has won the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award for its Lambrusco: Medici Ermete, a century-old estate. Finally we arrive in Parma, the gastronomic cradle of Emilia-Romagna's widely loved comfort food.
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DAY 2 – PARMIGIANO & PIG HEAVEN
Parma is home to the real deal in both Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma. Today’s the day for devotees of Parmigiano Reggiano, a DOP cow-milk cheese which, produced elsewhere in Italy, is called parmesan. Following Health Ministry rules, our visit will take place in the early morning. We’ll tour the dairy rooms where curds are worked, salting takes place, and hefty rounds are aged for years or even decades, then quality-tested with a special hammer. Next, we'll visit the Castle of Torrechiara, a frescoed, fairytale castle built by a Renaissance soldier for his lover.
Lunch is at a Prosciutto di Parma producer, where we’ll see the steps in making Italy’s most popular DOP ham, from salting and fatting to aging in cold storage. We’ll also learn about other cured-meat specialties of Parma, such as salami di Felino, culatello di Zibello, and spalla cotta di S. Secondo. Back in town, we’ll have a free time in Parma, when you can visit the Duomo and baptistry, Piazza Garibaldi, and other major sites. Dinner is on your own. It might feature such regional specialties as tortellini in brodo, soul-satisfying lasagna, or pumpkin tortellini with butter and sage sauce—all perfect pairings with violet-hued, frizzante Lambrusco. (Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!)
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DAY 3 – BAROLO, THE KING OF WINES
This morning, we transfer to Piedmont (two-and-a-half hours). Our destination is the beautiful Langhe hills, birthplace of Barolo wine. There’s no better spot for a historical introduction than the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. Now a Barolo museum, this was home to Italy’s first Prime Minister, who was also a winemaker and co-creator of Barolo in the mid-1800s—much like an Italian Thomas Jefferson. After a castle tour, we’ll go to the petite village of Barolo (pop. 679) for lunch. If you choose our favorite spot, you can enjoy a veritable parade of Piedmont’s famed dishes, such as vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce), plin (tiny meat-stuffed ravioli), and bounet (chocolate-hazelnut pudding).
Now we switch our focus to serious wine: Barolo. We start at Elvio Cogno. Located near la Morra, this estate was run by a lawyer from Turin before being bought by the Cogno family and completely renovated. Here they resurrected the nearly extinct nascetta grape, which you'll taste, as well as their stellar Barolos. Dinner follows in the private dining room of the Marchesi di Barolo, the birthplace of Barolo. We then settle into our hotel in Alba.
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DAY 4 – THE REGAL TOWN OF TURIN
For over 400 years, Turin was the capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont. The royalty left behind a legacy of opulent architecture fit for kings, which gives this city its elegant flair. Today we take a day trip to explore the city (1-hour drive). A walking tour of Turin in the historical center includes the Royal Palace and Palazzo Madama. We’ll also stop into an elegant 18th century café for some of the world's finest hot chocolate—a treat beloved by the royal family. Then there's time on your own for a stroll along the river, a visit to the Museum of Cinema or world-class Egyptian Museum, a ride up the Mole's glass elevator to Turin's tallest spire for the best view of Turin and the encircling Alps, or shopping in the city's boutiques. We return to Alba for another spectacular wine dinner.
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DAY 5 – A TRUFFLE HUNT & BARBARESCO
Today you’ll meet a real truffle hunter and his dog. The duo will provide an in-field demonstration of dog training and truffle hunting in the hazelnut groves. You’ll learn why truffles are so rare and expensive, why pigs aren’t used anymore, and what commands the hunter uses (in dialect!) to interact with his eager-to-please pooch. After the hunt, we’ll have our first tasting of the day at a small, boutique estate, either Fratelli Alessandria or Damilano. Both are older estates—founded in the early 1800s and 1890 respectively—and both hew to traditionalist approaches to Barolo. Both also typify the wineries of Piedmont in being family-run and making limited-production wine—while striving for excellence.
Then it's off to the village of Barbaresco, where we'll explore Piedmont's other regal red wine made from the nebbiolo grape. We’ll visit Barbaresco’s largest and oldest winery in private hands, the Marchesi di Gresy. Our tasting will highlight the concept of terroir in their single-vineyard Barbarescos, and introduce a delicious example of Dolcetto, one of Piedmont’s everyday wines. Then it's back to Alba for dinner at La Piola, owned by the Ceretto winery. Specializing in classic renditions of Piedmont cuisine, they offer unbeatable agnolotti, the large, meat-stuffed ravioli—a perfect match for nebbiolo-based wines.
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DAY 6 – BUON VIAGGIO!
After breakfast, there's free time in Alba. It’s truffle season, so there is Alba's famous annual truffle market to visit. Here you'll find truffle spreads, truffle oil, truffle books, and whole tubers. In Alba's gourmet shops, you'll also find such piemontese products as risotto, dried porcini, and chocolate, and you can search for older Barolo vintages in well-stocked wine shops or visit the baroque and medieval churches. At noon, we shuttle to the Asti train station for your departure. B
Arrival: Milan’s Malpensa or Linate or the Bologna airport. Both Milan airports have convenient shuttle buses to Milan’s central train station, the Stazione Centrale (50 minutes from Malpensa, 30 minutes from Linate). Bologna has its Aerobus-BLQ shuttle service that connects the airport with the center of Bologna. Departure: Milan or Turin
Plan to land in Italy a day before the tour begins; that's necessary to be at our starting point on time. We suggest spending the preceding night either in Modena or in Bologna, just a 30-minute train ride away. Bologna is the regional capital of Emilia Romagna. It’s the perfect place to begin a culinary vacation, as its nickname implies: Bologna la Grassa, or “Bologna the Fat.” This historic city is the home of ragú sauce, mortadella, tortellini in broth, and of course lasagna, the ultimate comfort food. Bologna’s other nicknames suggest are equally suggestive: Bologna la Dotta, “the Learned,” in reference to the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe (founded 1088), which boasts such alums as Petrarch, Dante, and Copernicus. Bologna la Turrita (“City of Towers”) is appropriate for a city that still has some of its 180 medieval towers and offers a bounty of other historic sites for art and architecture buffs. Plus, there are many excellent museums of art and archaeology, and historic palaces to explore.
Our meeting point is the train station in Modena. If coming from Bologna that morning, contact us to coordinate which train you should take.
On our final day, we’ll shuttle you to the train station of Asti or Tortona after breakfast, depending on your subsequent destination. From there, you can easily catch a train to Turin (approx. 45 min from Asti) or Milan (approx. 1:15 from Tortona).
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.
The city of Turin is well worth some extra time. The capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont until 1861, Turin housed the royal Savoia family, so it's filled with elegant architecture, ornate 18th century cafes, and expansive royal palaces. Plus there are many worthwhile museums, including a world-class Egyptian Museum and a fascinating Museum of Cinema.
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" and "Parma, Italy" to get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.
For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.
Available as a private, custom tour. Excludes the Salone del Gusto, which occurs only in alternating years. Inquire about price, which varies depending on group size.
Single supplement: $350
Modena train station, near Bologna
Asti or Tortona train station
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in two 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine), including one at a Barolo winery
- 1 lunch at a prosciutto producer
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Admission to Castle of Grinzane Cavour
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