Lakes and Truffles
Temptations of the Piedmont Region
Our time in Piemonte (from “piede” (foot) + “monte” (mountain)) is a study in contrasts. We’ll live for 3 days on Lake Orta, a shining jewel at the base of the Alps. Then we descend through dreamy rolling hills to the mysteriously-named “Langhe and Roero” in southern Piedmont. Here our focus will be the rich wine and food traditions, with autumn being the ideal time to visit. Highlights include:
- Excursions with our private guide to Lake Maggiore’s most beautiful isles and gardens, plus free time to discover tiny Lake Orta and the town of Orta San Giulio
- “The Kitchen Experience” with the talented team of a double Michelin-starred chef
- Alba, famous for its prized white truffle (we’ll be there with the Italians on the first weekend of the 85th Alba International White Truffle Festival)
- Chances to taste and discern the differences among Barolo, Barberesco, and Barbera wines, which all originated in this part of Piemonte; we will visit producers known for their superb expressions of the native grapes
- Two boutique hotels, including a Relais and Chateaux property and a villa in the center of Alba, famous for truffles and wine!
Day 1 (Tuesday): Revel in Luxury by the Lake
Transfer from Malpensa airport to our Relais and Chateaux villa on picture perfect Lake Orta in Northern Italy. Time to rest up from the long trip over, explore the little local town, and prepare for our multi-course Michelin-starred dinner tonight. D
Lodging for the next 3 nights: Relais and Chateaux Villa Crespi
Day 2 (Wednesday): Adagio’s Favorite Italian Lake
Depart after the rich breakfast buffet for the town of Stresa. A jewel on Lake Maggiore, Stresa is also the main point of departure for Isola Bella (where our local guide will show us the beautiful Palazzo Borromeo and its gardens). After that we hop over to Isola dei Pescatori (Fisherman’s Isle), where we have time to stroll through the mesmerizing alleys and enjoy a lakeside lunch on our own. Back to Villa Crespi in time to rest up for another Michelin-starred dinner, this time at tiny Locanda d’Orta, right in the charming town by our hotel. B, D
Day 3 (Thursday): Chef’s Delights; Lake Country “Your Way”
Spend two enchanting hours this morning with the talented team of our Villa’s 2-star Michelin chef Antonino. This experience is available to the first 6 clients who sign up. They will share curious facts and anecdotes from Antonino’s years of experience; Susan Eckis is hard to impress in the kitchen, and she LOVED “The Kitchen Experience” when she participated! You’ll leave armed with the recipes, sure to surprise and impress your guests at home. Optional lunch following the cooking experience (extra charge). Those who want to just relax or have a massage can enjoy a free morning.
You are on your own this afternoon and evening. Take the easygoing lakeside hike into town, where there are several interesting artisan shops; climb the hill beside our hotel to visit the inspirational Sacra Monte; enjoy a campari with the locals in the main square of Orta San Giulio before trying one of several restaurants this evening. B
Day 4 (Friday): Heading South to Barolo-land
We’ll stop to shop at the wonderful Loro Piana Cashmere Outlet, just ½ hour from Villa Crespi, before continuing on a scenic 2-hour drive south through the region. Stop along the way for a taste of the wines for which southern Piedmont is so famous, accompanied by a light lunch. Evening finds us in a completely refurbished historic home in Alba, the center of action for the famous truffle festival…which starts this weekend! Dinner on your own tonight at one of the excellent choices in this lively wine town…Piemontese pizza anyone? B, L
Lodging for the next 3 nights:: Palazzo Finati
Day 5 (Saturday): A Lively Town; Dinner with a Wine “Artist”
This morning we’re free to share the charming streets of Alba (today is market day!) with loads of Italian gastronomes as the Truffle Festival kicks into high gear! We will reunite in mid-afternoon to head up to the hills for an immersion into local wine culture. We will join a passionate wine-maker — almost an artist in his trade — to sip expressions of his very special wines. These reflect Natale’s French training as well as his profound understanding of the terroir. The winemaker will join us for a typical dinner in his “studio” later this evening. B, D
Day 6 (Sunday): 85th Alba International White Truffle Festival; All About Barolo
This morning our local guide and sommelier will accompany us inside the walls of the truffle market, filled with the heady aroma of the tuber as well as endless displays of truffley food items. Afternoon finds us at a wine museum that’s like nothing you can imagine. Descend five floors of the Castello di Barolo, on a sensory journey that spans wine-making from its beginnings through present-day debates about “old” versus “new” -world methods. We’ll then visit one of the most important wineries in this area. Depending on the vintners’ availability (this is their BUSIEST time of year!), we’ll taste at the likes of Vietti, Conterno Fantino, Renato Ratti, Brovia (or wineries of equal caliber). Riding through this dreamy countryside and tasting some of Italy’s best reds… an experience not soon forgotten! Time to pack tonight before our final dinner, in a country inn near Alba where each course is paired with its own wine. B, D
Day 7 (Monday): Transfer after breakfast to Milan’s Malpensa airport, train station, or hotel.
Where shall we go next year….?! B
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided
Here’s a Travel and Leisure article from American designer Rebecca Moses on finding quality cashmere in the Lake Orta area! She expatriated to this part of Italy many years ago, and offers insights into how to pick wonderful cashmere. The Loro Piana outlet that we visit is one of her favorite places.