Piemonte is a wondrous medley of flavours and aromas, from the dense smell of its woods and the distinctive odour of mushrooms and truffles in autumn, to the cheeses from its lush pastures and the aromatic liqueurs distilled from herbs grown on high mountain slopes, to savoury salamis and preserved meats and fine wines, such as Barolo, Barbera, Moscato…
The region offers an array of exquisite produce that forms the basis of dishes in a cuisine that ranges from the homely and hearty to the noble and delicate.
Visit the medieval town centre of Alba and, in October, enjoy the "Alba Truffle Market"; take a trip through the region of Dolcetto that twines amongst castles and vineyards, take a relaxing walk in the woods and countryside accompanied by a truffle hunter and his dog to search for the mythical White Truffle of Alba, enjoy a visit to a selected wine cellar. On the second day take in the Barolo route, enjoy lunch following a course in the traditional cuisine of the Langhe, join a guided visit to the castle-fortress of Serralunga and visit a “torronificio” (nougat factory).
Piemonte’s wines are as many and varied as the region’s landscapes, and offer the most bewitching possibilities to discover the many facets of the land’s character, from the magic of the gently rolling hills of Langa and Monferrato, home to some of the most prestigious and fascinating wines such as Barolo, to the heroic efforts of vine growers and wine makers in the high mountains who have been coaxing flavor and aroma from the rocks for centuries, from the highest growing vines in Europe.
Piemontese cooking includes a rich variety of starters (“antipasti”) and its most characteristic dish is probably the “bagna coada”, a dip made from a mixture of anchovies and garlic. In Piemonte, vegetables and greens have always had a very special place. Whether served fresh and crunchy, or warmed up in the oven, or braised, or skillfully combined in a serving of “fritto misto alla piemontese”, the very traditional mixture of different fried meats and vegetables has always been among the main ingredients in a very versatile cooking style as well a part of a long-established gardening and preserves tradition.
A range of itineraries exists, including visits to tourist events, fairs and demonstrations, all of which are designed to assist visitors in discovering and learning about the marvellous variety of Piemontese cheeses.
Piemonte’s wine routes pass through areas of outstanding natural beauty, steeped in history and significance for the local community. There are of course a number of vineyards and wineries belonging to single firms or consortiums but still open to the public. These firms add to the visitors’ experience by making it possible to visit the areas and enjoy browsing in places selling wine and local goods, as well as promoting hospitality offered by local holiday farms and educational centres.
Sweets and desserts
The creativity of popular folk cooking, and the sophistication of the House of Savoy’s chefs, have left Piemonte’s dessert and sweet making tradition with a legacy of delicious recipes. Some recipes are tied closely to the land and its fruits, such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, milk, cornflower, and honey, while other recipes include sophisticated spices and dishes made from chocolate.
The road of rice
The long and ancient tradition of rice-growing is the file rouge linking the different initiatives of “Sulle strade del riso” (Along the roads of rice) which from 15th March to 22nd June will propose every kind of event scattered in the different municipalities around Novara.
Popular celebrations, exhibitions, literary and food & wine moments, music, markets together with interesting bike-tours to find out more about rice places and processing (Trecate, 1st May – Tornaco, 11th May), training workshops, like that on the sowing rite (4th May, Casalbeltrame); and then cooking competitions involving the different hotel schools (Vespolate, 23rd May), thematic cycle rides (Vespolate, 25th May – Romentino, 2nd June), appointments in the Open Farms (Vespolate 24th and 25th May).
Spring months are the best to discover the water lands of the Bassa Novarese area: an endless plain of water rectangles also called “the square sea”. In April rice-fields are flooded to favour the plant growth which, once emerged, will make the plain bright green and at the end of summer they will become a golden yellow expanse of ripe ears. This man-made landscape around Novara is the result of 5 centuries of work and also the history of farmers’ and rice weeders’ hard work and epic battles.
Rice in Novara and the surroundings is obviously the table king: one of the most traditional recipes is that of “Paniscia”, a simple dish symbol of life and farmer’s diet made with rice, beans, savoy, Duja salami, which can still be found in restaurants.