Southern Piedmont, home of the slow food movement, land of fine Barolo wine and white truffles, a region with countless medieval castles and towers, rolling hills with vineyards and small villages where in summer one after another village sagra is held. This region seems still undiscovered, except for food and wine connaisseurs, but it should appeal to anyone who likes to step out of the hectic life and enjoy some peace and tranquility, without too many tourists around.
During a vacation in Southern Piedmont you get the chance to do a variety of trips, but many opt for a slow holiday. Trips are combined with peaceful days, where relaxing and enjoying the silence are central. Here are some activities that perfectly fit that pattern.
The truffle is an Italian delicacy, an extremely valuable mushroom that grows underground. The word tartufo means diamond of the kitchen. The most rare and therefore most expensive one, is the white truffle, whose prices are sometimes higher than the price of gold. The job of a truffle hunter is a lonely one, because it is excercised only in the company of well-trained dogs. Each truffle hunter has his own secret hunting grounds which he will reveal to no one.
Hunting truffles with a local is a unique experience, especially when you have someone who does his work with passion and tells with pleasure about this trade and the area. You will learn how the dogs are trained in the truffle hunting, what to look for, what factors play a role in the growth of a truffle …and with some luck you will also find a few that you can buy and eat immediately on a simple pasta dish.
The thermal baths of Acqui Terme
Acqui Terme was a famous spa resort in Roman times. Today the newest and most luxurious spa complex is Lago delle Sorgenti. It has several thermal complexes that use the thermal waters that come out of the ground at a temperature higher than 70° Celsius and is located in a renovated building from the 17th century. It has been built with focus on the intention to provide visitors a feeling of wealth and luxury. The experience is the perfect pastime for those who want to pamper themselves, or on a day when the weather is not so good.
The Piedmont countryside is dotted with small, sleepy villages that come to life a few times a year to celebrate their local specialties. March for instance is the month of the polenta feast of Monastero Bormida. In june the handmade ravioli from Merana is celebrated. During july you can participate in an enogastronomic evening walk with performances in Castel Rocchero. In september you can taste wine and visit the underground cellars of Canelli. These are but a few of the many local events taking place here. You’ll find that you are more than welcome as a tourist, but these parties still retain their local charm and most visitors are locals enjoying an evening out.
Walking on the Calanche
The millennia-old seadunes in Southern Piedmont, also called calanche, are typical of this region. In some areas one seems to walk in a lunar landscape, while elsewhere erosion chiseled sometimes recognizable shapes out of the rocks like a crocodile or a spider.
In the village of Merana, just on the border with Liguria, there is a beautiful calanche-walk in the hills. The entire 12 km walk takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. But there are also various options for those who prefer to walk only a part of the tour.
A visit to our region is of course not complete without a wine tasting. Both small and large wineries and wine tasting estates let you enjoy their wines and many will gladly let you see their wine cellars. Not everyone has opening hours as most are small family businesses. Here you will find the farm shop to be empty as everyone is working the fields. A word of advice is to call ahead for an appointment.
Medieval castles and towers
In a country full of cultural treasures, it is actually impossible to make a selection of things you should have seen. Around every corner, in every village there is a castle, tower or church which is worth a visit. If you happen to be in the area please inquire about the open castle days. These are moments when castles and other historic buildings that are in the hands of private owners open their doors to visitors. The medieval towers scattered in the hills can often be visited as well. Just ask around and someone with a key will show up. In Merana for example you can ask the key to the medieval tower in Agriturismo Verdita. A climb up the steep stairs of the tower is rewarded with stunning views of the Bormida Valley.
Place to Stay : Agriturismo Verdita
Agriturismo Verdita is an organic lavender farm with four new self-catering holiday apartments on a hill in the Alto Monferrato, on the border of Piemonte with Liguria. It’s an ideal place for a wonderful stay immersed in nature, from where you can explore both beautiful regions or relax in the garden, enjoy the jacuzzi, cook an Italian meal in the panoramic outdoor kitchen or finally take the time to read that book in the quiet green garden.
Here you will fall in love with the endless countryside views and you get to know the real Italy. Forget the every day life and let yourself be overwhelmed by the sights and smells of wild plants, listen to the silence and realise how unique this is.
Agriturismo Verdita has only 2 one bedroom apartments and 2 studios, so we’re a very small-scale accomodation. All living units are fully refurbished and equiped with central heating, a modern kitchen and comfortable bathroom. There is a television with DVD player and a music system (CD and MP3) and a free Wi-Fi internet connection provided.
All apartments have their own private entrance and patio or balcony with outdoor table and chairs. There are also recliners in the garden.
Click here for more information on Agriturismo Verdita and its surroundings.