The interesting city of Alba organizes the Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco (National Fair of the White Truffle) in October. The event lasts over one full month and revolves around a world-class auction of the delicious subterranean food, including cultural happenings such as parades in historical costumes and the "Palio degli Asini", a donkey race.
Every other year the city of Bra hosts "Cheese" an event obviously focused on such tasty dairy products from various regions of Europe. Usually taking place in September over the course of three or four days, the event has free admission. Sampling is also for free and it's a great occasion learn all about the world of cheese. Delicious!
Although Italian is the official language, Italy is a relatively young country (unified in 1861) and the various regions within have their own tongue. Some of these are considered dialects while others are languages.
Piedmontese is a written Western Neo-latin language listed on UNESCO's "Red Book on Endangered Languages". My grandparents took Italian at school as a second language, and I still grew up with it as the normal conversation tongue of my parents.
Due to the "Italianization" of the country, it is declining although still widely spoken in a variety of forms. Even Piedmontese had to be "unified" into a koine' common exchange language understood by people throughout the region. "Occitano" and "Franco-Provenzale" dialect families are in fact quite different to each other.
Known to derive from the early languages spoken by Ligurian tribes (from the Iberic Peninsula), it was later integrated with Celtic, Latin and some Arabic words. It has today some similarities with Catalan and Gaelic. I was surprised to find out with Irish friends about words in common, such as:
Conij (rabbit), "Conhin" (not sure about spelling) in Gaelic
Drugia (manure) from Celtic "Dru" (fertile)
Balma (cave) from "Balmein" (high stone)
Bealera (water stream) from "Beal" (water stream)
Brich (peak or high ground) from "Beal" (hill)
Bisa (cold wind) from Bis (pungent)
Some words from Arabic with identical meaning:
Taola (table) same as "Taula" in Arabic
Portogal (orange) same as "Burtuqal"
Carador (aisle or hallway) same as "Karadur"
If you visit Piedmont and speak Italian, don't be surprised if you hear something that sounds similar to French. You're listening to Piedmontese. And, don't be surprised if towns 20 km apart from each other have a different tongue!
I'm fluent with the Turinese form and the version spoken in the Canavese region.
Despite progress takes its toll and the old-fashioned activities are vanishing, it is possible to visit many valleys in Piedmont and see that lifestyle is still hanging to traditions. High-altitude pasture lands are the "holiday" summer resort for cattle such as cow, sheep and goat gently grazing around in a pristine environment. Herdsmen take their animals to higher ground in summer and take them back to lower elevations at the end of the warm season, normally in September or October. During this period it's possible to find some roads clogged by hundreds, at times thousands of animals and their tenders with dogs.
If you find yourself in such situation just pull aside, turn your engine off and patiently give up a few minutes of your time. Remember that this is part of the locals' life and respect it.
Piedmont is home to some of the best wines in the world. In terms of territory and wine varieties, the area lying southeast of Torino is probably the best option for a visitor who wants to drive within easy reach.
60 Km (40 mi) from Piedmont capital lie the areas of Langhe and Roero, respectively south and north of the city of Alba, and the province of Asti.
Not only this land is the production area of prestigious wines, but its kind and diehard people, cuisine and landscapes definitely deserve a well-worth visit. Top produces, other than wine, are cheese, truffle, mushroom and hazelnut.
We Piedmontese sometimes refer to this land as the "University of Taste", and we're not wrong as this is home to the finest typical local dishes. A myriad of villages and small towns where stayfarms offer relaxed accommodation and excellent food with dining views over mountains and hills covered by extensive vineyards.
Even a simple day drive or ride through the area is an eye-filling experience. Nevertheless it's a prime destination for Turinese motorcyclists - including myself! Various possibilities for free tasting of wine, grappa and other products. Best period is fall season.
WARNING: don't drink and drive!
Excellent beer produced in Piozzo, less than 1 hour drive south of Torino.
A surprising variety of microbrews makes Le Baladin an absolute must for beer lovers.
Served on draft but also available in bottles, my favorite is Nora.
Check website for opening hours.
Birrificio BALADIN Piazza V Luglio 15
12060 Piozzo (CN) Italy
Tel. +39. 0173.778013
If Piedmont has a worldwide reputation for its wines, a few know that beer is not left behind.
Menabrea is produced in Biella since 1864. It would be reductive to consider it the best Italian beer, as it's been recognized as the best beer in the world. Several varieties have won gold medal prizes in the recent years at the Chicago Beer Championships.
The brewery and museum are open to visitors. There's a restaurant too and beer tasting is not to be missed.
For visits, contact the brewery:
Via Ramella Germanin 4
Phone +39 (015) 252-2320
Biella is located ax. 70 Km north of Turin
If you visit Turin and Piedmont you should definitely try this delicious dish.
"Bagna Cauda" - pronounced "bah-nha-cah-uh-dah" - is probably the top ranking dish in the region during fall or winter.
The term is in local dialect and it means "Hot Sauce". Needless to say, this sauce itself is not a dish if not accompanied by fresh and boiled vegetables of various kind, mushrooms, meat and other food dictated by the cook's fantasy or seasonal availability.
I never heard of any Piedmontese mom not preparing this dish, which is normally meant to drag a goo dnumber of people around a colorful table. The rule of "Bagna Cauda", as I heard from mom and grandma, is "the more the quantity to be made, the better it tastes". Maybe there's a real reason beyond this statement, or maybe it's just meant to arrange large parties of hugnry people.
The sauce itself is made with very simple basic ingredients which are garlic and salty anchivies. Olive oil helps to blend. That's it. Some variations include the addition of some milk or cream. A perfect result completely depends on the cook's ability, therefore training is something passed on from one generation to the next.
The sauce is generally presented in the middle of the table in a terracotta pot, heated underneath, from which guests take their share into individual cups.
Piedmontese red wine is the obvious fluid to wash it down.
Some restaurants have this dish on their menu, but a totally different thing would be to have dinner at local friends' home....for the typical joyful ambience "Bagna Cauda" creates....and for everybody smells pure garlic!
I seem to end up here most of the time I am in Torino. I walk the streets near the hotel if I can...more
Being one of the best hotels in Stresa, the Regina Palace is located on the avenue along the bank of...more
Via Torino 7, Mombaruzzo, 14046, Italy
Good for: Solo