Page 012 Italy Langhe by Conor 07/08/2014 19:08 Page 1
SEPTEMBER 2014 PAGE 12
hen you first visit the lush, hilly LangheRoero region in Piedmont you might feel a little sorry for the poor auld farmers that have to nurture such steep land. But such a miserable feeling will quickly dissipate when you learn that there is hardly anything ‘poor’ about the locals here; this is northern Italy after all. And there is nothing ‘auld’ about the farmers either; thanks to the wine school in Alba, the district’s biggest town, a new generation of worldclass wine producers are unleashed into the local economy every year having studied and learned the trade from the region’s most famous producers. So rather than feel sorry for anyone, when you come to Langhe simply lap up the fine weather, enjoy the surrounding Alps and indulge in as many chocolates, cheeses and truffles as your stomach – and wallet – can handle. This is a luxury destination for the ultimate bigbellied foodie. It’s best to picture the layout of Langhe as a cake (a doubly apt description for a region renowned for its confectionaries): the land is di-
Conor McMahon visits Italy’s newest UNESCO site
the vineyard landscapes of Piedmont became a UNESCO world heritage site in March
vided into neat rectangles; the top tier consists of hazelnut trees, while the lower tier is ideal for producing grapes and wine. Most of the hazelnuts grown in upper Langhe are used to create artisan products rather than mass produced goods like Nutella, which happens to originate from Alba (today, the Ferroro family employs about 10pc of the town’s population).
f you visit the village of Lequio Berria, you’ll find the Pope’s hazelnut farm. But here, his Holiness doesn’t care for the smell of funeral incenses or the sound of church bells; instead, his workshop is perfumed with the warm aroma of
n In June, the landscape of LangheRoero became a UNESCO world heritage site along with the neighbouring Monferrato district. The 10,780 hectare site consists of six main components: Barolo, the hills of Barbaresco and Castello di Grinzane Cavour in Langhe-Roero; and CanelliAsti Spumante, Nizza Monferrato-Barbera and Monferrato-Infernot of Monferrato. n One popular way to explore Langhe is by bike. The steep terrain might be a challenge for a rookie, but the views are truly spectacular and worth the effort. Alternatively, you could take the Hells Angels route and see the region by motorbike. n Langhe’s hilly terrain makes it an ideal spot to grow spuds. The loose soil and cooler climate means farmers
roasting nuts and sawdust, while whirring machines and grinding contraptions play a holy symphony. Of course, the pontiff I’m referring to is not Francis of Roman Catholic fame, but rather José Noé, who goes by the name ‘Papa di Boshi’ or ‘Pope of the Woods’. Papa di Boshi farm is part of the Mountain Community, a collective of local food and wine producers who pride themselves on quality products. It’s quite clear from my visit that Noé is, like every Italian, deeply passionate about the food he makes. Noé and his team make use of every bit of the nut in their production process, so there’s very
little wastage. As well as selling vacuum-packed nuts, they market a number of products including ice-cream toppings and an unforgettable chocolate spread that would beat Nutella any day (sorry Mr Ferroro). When you descend from upper Langhe, you’ll notice a change in the landscape. This is when you enter the wine region of the district. It is here you will find the delicious Barolo wine, which was the wine drank to celebrate the unification of Italy in 1851. Producers in the medieval Barolo village use nebbiolo vines to produce a wine which takes, at the very least, three years to mature. The WiMu wine museum in Barolo Castle
THINGS TO DO
are less likely to need chemical fertilisers and just use manure instead. The region produces three main varieties: valle belbo, bisalta and entracque. n The region produces delicious cheeses from cow’s and goat’s milk. Travel Extra was given a crash course by the charismatic master cheese taster Paolo Stacchini. We recommend you ask your waiter for the Tomino de Mel o Toma, bra tenero or the Castelmagno. n The Romano Levi museum in Néive is a little gem. Levi was an eccentric grappa producer who created beautiful labels for his bottles. Locals reluctantly admit that his grappa was not the best, but his drawings of female figures, flowers and skies (accompanied by wild handwritten messages) were very popular.
gives a good insight into the wine’s history and cultural significance.
lba, Nutella’s hometown, is like the front door to Langhe. The town is the capital of the district, the white truffle and Dolcetto red wine. Via Vittorio Emanuele, its main street, offers beautiful Baroque architecture and a lively nightlife. There are some unique food experiences available in the town square such as La Piola restaurant, which offers a delicious handmade tagliatelle. The Alba underground tour gives visitors the opportunity to experience the town’s Roman ruins under the main square. Tourists can explore the
n The Ceretto winery family commissioned American artist Sol Lewitt to paint a chapel on the grounds of their vines. Lewitt, famous for his minimalist and conceptual works, painted the exterior and interior walls with vibrant primary colours. The site, popular with Langhe’s under 30s, is a great place to relax and soak up the views with a bottle of wine. n Barberesco village is a popular spot for wine tours. Produttori del Barberesco is a collective of 50 producers which hosts tour groups in its centre. Their wines are reasonably priced and if you get your timing right you will be offered a free tasting. While you’re in Barberesco, be sure to visit the church in the town centre. Don’t let the outside appearance fool you; this is a house of the divil. Inside you’ll find a wine shop that
town’s ancient roads, mosaics, and temples. The Roero district is just across the Tanaro River. Like Langhe, Roero offers tourists fantastic landscapes and is characterised by its deep valleys and amphitheatres. If you visit Govone village, be sure to stop off at Le Scuderie del Castelli di Govone restaurant. With a 23year-old head chef and school-age waiters and waitresses, this quirky restaurant offers customers a traditional food experience injected with youthful energy. Langhe-Roero offers a platter of gastro attractions for both culinary buffs and culinary bluffs. Plus it’s a top destination for those who appreciate landscapes and love to get the most out of their smartphone’s panoramic function. If you’re willing to plunge into the savings, try the famous Alba white truffle. Or at least lisit the Ethnographic Museum in UNESCO site Castello di Grinzane Cavour and see what the fuss is about. Note that Alba truffles are sniffed out by dogs rather than pigs since they do less damage to the truffle. Only the French use pigs, we are told. Make what you want of that.
stocks all of Langhe’s quality produce. n While you’re on the vino, Barolo’s Museo dei Cavatappi (the Corkscrew Museum) hosts tour groups and houses a number of exhibitions on the history of Barolo wine and cork. n The facades and architecture of the Royal Residences of Turin and Piedmonte are popular attractions and offer visitors a glimpse into northern Italy’s medieval past. n The Egyptian museum in nearby Turin houses a larges collections of Egyptian antiquities, second only to Cairo. The museum is currently undergoing a redesign, which is set to be completed in 2015. The museum is working with Google Glass to create a wearable device for deaf visitors. The device will translate tour content into Italian Sign Language and captions.