On Turin’s doorstep, within the picturesque Piedmont region, are the forests of Monchiero, which yield truffles costing 20 times as much per kilo as silver, and the celebrated Barolo vineyards, which produce some of the world’s best red wine. Then there are the centuries-old rice fields of Lucedio and the traditional Alpine cheese-makers of Castelmagno, their time-honoured techniques creating the highest quality ingredients. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Piedmont’s unique culinary delights on our outstanding tour.
Fly from London Gatwick to Turin and transfer to the luxurious Grand Hotel Sitea, beautifully located behind the Piazza San Carlo and 10 minutes’ walk from Piazza Castello, the historic centre of the city. Turin is the home of renowned aperitivo brands Martini Rosso, Cinzano and Gancia – locals have been sharpening their early evening appetites with these vermouth-based tipples for more than 200 years. After a welcome glass at the hotel we enjoy dinner at a quality local restaurant.
Turin is the capital of Italian chocolate and indeed has good claim to be the capital of European chocolate. Granted a licence to produce this sweet treat in 1678, the results were so marvellous that even the Swiss travelled to the city to learn the art of chocolate-making. For hundreds of years, Turin and the Piedmont region has held its own against the chocolate powerhouses of Switzerland and Belgium, thanks to unique delights such as hazelnut-infused Giantiotto and the profoundly indulgent Bicerin (espresso, chocolate syrup and cream). This morning we visit one of the city’s great chocolate makers for a tour and tasting, followed by a visit to an independent, family-run coffee business to learn about another true taste of Italy. After lunch at a local restaurant near the Basilica di Superga, we return to the city centre for a panoramic coach tour. A memorable dinner this evening will include a bagna cauda (literally ‘hot dip’), a traditional mix of butter, anchovies, garlic and olive oil served piping hot like a fondue, with crisp vegetables to dip.
The fields of nearby Lucedio were the first to cultivate rice in Italy as long ago as the 15th century, and beside the vast former Cistercian Abbey rice is still being produced today. We take a tour of the rice-fields, learning about the utmost care taken in harvesting and storing rice – particularly the superfino varieties used in classic risotto making, and the nutritional ‘rogue rice’ which grows spontaneously in the estate. In Lucedio itself we appreciate a cookery lesson from talented chefs and prepare ourselves a delicious lunch. Then, in the afternoon we return to Turin for relaxation or independent exploration of a city known for its stately Baroque architecture and grand squares. Dinner is provided at the hotel this evening.
The tranquil countryside of Monchiero is noted for its high concentration of truffles. But these earthy nuggets of culinary gold do not yield themselves easily. They must be hunted, scented and uncovered, at a very specific time of year. Luckily our visit corresponds nicely, so we have arranged an unforgettable truffle-hunting experience this morning, joining a local tartufaio and their dog in search of black and white truffles. Naturally we follow this hunt with a truffle lunch in Monchiero and in the afternoon we visit the attractive town of Alba, famed for its white truffles, to visit the truffle market. White truffle auctions in Alba have raised astonishing prices in recent years, as a result of the scarcity of this sought-after ingredient, reaching an all-time high average of £5,500 per kilo in 2017. Free time in Alba follows, perhaps to visit the Cathedral, noted for its breathtaking interior. Dinner will be taken at a quality local restaurant back in Turin this evening.
This morning is at your leisure and lunch under your own arrangements. In the afternoon we head out to the rolling, vine-clad hills of Langhe, just half an hour or so from Turin.
Here are produced two of the world’s great red wines – Barolo and Barbaresco. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo wines in particular are counted amongst Italy’s most prestigious, characterised by rich tannins and high acidity that mellows with age. We visit one of the finest cellars in the region for a tour and tastings with a sumptuous dinner.
In Val Grana, high up in the Alps southwest of Turin, the semi- hard Castelmagno cheese is still produced the old-fashioned way – a method not changed in a millennium. The Piedmontese cattle, which provide the milk, must graze only on indigenous flora in pastures above an altitude of 1,000m and within the specific geographical boundaries. This commitment to tradition and sustainability, along with its delicious and distinctive taste, has earned Castelmagno the EU’s highest designation – DOP (protected origin status). Castelmagno is a prized addition to risotto or gnocchi sauce, and our Alpine chalet lunch includes a tasting. We return to Turin this afternoon.
Our farewell dinner is taken at the fabled, Michelin-starred Del Cambio, the grande dame of Turin restaurants. Since it opened in 1757, Mozart, Napoleon and Nietzsche have all dined here, along with 20th century icons such as Maria Callas and Audrey Hepburn. Renowned for its lavish décor of plush velvet, glittering chandeliers and baroque mirrors, this grand institution is a must-visit for foodies, particularly as its talented chef and team are serving up sublime interpretations of Piedmontese culinary classics.
Following a further morning and lunch at leisure, we make a final visit en route to the airport. Turin is, of course, also world famous for its automotive heritage and at Lingotto, the building first used by FIAT to manufacture its cars, there is a historic test track. We have arranged a private tour of this extraordinary rooftop track dating back to the 1920s, when FIAT produced 80% of the cars sold in Italy and when the vast factory beneath operated an upward spiral manufacturing process culminating with the car’s final touches added on the uppermost floor, before testing on the roof. Our return flight to London departs this evening.
Six nights at the centrally located 5* Hotel Sitea with daily breakfast