What could be better, on a hot Sunday of sun and blue skies, than putting on your sunglasses and rolling lazily up and down the Langhe hills?
We have covered this route on the saddle of our trustworthy scooter, with sun and breeze on (put the sunscreen, you; we have forgotten it with obvious consequences …), but the itinerary is also suitable for trained cyclists (many gradients) or for cars. We started from Verduno and, along a circular route, we stopped at La Morra, Barolo, Monforte d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour and finally at Pollenzo.
The first stop is Verduno: the town is concentrated around a pleasant grassy lookout and a castle (not open to visitors, occupied by a hotel-restaurant). A good opportunity to come here is in September for the patronal feast, a special occasion to get to know the Pelaverga, one of the smaller D.O.C. in Italy: after a certain number of tastings, the grassy lookout will be an excellent cushion …
From here we move to La Morra, a beautiful uphill town full of trendy clubs; before going up to the Belvedere (currently unfortunately closed due to renovation works), stop at the tourist office where you can have the list with the dates of the opening of the cellars in the area, to visit them, to taste and discover new producers. You can also climb the bell tower (free entry) and throw a glimpse on the roofs below you and on hills as far as the eye can see.
Barolo is a short distance away, a city that probably would not need any introduction as the name catapults us into glasses full of garnet red nectar; the teetotalers, perhaps, appreciate Barolo for the famous Collisioni musical festival. In addition to locals and wine producers, in Barolo there is the opportunity to visit the WiMu (Wine Museum), located inside the castle, the corkscrew museum and to do the Agrilab Wine Tasting Tour. In a fully “American” atmosphere, this high-tech tasting experience – even if losing atmosphere – allows you to taste truly deserving glasses: at the entrance you are given a glass and a card to put in various wine distributors to taste all the wines of the area. The Nascetta is highly recommended – a vine dating back to the 1800s and recently rediscovered. At the end of the tasting, the glass is returned and you pay according to which wine and how much wine you have drunk.
After lingering, allowing us various tastings in Barolo, we move to Monforte, where we stop to have lunch at the Fre Bistrot: nice location, a terrace overlooking the hills, less positive the judgment for food (only thumb up for the focaccia) and the price. If, like us, you love music – and jazz in particular – know that in July there will be Monfortinjazz, with a program of respectable international artists.
After having refreshed us it is the turn of Grinzane Cavour, where we visit the castle with its wine shop. Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, that round little man with the equally round glasses and the vest, was a man of belly and substance. He loved good food and loved good wine. Our luck. Yes, because before our friend Camillo fell in love with it, from the Nebbiolo grapes we obtained a low-class table wine. The friend Cavour, together with the Marchesa Falletti of Barolo, perhaps for not having to get a good glass from the French cousins, consulted winemakers and by dint of experimenting and improving brought in our glasses the Barolo. Apparently, we Italians owe so much to Barolo and to the little ruddy man who has refined it: it is said that Cavour accompanied the visit of the future Countess of Castiglione to Napoleon III by a good number of cases of Barolo … Were the charm of women or wine (or both) to convince the Emperor to support the cause of Italian independence? Posterity will judge.
Finally, on the way back, we stop at Pollenzo. We end our trip with the small old recovered center, the wine bank, the University of taste (here are periodically organized open days to learn about the educational offer and visit the university).
It was a pleasant and lighthearted trip, accompanied by the sun wind and wine (trallallà).
Langhe hills are really a little gem, even if, since they have been declared UNESCO heritage, unfortunately they have been quite “cleared”, the prices have risen and the quality (of food in particular) has fallen on average. We hope that this transformation will stop soon and that we can return to a handful of years ago, when a Vitello Tonnato like-God-command and the tajarin-30-yolks made us touch the sky with a finger without the frozen shower of an exaggerated account.
We had lunch at the Fre Bistrot (we have already expressed our opinion, we only add that in summer you can enjoy their beautiful infinity pool with a pool + lunch package at 38 €), but Langhe offer hundreds of possibilities for a lunch for every palate.
Please note, along the route described, some places that we liked in the past: Locanda Fontanazza, Osteria Veglio, UVE (which we have already talked about elsewhere).
And finally, we also recommend two bottles that have impressed us: Eresia di Bricco Giubellini and Anas-Cetta of the Azienda Agricola Cogno. The Barolo DOCG 2014 of Gagliardo is out of budget but heavenly.
Here is the video of our one-day Langhe itinerary – enjoy!