With the third post in this hiking series, I get to what wine lovers really want to know: great vineyard walks.
There is no shortage of awesome vineyard walks and hikes throughout Piemonte – especially throughout the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato (but other zones have great vineyard walks too – one of my favorites is listed below!). The following list is just where I’ve been, not necessarily the greatest vineyard walks of all time in Piemonte.
Read about my other hiking destinations in Piemonte here:
When I first began living in Piemonte while I attended the University of Gastronomic Sciences, I discovered the area thanks to these vineyard walks. Surrounded by vineyards virtually everywhere we went, it’s how I learned just how important viticulture is to the region.
There are several Strade del Vino, or Wine Roads, in Piemonte – some are footpaths, some are by road. Their signs can be found throughout the region, though most notably in Barolo (Strada del Barolo e dei Grandi Vini delle Langhe), the Torinese (Strada Reale dei Vini Torinesi), Astigiano and Monferrato (Strada del Vino Monferrato ASTIgiano), and Alto Monferrato (Strada dei Vini dell’Alto Monferrato). See a complete list here. For lack of these signs, you can always keep an eye out for the red and white stripes that indicate the trails in the region. By the way, red and white because the coat of arms for Piemonte is that of the royal Savoy family crest (technically a red cross on a silver background), used since 1424.
Here is where I’ve been and where I’d go again in a heartbeat:
1. Pollenzo → Verduno
From Pollenzo, take the SP7 road, passing by the Tanaro River with its 17th century ruins of a bridge King Carlo Alberto had ordered built (the bridge held strong until 1945). Upon crossing the modern day bridge, you’ll come to a wide bend in the road. At this point, we continued walking for a hundred yards or so and then hiked up through orchards, vineyards, and hazelnut trees – I believe there was a sign pointing up the trail. This trip stands out because the prize of a bottle of Verduno Pelaverga and an excellent lookout point awaited us at the end. It was the first time I tasted a specific note in a wine: white pepper. But you can read more about that here: The Wine Writing Exercise: What Wine Changed My Life?
2. Alba → Barbaresco → Neive
In Alba, we stopped by the Tourism Office in Piazza Duomo to ask where the trail started. They gave us maps and pointed the way. Following the signs was easy up until a certain point where the trail was overgrown with trees and shrubs and half-eaten by the Tanaro River. We saw later there was a trail that skirted this section.
This took us directly to Barbaresco, where we trampled around, sweaty and muddy and looking like nothing less than tourists. We wanted desperately to try some wine, and found the owners of Gigi Bianco to be exceedingly friendly and open, answering all our questions and remaining unfailingly polite and the perfect hosts, notwithstanding our rough appearance.
Our next stop was the charming town of Neive. We did walk along a road for part of the way, but as we were still surrounded by vineyards, this didn’t bother us at all. The town is small, with curving, steep, cobblestoned streets and a very romantic appeal during its afternoon silence, among the climbing vines and blooming flowers at every windowsill. At this point, we were hungry and did not feel up to hiking back to Alba. Fortunately, a bus could take us back – and even more fortunately, even though it passed by maybe twice a day, it was due in an hour. Enough time for a pizza! We stopped at I Due Regni, right next to the bus stop and defunct railway station.
3. Barolo → Monforte d’Alba → Novello
This is one of my favorite vineyard hikes. It takes the better part of the day, so plan on breakfast in Barolo, lunch break in Monforte d’Alba, and after a quick visit to Novello, you’ll be back in Barolo by late afternoon. And really, that’s taking into account pictures and exploring the towns. You’ll be walking through vineyards all the way!
One of the best views is up on Monforte d’Alba at the amphitheater. But there are points along the trail at the beginning, middle, and end with spectacular views, too.
I’ve written about the details of the hike here: Medieval Hilltop Towns of Barolo.
4. Barbaresco vineyards
There is a very quick loop through the vineyards right around Barbaresco; you could hike from Alba to Barbaresco, do this loop, and turn around without worrying about catching a bus in Neive. Here is where I wrote about this 45-minute hike: Circling the Vineyards of Barbaresco.
Getting outside of the Langhe, Barolo, and Barbaresco zones, this is an incredible hike about half an hour from Turin. Carema is a town in the Susa Valley, perched on the side of a mountain that has spectacular views of the valley, Alpine foothills, and its beautiful terraced vineyards of Nebbiolo. I’ve written about this piece here: Carema: An Amphitheater of Terraced Vineyards; and we’ve also got an itinerary written down here: The Vineyards Trail.
I love Piemonte’s food and wine, the city of Turin, and my proximity to the Alps! My goal and challenge is to see as much of the region as possible using public transportation, but if you have a car I’d appreciate the ride. My intro to wine was at the Univ. of Gastronomic Sciences, and I love visiting family wineries, plus discovering Piemonte's craft beer scene. I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite wine, but Nebbiolo never disappoints (from Barbaresco to Ghemme). As for beer, the Birrificio San Michele makes an incredible beechwood smoked brew.