Picnics in Piemonte: the best places to enjoy springtime
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Spring has officially sprung in Piemonte! Pear trees have flowered, red poppies wave their heads in the fields and on the roadside, and locals have been caught in their shirtsleeves out-of-doors as blue skies and sunshine are here to stay.
One of Italy’s springtime traditions comes on the Monday after Easter, Pasqua, called Pasquetta. It is a holiday for picnics and backyard grilling, oftentimes a hike and always a get together with friends and family. Wine Pass suggests some of Piemonte’s best places to enjoy this sunny day, specifically with a basket packed full of food, a blanket to spread on the table or ground, and a bottle of local wine. Some of these picnic areas are in vineyards while others are in national parks, but all are ideal spots to bask in the sun with a panino and glass of vino.
Barolo - Verduno
The zone of Barolo really shines in the DOC area that produces the wine Pelaverga di Verduno. For this picnic, abandon the King of Wines that is the mighty Barolo and explore this small, delightful town positioned in the hills near Alba and the town of Barolo. Climb the streets to the tallest point in town, where a small, green wonder has been created: a grassy field encircled with trees that ends in an incredible panoramic view, accessible only on foot. The view is breathtaking, and the area is taken well care of. It is just two steps away from a wine shop (Casa Ciabotto) and a Ristorante (Castello di Verduno) with a wine cellar. You can’t light a barbeque here, but if you arm yourself with basket and blanket you’ll feel like you stepped into a painting by Manet.
Wine Plus: A lovely town with a breathtaking view, close by venues to taste the unique, rare Pelaverga di Verduno wine in its zone of production
Roero - Park of the Rocche and the Roero
This quiet forest of the Rocche and the Roero is located to the right of the Tanaro River. The Park spreads out over 250 acres of forested land shaded by centuries-old trees, with green expanses of fields, an idyllic lake, and valleys blooming with violets, lilies, and primroses. The most important part about the park? Its picnic area is perfect for both couples or large groups of family and friends, with tables and barbeques for outdoor grilling. Nearby, there is even a soccer field for before and after lunch. On Sundays and holidays, entrance costs €3 per car and €1 per person; it’s free for children 12 and under. The park is located in Sommariva Perno in near “Cascina del Mago;” reach it by traveling the SP 10 between the communities of Baldissero d’Alba and Ceresole d’Alba; or take the road from Sommariva Perno down towards the forest on Aiatta road. Download a topographic map here.
Wine Plus: A large park well outfitted for picnics, with hiking trails and a large soccer field.
Acquese & Ovadese - Capanne di Marcarolo Natural Park
The Capanne di Marcarolo Natural Park in the Acquese and Ovadese wine zone is a tranquil get-away in the lower Piemonte region. It covers a large expanse of land, over 35 square miles, passing through the provinces of Bosio, Casaleggio Boiro, Lerma, Tagliolo Monferrato, Mornese, and Voltaggio. Its green acres are crisscrossed with hiking and mountain biking trails, horseback riding, a visitors’ center, and three areas for picnicking. We suggest hiking around the northern part of the park, just 9 miles from the town of Ovada, near the two Lavagnina lakes. Here’s a fun fact: in the mid-1800s, gold was extracted from these lands. In the dry season (which, admittedly, may not be primavera), the old metallurgical plant can be seen rising above the waters of this man-made lake; just don’t expect to find gold, anymore. Bring a bottle of the local Dolcetto di Ovada to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings.
Wine Plus: A large park with several picnic areas, beautiful lakes, and a glittering past
Gavi & Tortonese - Natural Reserve of the Neirone River
The Natural Reserve of the Neirone River sits in the forested area around Gavi, a town known for both its crisp, white, Gavi DOCG wine and its imposing fortress that overshadows the town below. The Riserva Naturale was recently protected to raise awareness of forest fires and to encourage inhabitants and visitors to enjoy their beautiful natural surroundings, in which this area is rich. Its trails wind through a heavily wooded area for 1.25 miles, a peaceful and easy trek that passes by several picnic areas surrounded in green and ending with a beautiful waterfall. Pass by the Fortress of Gavi afterward, an impressive edifice built in and out of the hill it dominates, for a fully cultural experience. Don’t forget to enjoy the local wine by stopping by the Consortium of Gavi in Piazza Cortezerbo. Download a topographic map here.
Wine Plus: A quick hike through these woods, with a pause at the picnic area hidden within, rewards visitors with cascading waterfalls and a visit to the impressive Fortress of Gavi afterward.
Monferrato - Natural Reserve of the Sarmassa Valley
There exists a place in the Monferrato that preserves history and nature in unspoiled purity. It is a park thick with trees, trails, and wildlife: it’s the Natural Reserve of the Sarmassa Valley, a 500 acre park with oak, cherry, and maple trees. Once, the Reserve was cultivated territory, and today the signs are still visible. You may stumble across old wells (but not in!), old containers where fertilizers were once prepared, crumbling terraces of earth that were cultivated with vines, or sheds used for storing equipment. The park, located in the comunes of Incisa Scapaccino, Vaglio Serra, and Vinchio, has a picnic area, but no water source. Be sure to bring water along with your wine.
Wine Plus: The beautiful historical park is found in a zone of Nizza, famous for its Barbera, so don’t forget to enjoy the local flavors.
Langhe - La Terra di Pavò
Where the vineyards make way for trees and the hills grow wild with undergrowth, hazelnut groves and pines sprout from the earth next to open fields that echo the pastoral beauty of the Alpine foothills. In the park La Terra di Pavò in Camerana, this is a land of uncontaminated nature, ripe for rediscovery. This park is not just a peaceful oasis far from the sound of traffic and city noise, it is an “interactive” and educational zone with initiatives for children every month. If you have active young ones with you this Pasquetta, enjoy the peace of nature and let them exert their energy at the same time. La Terra di Pavò has a games area, biking, orchards, a restaurant, church, horseback riding, even a hotel, and – of course – several spaces inviting you to spread out your picnic goods.
Wine Plus: A park designed for exploration and perfect for family fun, equipped with playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, bar, restaurant, and even a hotel
Alto Piemonte - Lago d'Orta
Lago d’Orta is one of Alto Piemonte’s most charming and striking venues, sometimes called Lake Como and Maggiore’s “little brother.” The best time to visit is now, spring to early summer, when the vegetation bursts into bloom along the sparkling waters. The Sacro Monte of Orta (“Sacred Mountain”), located on the fold of land curving out into the lake, is a devotional complex built beginning in the 1500s. Its 20 chapels and high-quality artworks dedicated to the life of St. Francis of Assissi strike the perfect tone for the day after Easter. A UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors may hike up the hill for a spectacular view, with a choice of two areas outfitted for picnicking. Didn’t bring a basket, or fancy an after-lunch caffè, Italian style? Nearby is a bar and restaurant for any extra-picnic needs.
Wine Plus: Enjoy a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a spiritual climb up the incredible Sacred Mountain, surrounded by one of northern Italy’s most beautiful lakes.
Torinese - Park of the Maddalena
Are you in the city for Pasquetta? Turin is known for its many green spaces within its historical center and in its surrounding hills. One of its biggest parks, the Maddalena (also known as Parco della Rimembranza), sits on the Torinese hills’ highest point at over 2,300 ft. Lately, it has received some attention due to the relighting of the Victory Torch. The massive winged victory statue, built from 25 tons of bronze in 1928, was donated to the city in remembrance of Italy’s victory in World War I. The light of the torch held high above her head can be seen from far below in the city on a clear night. The park’s trails are numerous and popular with dog walkers, runners, and folk just out for an easy hike or to enjoy the sunny hillsides. Zigzag up to the picnic area, where tables and benches are spread out under the trees; and after lunch, climb up to the circular piazza where the statue stands a majestic 54 feet tall. The view opens up to a city panorama with the snow-topped Alps in the background.
Wine Plus: If in the city for Pasquetta, this is the tallest point in the Torinese hills with a great view, and one of Turin’s largest parks, with plenty of trails and walkways.
Cover photo by Amy Liscomb, Creative Commons. License found here.