Springtime in Piemonte is beautiful, the weather is perfect, and towns are full of wine and food events. We’ve singled out five ideas of where to go and what to do in the spring.
Are you planning a visit to wine country during the sun-kissed days of Piemonte’s springtime? The clear skies, budding vines, flowering trees, and vibrant fields of wild poppy make these vineyard-covered hills spectacular this time of year. And, food and wine events get off to a glorious start. Springtime is truly one of the most beautiful times to visit Piemonte.
1. Visit Lake d’Orta and Lake Viverone
Both located in northern Piemonte, these two beautiful lakes make for peaceful day trips.
Lake Viverone in the Torinese wine zone is nestled between the provinces of Biella, Vercelli, and Ivrea. Surrounded by forests and small, picturesque towns, it’s not far from the Castle of Roppolo where the Regional Enoteca della Serra is located and their extensive collection of wines from the Canavese, Torinese, and Aosta Valley. The lake is culturally important, as well: surrounded by marshes, meadows, and poplar groves, the remains of Bronze Age stilt houses were found underwater at a depth of 2-3 m. (Find archeological artefacts at the Museum of Antiquities in Turin - Via XX Settembre , 88/c and the Museum of the Biella Territory in Biella - Via Quintino Sella).
Lake d’Orta is often said to be Como and Maggiore’s little brother. This westernmost lake of the three has an intimate, romantic appeal with its charming towns, shaded walkways, and stunning villas surrounding it. In the springtime, flowers and vegetation are in full, verdant bloom, tumbling from waterfront windows and lining the streets. It is also home to the UNESCO site of the Island of Orta San Giulio, with its medieval hamlet and the Benedictine abbey of the cloister Mater Ecclesiae. It is a must-see for tourists. Follow our itinerary for more ideas of what to see when you're there: The Romance of Lake Orta.
Photo from Diana Zahuranec
Wines to try:
Lake Viverone: Erbaluce, a white grape that is made into several DOCG, DOC, sparkling, and passito wines. It often has a dry, fresh fruitiness, and a fine perlage when sparkling.
Lake d’Orta: Alto Piemonte Nebbiolo wines. Taste how Nebbiolo expresses an astounding variety of terroirs wherever it’s planted in Piemonte. In particular, you’ll be closest to Gattinara, Ghemme, and Boca, which are often blended with up to 30% (in Boca’s case) of local varieties Vespolina, Bonarda Novarese, and sometimes Uva Rara (Boca). Read more about these wines in our Mini-Guide to the Many Wines of Nebbiolo.
2. Go on a vineyard walk.
Get out and breathe that fresh spring air! Stretch your long-hibernating legs. Admire the budding vines, new green color in the leaves and grass, the bright red poppies. The vineyards of Piemonte are breathtaking in all four seasons, but there is something magic about spring. Plus, the temperatures are at their prime: balmy and warm with a crisp wind lingering from the chill days of winter, you’ll welcome the heat of the sun in vineyards that, during summer, can mercilessly beat down among the unshaded rows of vines.
We suggest this itinerary On the Roof of Monferrato. which starts in Strevi and ends at the splendid Villa Ottolenghi right outside of Acqui Terme. If you go, make sure you stop by the bakery Il Forno first to taste some traditional Piemontese sweets like amaretti, torrone nougat, and canestrelli al moscato cookies. Pair them with the Passito di Dolcetto from the Marenco winery across the street at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 10.
Wines to try:
Brachetto d’Acqui, Dolcetto d’Acqui, and Moscato d’Asti are all three wines you must try; and, coincidentally, you’ll pass through vineyards of these very grapes during your hike from Strevi towards Acqui Terme.
3. Taste wines during Vinum.
This is an annual event held near the end of April and beginning of May that you can’t miss. Vinum gathers the vast viticultural production of the Langhe and Roero in five days of festivals, tastings, workshops, and more. The heart of the festival lies within Palazza Mostre e Congressi (Piazza Medford), which will have tastings of Great Langhe Reds every day from 11 am-8 pm. Don’t miss out on any of Vinum’s affiliated events and festivals: check out their website here. This event attracts international visitors in increasing numbers every year.
Wines to try:
At Vinum, helpful, professional AIS sommeliers serve Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbera d'Alba DOC, Langhe DOC, Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC, and Verduno Pelaverga DOC. Try them all, of course! And bring a bottle of water. You never know when supplies could run out.
4. Go on a treasure hunt.
This fun event, held every year in the spring by Strada del Barolo and Turismo del Vino at the beginning of May, is affiliated with Vinum. It’s so unique we thought we’d give it a special spot. The treasure hunt begins in Alba and takes participants through the Langhe hills chasing clues that lead to the final treasure in Castiglione Falletto. Not only do you get to explore some of the area’s most beautiful hills, you’ll do so in the spirit of camaraderie (last year, over 400 people joined in) and enjoy a prize at the end.
Photo from www.stradadelbarolo.it
Note that this does require a car and some Italian language skills.
Wines to try:
Langhe Nebbiolo DOCG: Recently enjoying an increase in abroad purchases, this wine is made of 100% Nebbiolo and is produced in the same areas as its more famous (and more costly) counterparts, Barolo and Barbaresco.
Barolo and Barbaresco: Hey, you’re in the area. Why not enjoy life a little? These wines are more expensive and usually reserved for special occasions, but it’s true that here in their zone of production, they cost less than anywhere outside of Piemonte. More importantly, you’ll find labels unavailable abroad or even outside of Piemonte; and there is no better way to fully appreciate the nuances of these great wines than in the very area they’re produced.
5. Have a picnic.
What better way to while away a lazy afternoon than relaxing outdoors with food and wine? Pack your basket with local cheeses like toma, Bra tenero or Bra duro, or even the piquant Castelmagno. Add some bakery-fresh bread or focaccia, and a jar of local, bittersweet chestnut honey, cugnà made from grape must, or mostarda, a savory, fruity compote. Toss in fresh fruit for a light dessert or a torta di nocciola, hazelnut cake. And don’t forget the wine and plastic cups, or wineglasses for an elegant touch, if you trust the sturdiness of your basket.
And yes – of course we’ve gathered a list of great picnic spots in Piemonte. One for (almost) every wine zone! See where to go here: Picnics in Piemonte: The Best places to Enjoy Springtime
Wines to try:
A spumante or rosé wine would be just the thing. Which one? We have a list for you: Rosé Tinted (Wine) Glasses for the Summer. But even better (we think) is a light, delicately sweet, lower alcohol Moscato d’Asti: the perfect vino frizzante for the afternoon. Just don’t forget the cooler.
Bonus! Milan Expo 2015
Beginning in early May, shuttles are carrying tourists to and from the Milan Expo 2015. Hop on board! Read more about them (and stay tuned for updated details) here:
Cover photo by BORGHY52, CC