Treasured Towns and World Class Wines: 3 Days in Southern Piedmont
Food & Wine
Southern Piedmont is an incredible destination that combines astonishing natural landscapes, a rich viticultural heritage and a taste of authentic Italian culture. It’s one of Italy’s premiere destinations for food and wine, renowned for its culinary traditions and historic vineyards (think dolcetto and hazelnuts, Barbara and truffles). The small towns sprinkled throughout the area are captivating, relaxed and authentic; allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the local way of life. It is the perfect destination for a traveler looking for amazing food and wine with little to no crowds.
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Day 1: Ovada
Ovada is a true gem in Northern Italy. The town's center is adorned with medieval and Renaissance buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and charming squares. All the buildings are so intricate, and if you look carefully, you’ll notice that many of the elaborate details are painted.
Grab a coffee near Sandro Pertini Park, the Municipal Park that combines the gardens and orchards of Palazzo Maineri (Civic Library) and Palazzo Scassi – Buffa (banking institution). While you’re there, take in the views of the Immacolata Concezione, a beautiful church consecrated in 1662.
After you’ve enjoyed your coffee, stop by Farinata da Vittorio for a snack to take on the go. Grab some farinata, an unleavened oven-baked pancake made of chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt.
Walk over to Parco di villa Gabrieli, an exquisite villa built in the early 20th century surrounded by a gorgeous park. Walk around and enjoy the architecture of the villa and the serenity of the pond and lush gardens.
For lunch, sit down at L'Archivolto Osteria Nostrale, a family-run restaurant on a quiet street in town. The traditional restaurant, complete with red checked tablecloths, serves some of the town’s best dishes. Start with the bagna cauda, a Piedmontese special of garlic and anchovies served with crisp vegetables, then enjoy one of their delicious and inventive pasta dishes or one of their fresh fish plates.
Take a leisurely stroll and explore the town’s shops. You’ll find some local artisans and artisans making quality leather goods, shoes, jewelry, furniture perfumes and more.
Stop by the Regional Enoteca di Ovada to learn about the wine heritage of the area and discover new and unique flavors. The lovely store, with rustic exposed brick, is a great place to enjoy a glass of wine or to take a few bottles to go. Wine experts from the area can help guide your tastes.
Enjoy dinner at La Pignatta, a classic Italian restaurant serving Piedmontese and Ligurian dishes, like amazing homemade pasta with pesto and veal with tuna sauce. The restaurant is as charming as the food is delicious. The servers are friendly and knowledgeable. They'll help you select the perfect wine for your meal.
Day 2: Acqui Terme
Acqui Terme feels like an undiscovered jewel in Piedmont. Located in the heart of the Monferrato, this small town is known for its thermal springs. The UNESCO-certified world heritage site is filled with incredible Romanesque architecture and thermal fountains. If you visit on a Tuesday or Friday, be sure to check out the food market near the Saint Pietro Basilica, where you can taste the season’s freshest produce and purchase the area’s best cheeses.
Start your day with a coffee in the Piazza della Bollente, a delightful square centered around the thermal fountain, La Bollente (“the boiling source”). After your coffee, explore the small pavilion around the fountain, where the mineral-rich thermal water flows at a temperature of about 170°F.
From there, stroll through the winding streets and cobbled alleys and explore the town’s historical monuments and churches. Head over to Piazza Duomo to visit the Acqui Cathedral, a large cathedral consecrated in 1067; the Bishops Seminary, a neo-Gothic style chapel built at the end of the 19th century; and the Bishop’s Palace, built in the 15th century.
When you’re ready for lunch, pop into Da Nonna Gina to taste some delicious regional specialties. They serve amazing handmade pastas and seasonal items. If you see fried mushrooms, order them!
After lunch, walk over to the Paleologi Castle, the former residence of the Marquis of Monferrato, with parts dating to the middle of the 15th century. Today, it’s home to the Archeological Museum, where you can find artifacts from the prehistoric and proto-historic age, the Roman era, and the Late Antique and Medieval period. On the castle’s grounds you’ll also find the "Bird Garden", a botanical garden with an array of plants and birds.
Gelato time! Stop by Cremeria Garibaldi for the best gelato in town. With a great selection of fresh, seasonal flavors, it does not disappoint.
By now you’re probably ready for some wine. Drop by the Enoteca Regionale, a small wine store hidden in the Piazza Abrahm Levi, curated with wines from local producers. Located in an underground cellar with exposed brick walls and barrel vaults, the store’s friendly wine experts will help you find the perfect wine at any price point. You can also schedule a tasting, where sommeliers will guide you through a selection of the area’s best picks.
After the wine, you’ll probably be ready for some pizza. Cittu Bai is a local favorite just outside town, on top of a hill with a killer view. Eat outside to take in the views or dine inside to feel like you’re in a rustic lodge. They’re known for their paper-thin pizza, which is made without yeast. They have about 20 different topping options, and they’re all delicious. Soak it up with their house wine, it’s good.
Day 3: Vineyards
The Monferrato region is a picturesque area known for its rolling hills, quaint villages and vineyard-covered landscapes. It is renowned for its wine production, particularly the Barbera variety, and offers a blend of cultural heritage, culinary delights and stunning natural beauty.
Start your wine adventure at Coppo Winery. Located in Canelli, Coppo is known for its historic cellars and sparkling wines. Their classic tour includes a guided tour of the historical wine cellar (UNESCO World Heritage site) to discover the history and production methods of the Coppo wines and a tasting of four wines from their classic selection.
Then stop by Michele Chiarlo to “experience the best crus in Piemonte”. Stroll through the hills of their property, Castelnuovo Calcea, and stay for lunch with their picnic package, which combines their iconic wines with the gastronomic excellence of the area.
After your picnic, visit Cascina Garitina, a producer of organic wines found in the hills near Nizza Monferrato. Consider the “Big Bench Experience” tasting, part of the region’s Big Bench Community Project, where oversized benches have been installed throughout Piedmont to “allow visitors to slow down, sit and get back in touch with their inner child whilst marveling at the picturesque landscapes in the region.
Need to Know
Looking for more Italy travel inspo? Check out my guide, A Foodie’s Guide to Parma.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.