Piedmont: Alba and the Langhe Hills
8 day self-guided walking tour
The tour starts in beautiful Alba, 95 kilometres south of Turin. A handsome town of Roman origin, Alba is the 'capital' of the Langhe, a close-knit range of hills and valleys which are crowded with impeccably tended rows of nebbiolo vines, the source of some of Italy's finest wines. They form a unique and striking landscape, so much so that the district was recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Italy's 50th:
"The Piedmont vineyard landscapes constitute an outstanding example of man's interaction with his natural environment, outstanding for its harmony; the balance between the aesthetic qualities of its landscapes; the architectural and historical diversity of the built elements associated with the wine production activities and an authentic and ancient art of winemaking". UNESCO citation, June 2014
But Alba and the Langhe are more than this. A neighbour of Bra (the home of the Slow Food movement) Alba is also one of Italy's gastronomic capitals, well-known for its cheeses, meats, Ferrero chocolates and nougat but particularly famous for its white truffles, found in the surrounding poplar and oak forests, which fill the medieval streets of the towns with their pungent aroma throughout October and November.
An extensive network of well-marked walking trails connect the charming villages, castles and towns of the district, passing over undulating hills, through vineyards, hazelnut orchard (Alba is also the home of Nutella) and forests, providing the perfect way to explore these hidden gems of Piedmont.
This eight day loop takes you right through the heart of the Langhe hills. Starting and finishing in Alba, the first two days' walking take you through the sweet rolling hills of the Barolo vineyards ('the king of wines and wine of kings') with spectacular views to the distant Alps in the north; the second two days take you through a slightly 'wilder' part of the district, leaving the vineyards behind and passing through forests and hazelnut orchards; the last two days bring back to Alba, returning via the undulating wine hills around Barbaresco. Along the way, you'll visit some of the prettiest towns in Italy, as well as eating some very fine food!
The trails are well-marked and generally follow unsealed country roads and lanes that take you over rolling hills often through vineyards and orchards regularly passing through towns and villages. There are the occassional rougher sections and a bit of asphalt walking into and out of the larger towns as well. As each day's walk is between 15 and 20 kilometres and there are some long steep hills, we have classifed this as a Grade 4 walk.
Alba and the Langhe is one of Italy's gastronomic and wine capitals so you will eat and drink very well during this tour (just as well there are some long walks!). According to Pliny the Elder and Strabo, this area was producing fine wines in Roman times. It's modern manifestation started in the mid-1800s with the introduction of production techniques from nearby France. Big, bold Barolo, the flagship wine, is recognised as one of the finest reds in Europe.
The area is also famous for its food: the white truffles; cheeses like toma and castelmagno; Carru beef and traditional dishes such as agnolotti (local ravioli); tajarin ('angel hair' pasta usually served with truffles or porcini mushrooms); bagna caoda (boiled meats); vitello tonnato; brasato al Barolo (beef stewed in Barolo); coniglio con pepperoni (rabbit slow cooked in white wine with bell peppers) and bonet (a rich chocolate pudding).