Amended! New top 5 experiences in Italy

I went back to Italy for capodanno (New Year) 2019.  For the majority of this trip, Luca and I went to Piemonte’s Langhe region and skiing around Courmayeur.  About a year ago, I posted about my 5 top experiences during a summer trip to Italy.  After the trip last winter, it only feels right to update the top 5!

Red wine from Piemonte

If you are in Piemonte, do not pass up trying two of the richest red wines coming from Italy, Barbaresco and Barolo.  Both wines are derived from the Nebbiolo grape – 92% of the global Nebbiolo growth is in Piemonte, so it’s quite unique to the region!  In fact, I loved these wines so much that I bought a textbook on their histories, a decanter, and a few more bottles when I came back to NYC.  Decanting for a few hours really does wonders to these full-bodied reds.

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Wine from capodanno – shared amongst friends
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A wonderful stop for lunch in Barbaresco!

Truffles in Piemonte

White truffles are typically found in Piemonte.  In the fall, Alba, a city in Piemonte, has a month long truffle festival.  Fall is probably the best time to visit Piemonte, especially considering the beautiful surrounding colors and truffle festivities.  Don’t forget to also try some tajarin, a pasta made with copious egg yolks!  All of these can be enjoyed by walking around Alba, a small but lively place.  We spent a few hours taking in the city, wines, and food during aperitivo.

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A dish with shaved truffle that Luca had during the capodanno celebrations

Outdoor activities in Piemonte/Valle d’Aosta

Piemonte is perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, canyoning, etc.  I’m not a huge fan of these things, but I did ski, and although I injured my leg and someone accidentally took my skis, overall it was a pleasant experience (mainly because of the baitas mentioned next).  For the less outdoor activity inclined, there are also great thermal spas in the area, situated among the mountains and boasting beautiful views.  We went to QC Terme Pré St. Didier for a few hours and it was incredibly relaxing.  I particularly liked the variety of therapies offered and being informed about the benefits of each.  It was also creative how they used the thermal water in so many different ways.  Even if they seem intolerable, don’t shy away from the ice water therapies.  They left us feeling quite energized.

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Spa pic
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outdoors in Courmayeur

Baitas on the mountains

When you are inevitably dragged to an outdoor activity, soften the blow with frequent trips to the baitas (small mountain cabins) along the way.  Grab a bombardino to make the rest of the hike/downhill ski a little less physically exerting ;).  Be a good samaritan, though.  As the day went on, it was clear that the skiers were becoming more confident and slightly more reckless, probably due to the beverages provided at the baitas and the subsequent numbness to painful falls!  Also, I can’t help but wonder if the man who was twice my weight and a foot taller than me, thought my skis were his because of a bit of après-ski imbibing.  I really don’t know how he managed to balance on my skis, but life happens, I didn’t miss them much, and he returned them before I was charged.

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At the baita: pre-wine, pre-bombardino.

Natural scenery in Piemonte

Lastly, the natural and architectural beauty in Piemonte is stunning.  There were rolling hills with vineyards, snow-capped Alps in the background, and castles striking the sky.  It has a rugged, raw, and less glammed-up feel than Tuscany, so if you only have time for one wine country . . .

 

 

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To wrap up, if you go to Italy, definitely consider adding a trip to Piemonte to your itinerary!  I didn’t even mention Turin, the biggest city in Piemonte (I have yet to visit, so please let me know what you enjoyed there if you’ve been).  And, if you don’t believe me yet, consider Lonely Planet’s opinion on the matter!

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