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Protected by the Alpine arch to the northwest of Italy, you will find Piedmont’s Langhe, lands steeped in culture known as “the hills of tastes”, home to famous wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco and various delicacies such as the white truffle, hazelnuts, Fassona meat and much more. In 2014, the Langhe are recognized as part of the World Heritage Site. No other wine area in the world has such a gastronomic offering: a dense network of high-quality trattorias and taverns and numerous Michelin-starred restaurants.

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    There are many other reasons to visit Langhe in autumn. Medieval Asti holds an annual Palio horse race and pageant in September that predates Siena’s by 400 years. Slow Food organises a superb cheese extravaganza in alternate years to the Salone del Gusto. ‘Cheese’, as the festival is called, is held in Bra in September (next edition September 15-18, 2023) and makes a great focus to a trip, with hundreds of stalls of unique dairy products, as well as demonstrations, tasting seminars and chef-cooked cheese meals.

    In October and November, Alba holds an annual truffle fair and international auction (7 October – 3 December 2023): last year the most expensive lot (of 0.9 kg of the precious white fungus) sold for €184,000. Much smaller pieces are on offer in all the local restaurants; a little shaved over a plate of pasta can go a long way.

    The Langhe hills and their extensions into Monferrato and Roero, are a self-contained enclave thanks to their distinct geography. Only a short drive south-east from Turin, Langhe is easy to reach; it has the added advantage of being less well known to foreigners than some of Italy’s other top winemaking areas. Yet the region is not short on sights, terrific restaurants, hotels and private property stays. Busy market towns such as Alba, Asti, Bra and Cuneo are full of life, and offer good bases from which to tour small roads and villages, ideally by car, bike or even on foot.

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    Mention Langhe to any Italian and their eyes light up at the thought of the delicious wines and foods produced there. Barbaresco, Barolo, La Morra, Serralunga… These legendary names recur on top restaurant wine lists across Italy. They represent the villages, hamlets and castles whose names have been given to wines produced on specific slopes or hillsides – Italy’s first ‘crus’.

    While modern viticulture and hotter summers have helped Nebbiolo to ripen fully, it is admired for its elegant, austere, complex character. Many wines improve with added cellaring. Those who enjoy more immediate drinking won’t miss out: winemakers are now producing affordable, fruity reds from Dolcetto, long considered Nebbiolo’s poor cousin. Barbera, a grape with higher acidity, has been mellowed by warm summers, too. There are wines for every taste, from those aged traditionally in large barrels to wines produced in barriques and using modern technology.

    Piedmont is the foodies’ heaven. Alba is known for its heady white truffles, so go in autumn to take advantage of them on everything from eggs to risotto. The truffle season runs over six or seven weeks, from October to late-November, with the best time around mid-October.

    The lower slopes of hills planted to vines are used to cultivate prestigious hazelnuts – tonda gentile delle Langhe. These are folded into nougat, pounded into cookies and confections, and often married to chocolate. Nutella and its nobler versions originate here, and Cuneo is famous for its Cunese – hazelnut and rum-scented chocolates.

    Don’t miss thin handmade egg noodles, tajarin. Yolk-yellow, they are fabulously rich topped with melted butter, meat sauces or porcini mushrooms. Agnolotti, local ravioli stuffed with mixed meats, are also local to Langhe. Meats here are often braised slowly in red wine – not food for the faint hearted, but they go well with the local red wines. A long walk in the vineyards after lunch will bring you back feeling surprisingly ready for dinner.

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