Turin and Lake Maggiore are two hot spots for tourists, but Piedmont’s most prized territory really lies at its heart, starting south of the city and extending southeast toward the mountainous French border. Le Langhe, as the hilly area is known, is dominated by Alba, Asti, and Bra, three small cities each with separate claims to gastronomic fame. Alba is home to the white truffle. The province around Asti produces the spumante (sparkling wine) that bears its name. Bra’s newfound identity comes in the form of Slow Food, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the art and science of eating well. The group has attracted tens of thousands of members and fans around the world. Slow Food’s cheese festival, held on odd years in Bra and host to thousands of cheesemakers, is a widely anticipated event, as is the Salone del Gusto, held in the even years and dedicated to organically grown products and local dishes and wines.
The people who come to these sorts of events look forward to a tour of Bra and its environs, which produce some of the country’s most prestigious wine. You may already have heard of Piedmont’s two most elite growing areas, Barolo and Barbaresco, just around the corner. The hilltop villages recall those in Tuscany, except that there are no camera shops and really no tourist infrastructure to speak of, except the local family-run agriturismi (rural bed-and-breakfasts) that cater to a mostly Italian-speaking public. In fact, there are few signs at all pointing to Barbaresco, making it difficult for the accidental tourist to find.