Walking Piedmont: From Barolo to Monforte d’Alba (& Where to Eat)

I left Barolo full of the joys of Spring, or was that the intense heat of summer? The first half of my walk was joyful, through the upper terraces of the Barolo vineyards, passing gardens rich with vegetable bounty, courgette flowers, plums, so many tomatoes. The occasional yappy dog, they do love them in Italy. I knew I was tired when I was overtaken by an elderly man walking two tiny dogs as I approached Monforte d’Alba, yet another of Piedmonts beautiful hilltop towns. I was in no rush, I smiled, attempted to communicate in Italian, and carried on. 

My arrival was less glamorous. The Hotel Villa Beccaris, a beautiful four star property at the top of the hill was beautiful, relaxed and had the most glorious views. But after a long walk in the sun, the hill was a challenge. It surprised me that it ended with a sprint, one of those yappy dogs fled his old lady owner in pursuit of me when he decided that my ankles were much more appealing. Speckled with mosquito bites, sprayed with deet, and covered with sunscreen, who could disagree? She yelled at him, I shrieked and ran. And there I was in Monforte d’Alba. 

The evenings are lovely there, in July still warm and scented with jasmine. Monforte d’Alba is lively, there is lots of music, particularly Jazz throughout the summer. One of my evenings there on my walk home uphill, I was enticed enough to descend again by the sounds of live jazz on the soft summer breeze. I followed it, winding down and around the narrow streets and up some steps where I met a crowd watching a jazz band playing on an open piazza. 

I had two nights in Monforte d’Alba, one of my non walking days (although plenty of options are offered for those that want to keep going). I focussed instead on the food. 

Lunch at Trattoria della Posta

I only realised after eating at Trattoria della Posta that it was featured on The Trip to Italy last year. In a country house a few kilometres outside of Monforte d’Alba, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful large country kitchen which you can see from the reception desk. I sat outside in the hint of a breeze and chose between primi and secondi – I know, but truly, I can’t do a crazy large lunch and a large dinner too, this much I have learned.

There was a very enticing rabbit roasted in lardo on the menu but the pasta was too good: I ravioli verdi di caprino con salsiccia di Bra e porri – green ravioli filled with a fresh goats cheese with cooked Bra sausage on top. It was gorgeous, the pasta so thin and delicate, the cheese bright and so fresh and the sausage a beautiful crumbly contrast. I also had a very pleasant vegetable soup, why I ordered hot soup on such a hot day, I will never know. I will be back for the rabbit some day. 

Dinner at Il Giardino da Felicin

Il Giardino da Felicin is bubbling. A restaurant set in a garden, also a hotel, the terrace was packed and very lively the evening that I ate there. The food is based on tradition but is not conventional. I had a beautiful handmade pasta, but I also had a salad which is a twist on fried chicken (it is tasty and fun). The details are impressive, tiny herbs picked fresh from the kitchen garden garnish the dishes, and the flavours are bright, the tomatoes in particular were divine. There is an impressive cellar for wine lovers wishing to explore the region with dinner.   

Dinner at Osteria dei Catari

The night I arrived in Monforte d’Alba, I was taken by the sight of this little alley, painted in bright colours with a cat at the top of it. I was still making my way to the hotel, but I made sure I found out what was down there, and it was Osteria dei Catari, one of the restaurants at which I had planned to eat at. Another open courtyard restaurant (you can eat inside in the winter as with da Felicin), Monfortina ham with summer truffle was gorgeous, the colour seductive and the flavour intense, almost like a bresaola. For primi I had buckwheat maltagliati (misshapen pasta) with bra sausage and fresh tomato. They really care about the sourcing here, sourcing mainly from local small farms, and you can taste it. 

Breakfast at Hotel Villa Beccaris

The breakfast at Hotel Villa Beccaris is buffet style, as with most Italian restaurants. There are eggs you can boil to your liking, pastries, beautiful jam tarts and juices. But what is most impressive is the incredible glass room in which it is served. It is like a Victorian greenhouse. I loved my mornings there. 

My Gastronomic Walking Tour of Barolo was sponsored as part of a #30activedays project, a partnership between Captivate Digital Media and Headwater Holidays to celebrate 30 years of  activity holidays by Headwater Holidays, including Gastronomic Walking and Cycling TripsI maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site, as always.

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Written by Niamh
Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.