September 2nd, 2021
In this week’s addition to the Touring with Tell series, we are chatting with our producer Kat Chacon. Kat was born in Italy and visits the country regularly, specifically the Piedmont region. Bordering both France and Switzerland, Piedmont is situated at the foot of the alps... needless to say it is absolutely beautiful!
When to go?
Kat says it's worth visiting all year round! However, the summer is particularly special as each village has a festival. There are usually stalls, live music and also the local cuisine. These events can be found on the events board in town centres and they are usually a whole week, so just pick the night which suits you best and it's free to attend! In the summer, the town of Asti have a regional food festival (Festival delle Sagre Asti) where each town is invited to have a stall. They serve three of their local dishes and their local wine. Kat swears that this festival is the best way of seeing all the towns and their cultures all at once.
Despite the many advantages to travelling in the summer, Kat says she particularly loves this area in the autumn! "You avoid the mosquitos and the autumnal landscape is gorgeous. It is also the best time to go for food and wine during the truffle harvest and is usually great for culture festivals as the towns prepare for winter.”
Where to eat?
If you have a car this can be the best way of eating and drinking your way around the region! Plates are usually a maximum of 5 euros and wine 2/3 euros a glass (whole bottles of the local wine producer will be available for ten euros). On that note, if you are a fan of alcohol, Kat recommends both Martini and Grappa as the Piedmont region is where they originate from! Martini in particular is from Asti! For those who prefer a more sober holiday, Kat recommends Nocciole Spread which is essentially a better, richer, and original version of Nutella, with all the hazelnuts grown locally to where you buy it.
Pidemonte is also the home of Ferrero, however as they source from local produce the best chocolate is actually in Turin, the home of artisanal chocolate. Gianduiotti are the most traditional. Some of the brands available are Caffarel, Streglio, Pernigotti and Peyrano but there are plenty of small cioccolaterie which produce their own.
Here are some of Kat’s personal favourites - “My favourite cheap eat is Pizza gogo, with great pizza bases! By the slice it's around 1/3 euros. My favourite restaurant is one of my local (ish) restaurants called Fontanabuona in Mombercelli which serve traditional and seasonal piedmontese food!”
Where to visit?
The list of places that Kat recommends visiting is as long as your arm, but here are the highlights!
To really immerse yourself in the culture, visit The Sagre which has medieval horse racing and a town parade. This parade showcases what each town brings, what they are famous for (from crops to eagles and huge bulls). All the locals get involved and dress in medieval attire.
For those who are a little more active, there are some incredible hikes you can do in the Val d'Aosta mountain range, including the Lago di Blue lake which you can hike to or get to by car in the spring and summer. This mountain range is also good for winter sports, but the best slopes can be found south of Turin where some of the olympic piste. Visiting the skii slopes in the summer is also great for hikers, or for porcini mushroom foraging and even cattle spotting when they all come onto the slopes!
Castle's and museums are great for those with a flair for history. This region has seen many border wars between Italy and France so there is plenty to digest. The array of castles and their architectural differences are fantastic. The closer you get to the French border the more classic French architecture can be spotted, mainly around the Turin area. However there is still medieval architecture too, including Turin's own medieval pop up town!
And, for those who like it busy and metropolitan, Milan. Being the fashion capital, fashion week is an incredible time to visit and you can catch many popular models in ordinary places. Outside of fashion week, it still keeps its sleek modern style and there are plenty of cool stores to shop in. For example, Eataly, a three story market which encompasses the piedmont cuisine. In Turin there are also some great museums. Kat’s favourite is the National Museum of Cinema just outside the Mole Tower. She says it is an incredibly unique experience and that you must try Mole Cola while there! This is Turin's own coca-cola spin off from the World war! A good museum to also mention is the Museo Egizio (Egyptian museum).
Where to stay?
According to Kat, the best way to experience this famous food and wine rich region is by staying in agriturismos. She advises that these are similar to b&bs, however these tend to be on someone's farm and usually off-road. What makes them special is that in order to be an agriturismo you must be a working farm that is set up to receive guests for meals and/or overnight stays. Kat says the owners are more than happy to share their produce and how they make it! However, even if you would rather stay in the city, Kat highly recommends at least visiting some agriturismos as some have their own 'Trattoria' (cheap restaurant) where the food is -“fresh, local and soooo good”.
What to bring back?
So, you come to the end of your trip in this amazing region and you’re wondering what to bring back to capture the memories. Kat’s suggestion, other than some of the incredible cuisine on offer, is to perhaps purchase some ceramics from Mondovi! It is a small medieval hill town south of Turin and they are renowned for their unique decorations. It's a great place to visit but you can also purchase their ceramics in the Turin centre and it's a keepsake that will last longer than food and wine.
Kat has a strong connection to the area as her family currently reside there. Though she swears by it as a great holiday destination she does advise being aware of moped drive-by thefts! If you're on the metro in Milan or Turin just keep your bags in front of you and take off any expensive items. Kat says she loves “this region as it is so diverse and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous no matter the season. The food is also incredible as it has both Italian and French influence so there is an array of choices”. When visiting her family Kat stays on their own agriturismo called Tenuta Nissole in the small town of Rocchetta Tanaro. Lasty, make sure to pack mosquito repellent and a good pair of walking shoes for all of the cobbled streets!