What can I say about this great region(e) that hasn’t already been said? The short answer is not much; what I can say is how my own experiences, having visited for the past 20 years, has refined my knowledge of and love for this unique and very historical place.
When I first came upon this area in 1991, the Iron Curtain had just fallen. I mention this because at the time, I was here (in Europe) to ski; I was not interested in wine beyond the level of any casual consumer. But, the skiing conditions were pretty awful at the time, and so I set about much of Western Europe, in search of what I did not know. In search of adventure.
In 1991, this area, and much of Europe in general (at least the parts I visited over 2 week’s time – Munich, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Milan, Venice, Aosta, Zurich, etc.) seemed to be doing well (enough), but as it was my first trip to these cities, I really had no basis for comparison, so there’s that.
What I do remember, clearly, was getting off the main roads, and out of the big cities; in these places, everything seemed to be from some kind of time warp, like I was looking in on a place and time that seemed frozen in a hybrid of centuries past and modern day. But really, more so the former than the latter.
I feel lucky to have seen these regions, and especially Piemonte, during this time. As a life-long student of history, architecture, culture, etc., I was drawn to the area (an area that prior to visiting, I had absolutely no idea it really even existed) in a way that gripped me at my core. But afterward, Piemonte was in my blood. And, over the next few years, as I read and learned about the area, its customs, typical foods, etc. from my home in Florida, I became more than a passionate student, it was more like I was falling in love, to be honest; it became deeply personal. I simply had to revisit. Often. And I did, and I do.
Having visited Piemonte/Langhe/Monferrato with great regularity for the past 10+ years, I feel comfortable saying that some things have changed a lot (e.g. the prosperity of the Langhe) and some things have barely changed (e.g. most people’s daily lives that live just 30 minutes outside of Turin, or any major city in Italy for that matter).
If you’re reading this and haven’t visited the region but are curious, I highly recommend taking some time to plan visits to places like Dogliani, Turin, Asti, Alba, Gattinara, Barolo/Barbaresco, etc., before time/progress has erased parts of the historical identity there.
Piemonte is a region that is composed of several Provinces. And, having spent more than two years of my life in this region and its provinces, I can say that each still manages its own identity; so, there is something precious to be gained by visiting (all of them) if your schedule allows. It’s not as large a geographic area as the diversity within its borders would suggest. In the two hours it takes to drive from one end, or one side, to the other, there’s a remarkable amount of diversity (e.g. cheeses/foods, topography, architecture, landmarks, etc.).
I hope you get to visit, and if you already have, I hope you get to return sooner than later.
(header photo: taken while standing just a few hundred meters away from the boundary of Barolo zone, IIRC, with (replanted) Barolo vineyards seen in the distance)