5 Tips for Your First Visit to Barolo (Italy!)

Barolo, one of the most famous wines of Italy

Barolo, one of the most famous wines of Italy

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend in the Langhe, the sub-region of Piedmont which includes both Barolo and Barbaresco – two of Italy’s finest wines.  What a treat!  I’ll have several posts over the next few weeks highlighting different aspects of my first wine experience in Italy.  I had so much fun, Julie and I will be returning for a full week this fall.  Here’s a countdown of my top 5 tips for your first visit:

5. Brush up on your Manual Shift Driving Skills
I rented a car in Milan, with about a 90 minute drive to Neive, the town I was staying in for the weekend.  The region is hilly, but as you drive you will start to notice where all the cool, medieval towns are located: right at the top of every hill.  As I drove into Neive, I was thankful that I had owned manual shift cars in my younger days, even living and driving in San Francisco for a year.  Neive was a whole different experience: little roads that are 1 lane wide, cobblestone with 8 foot stone walls on either side, and STEEP.  Not so difficult as long as you’re driving forward, but if your GPS puts you on a dead end street, you may need to back up and do a “T” turn on those steep, narrow, walled streets!

Yes, that's a road in front of my hotel.

Yes, that’s a road in front of my hotel.

4. No Hurry (Italian Time)
If you’re a holiday action junkie, you just may need to slow down a bit. Breakfast doesn’t start at 6:30, it starts at 8:00.  Shops open between 9:30-10:00.  Everything shuts down from 12:30-2:00 so everyone can go have a nice lunch.  Apertivo time starts in the late afternoon.  If you’re visiting smaller wineries, you may want to limit yourself to two visits a day, as you’ll want to spend time talking with the winegrower, and they will want to spend time with you.  This is such a refreshing change from daily life, you just might grow to love the relaxed pace.

Let's tour the cellar, hand dug under the winemaker's home.

Let’s tour the cellar, hand dug under the winemaker’s home.

3. Barolo Vineyards are for Walking!
Did you know that vineyards in Barolo can be freely walked?  They even have suggested trails with markers, just like hiking trails. This actually applies to the entire Langhe area of the Piedmont region of Italy, not just Barolo.

Trail signs in Langhe vineyards show you the way, complete with time estimate

Trail signs in Langhe vineyards show you the way, complete with time estimate

Looking up at La Morra, one of the hilltop towns in Barolo.

Looking up at La Morra, one of the hilltop towns in Barolo.

The little shed is called a ciabot, a shelter in the vineyard.

The little shed is called a ciabot, a shelter in the vineyard.

2. Get to know the “Other” wines
You may spend your morning and afternoon tasting wonderful Barolo and Barbaresco wines, but you should make sure you try all the wines produced in the area.  Lunch is a great time to take a break from those powerful reds to try some of the unique white wines available here.  (click on any photo to start the slideshow)

1. Hire a Guide
Tips 5-2 can be forgotten if you follow tip #1, especially if it’s your first time.  There are very few tour books for the Piedmont or the Langhe, and none are focussed on winery touring. Since the area isn’t a big tourist destination, Italians in this region are less likely to speak much English.  After doing some research, I decided to hire a guide and I’m so glad I did!  Robert and Leslie Alexander have a small touring company called Travel Langhe.  They live in Neive, one of hilltop towns in the Barbaresco zone, also in the Langhe.  They focus on small groups, one to 4 people, and they really provide local knowledge and will tailor the day to your interest.  I had such a nice weekend with them, Julie and I are returning this September to spend an entire week touring the region with them.  We can’t wait!

Robert translates for the winemaker and adds his knowledge as well.

Robert translates for the winemaker and adds his knowledge as well.

Standing in the vineyard, Leslie pours us a sample of wine from those grapes!

Standing in the vineyard, Leslie pours us a sample of wine from those grapes!

Have you visited Piedmont?  Do you have any suggestions for our trip in September?  We’d love to hear what you think.

Comments
8 Responses to “5 Tips for Your First Visit to Barolo (Italy!)”
  1. Stefano says:

    Awesome trip!
    I love Langhe, and Piemonte in general, and of course I love Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Gattinara… but also Barbera and Timorasso! 🙂
    Lokoing forward to reading the accounts of your wine adventures.
    And you are right: if you know how to drive in Italian small towns, you can master pretty much anything this side of the pond! 😉

  2. Great post and excellent guidance….also stunning pics – congrats and good luck!!! xo

  3. Vee says:

    Hi Can you also please design or explain the best way to drive around in the region or best way to get around from CT to Piedmont? I guess as a first time visitor and drivers in the country …any local tips on driving is highly appreciated!

  4. Thanks for your comment, driving isn’t as hard as people would have you think. If you have good manual shift driving skills and a good GPS, you don’t have anything to worry about. I hope you enjoy visiting the Piemonte!

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