Dates: May 13-19 / September 9-15
- Wine estates: Marchesi di Barolo, Fantino Conterno, Oddero, Villa Sparina
- Walking: 3-4 hours (7-10 miles/day) on country paths & mountain steps (Level: Athletic beginner)
- The Cinque Terre and Portofino
- Lunch at a cheese farm in Piedmont
- Meet: Tortona train station (near Milan)
- Depart: Sestri Levante train station (on the Riviera).
Day 1: Welcome to the Langhe
Shuttle from the Tortona train station to the Langhe hills, where Piedmont's best wines are born. Our first hike follows the Barolo Wine Trail, which cuts through prized vineyards and chestnut woods. A complementary welcome lunch in the town of Barolo introduces Piedmont's elegant cuisine: raviolo con uova, pâté with caramelized red onions, tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, and bounet (chocolate-hazelnut pudding). We'll pass by the Castello di Barolo and learn the story of Barolo wine's creation in the 1800s by a Marchesa from France. Our first tasting of "the king of wines and the wine of kings" will be at her historic estate, the Marchesi di Barolo. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: The Wine Trail of Barolo
In La Morra, we'll pick up another part of the Barolo Wine Trail and follow a loop around La Morra. We'll walk through some of Barolo's most famous vineyards, including Brunate and Cerrequio, get a close-up look at nebbiolo grapes, the basis for Barolo, as well as Barbera and Dolcetto, which make fruity, friendly wines found on every piemontese dinner table. After lunch, we'll have a tour & tasting at a winery in Verduno. Not only does boutique producer Fratelli Alesssandria make stellar Barolos and Barberas; they are also one of only a dozen producers in the world who make Pelaverga, a light, spicy red that is indigenous to this village. Dinner offers more of Piedmont's woodland cuisine, such as cinghiale (wild boar), stewed rabbit, and roasted guinea fowl. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 3: Mountain Cheese
Piedmont's Alte Langhe ("high hills of the Langhe") are renowned for their cheese. Our hike takes us through this zone, following the old Via del Sale - the salt roads on which salt was transported inland from Liguria. Our destination is an artisan cheese farm near the town of Bossolasco. Here we'll enjoy a picnic lunch with fresh cheese, local honey, and other regional treats. Thus fortified, we'll head to Monforte for a wine tasting at Fantino Conterno. This scenic hilltop estate makes a range of single-vineyard Barolos, plus a Barbera bottled according the cycles of the moon. Dinner will be at a local restaurant offering a superb wine list to complement their plin, tiny ravioli stuffed with meat and spinach. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Ring around Gavi Di Gavi
During our transfer from Piedmont to the Riviera, we'll stop in the white wine district of Gavi. After an espresso in the eponymous wine town, we'll climb the hill to walk around the impressive 10th C. Fortress of Gavi. Lunch at a local trattoria is followed by our first tasting of Gavi di Gavi wine, Italy's first white wine to receive international fame. Our winery of choice is Villa Sparina, today the preeminent leader in Gavi wine. Our trip then continues south to the Riviera town of Sestri Levante where we'll settle into our second hotel, a sunny seaside spot with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Silence. Dinner is on your own at one of Sestri Levante's many excellent fish restaurants. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Portofino and The Riviera Cliffs
In the Riviera, the landscape changes entirely. The Ligurian mountains tumble straight to the sea, with colorful houses and umbrella pines clinging to the hills. Today we'll climb those hills in a spectacular hike, starting in the fishing village of Camogli. The first leg passes through town, ascending ancient steps that pass tiny houses and private walled gardens, arriving at the overlook of San Rocco. The next part takes us through woods and along ridges on the rugged seacliffs, then down to San Fruttuoso, a medieval abbey and tower of the Doria dynasty, located in a protected cove. After lunch, we'll catch a ferry to Portofino, a picturesque village where amorous movie stars once hid from papparazzi, where we'll soak up the sun or browse the shops. Today's wine tasting will be on our hotel balcony overlooking the bay and setting sun. Here we'll have an introduction to the wines of Liguria, including seafood-friendly Vermentino and Pigato. Dinner will feature the Riviera's fresh-from-the-sea cuisine. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: The Cinique Terre Trail
The fame of the Cinque Terre ("five lands") is well deserved, with its sweeping vistas and charming seaside villages. Now a national park, the Cinque Terre trail passes through five towns. We'll hike through four, going from Vernazza to Riomaggiore (with an optional leg from Monterosso). The trail takes us up and down mountain steps, and through wild terrain and cultivated terraces carved from the rock by ancient Ligurian tribes, where olive trees and grape vines now grow. A handful of heroic wine producers continue the work the land, wrestling limited quantities of grapes from this vertical, rocky terrain. Before dinner, we'll reconvene on hotel balcony for another wine tasting, "Beyond Vermentino." Our farewell dinner again highlights such local fare as zuppa di pesce (fish soup), steamed mussels, pasta with fish sauce, or Liguria's most famous culinary export, pasta with pesto. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 7: Arrivederci. A shuttle to the Sestri Levante train station and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Italy Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Food & Wine
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