Sunset over the Langhe Hills and Monviso
Alba is a wonderful city. Historic, chic and above all, welcoming. The medieval towers are majestic, the recently renovated cathedral dedicated to San Lorenzo is a sheer delight where the modern and ancient co-exist very happily. Walking down the main street – Via Vittorio Emanuele II or Via Maestra as it is known locally – you will find a great array of stylish boutiques intermingled with pasta, truffle and cheese shops. And don’t forget those italian icecreams which are available in abundance. For the gastronomic tourist there are plenty of fine restaurants, winebars and cafes.
But drive out for 10 minutes and you’re in the Langhe Hills. This is the heart of Piemontese wine and hazelnut production where the great crus of Barolo and Barbaresco are to be found. The scenery is spectacular and every few meters the view changes in a small way and every 100 meters in a big way. The serpentine roads creep upwards until you find yourself on a ridge top with panoramas that you can’t imagine without having visited the region.
The hilltops have many ancient castles dotted around, some of which are open to visitors such as Serralunga and Grinzane Cavour, the latter now a regional Enoteca for the local wines. Guided tours of both castles can be had and again the latter was the home of Count Camillo Benso of Cavour, one of the architects of the re-unification of Italy.
To get your bearings, a good place to start any visit is at the panoramic viewing point in La Morra where you can see the whole region laid out in front of you with a good map pointing to all of the historic places. The backdrop of the western Alps helps create stunning scenery – a friend of mine once said “Drop your camera here and you’ll end up with a wonderful photo!”.