If you’re planning a trip to Tuscany or Piedmont, here are some recommendations on places to eat and stay during your visit
Azienda Agricola Rivetto, Localita Lirano 2, Sinio. Tel +39 0173 613 380
Very nice rooms in a working winery, surrounded by vineyards and with great views of the famous wine village of Serralunga d’Alba across the hills. Breakfast included and a warm welcome from the Rivetto family and staff. This a great base for touring the whole Barolo region, with all the major wine-producing villages within a short drive.
Hotel Savona, Via Roma 1, Alba. Tel +39 0173 440 440
Right in the hear of Alba, beside the pedestrianised shopping district, with loads of cafes and places to eat on the doorstep. A handy halfway base between the wine areas of Barolo and Barbaresco.
Places to eat in the Langhe
Ristorante e Albergo La Rosa dei Vini – Loc. Parafada, 4 – 12050 – Serralunga d’Alba. Tel +39 0173 613219
Absolutely gorgeous food and a great wine list. Value we only dream about in Ireland. I recently had a six-course tasting menu for €28. Calm, cool and elegant with great views from the main dining room and terrace across the Nebbiolo vineyards. There are rooms here too but I’ve never stayed.
Le Case della Saracca, Via Cavour 3, Monforte d’Alba. Tel +39 0173 789 222
Where to start with this weird and wonderful restaurant built into the walls of the castle of Monforte d’Alba. Run as a labour of love by a former pharmacist, the food is quite unique, and I have never seen such a huge wine collection anywhere. Hundreds of cases of great Barolo, Barbaresco, Tuscan and other Italian reds line the staircases, are tucked into little alcoves over several floors, and are even wedged under tables. It’s a great dining experience and it doesn’t seem to close – as long as people come, they serve food. This is a must visit.
Ristorante Le Torri, Piazza V. Veneto 10, Castiglione Falletto. Tel +39 0173 62849
Family-run restaurant in this tiny village with everything home-made as you would expect – bread, pasta and especially the panna cotta – the dessert I can’t resist – with macerated raspberries sprinkled around, it’s pure creamy heaven. Once again, a great wine list and warm, efficient service.
Trattoria La Posta, Localita Santa Anna 87, Monforte d’Alba. Tel +39 0173 78 120
Out in the middle of this famous wine region with Nebbiolo vineyards everywhere, this is another restaurant worth finding for its wonderful food, huge wine list and prices that look low to us.
Enoclub Ristorante, Piazza Savona, 4, 12051 Alba. Tel +39 0173 33994
Don’t be dissuaded by the name, it’s a restaurant not a club, and don’t be put of by the tiny narrow doorway on the Piazza Savona either, it leads down to stone cellars full of atmosphere. I’ve always had lovely meals here and the wine list, in common with just about every other restaurant in the general Barolo/Barbaresco region is huge.
Places to stay in Tuscan wine country
Casa Colonica Santa Teresa, Via San Martino a Cecione 32, 50020 Panzano in Chianti. Tel +39 055 85 44 077
A beautifully restored Tuscan farmhouse just outside the village of Panzano. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, with a pool and top-class accommodation. An oasis of peace with a pool and great views, and an ideal base from which to tour Tuscany’s best vineyard area, as well as Florence and Siena.
Places to eat in Tuscan wine country
Osteria Le Panzanelle, Loc. Lucarelli 29, Radda in Chianti. Tel +39 0577 733 511
A couple of kilometres outside Panzano, this is an absolutely wonderful restaurant run by Nada and Silvia who apparently effortlessly produce the finest food from their little kitchen. Once again great ingredients are the cornerstone of the menu but they are cooked with passion. The pasta dishes are great of course, and the panna cotta – the benchmark of a good restaurant in Italy – is a delight. A very nice wine list too with lots of local estates represented and prices that seem to be about two euros a bottle above retail. Don’t miss it if you’re in the area.
L‘Officina della Bistecca, Panzano
Run by Dario Cecchini, this is easy, casual dining and great value for lunch and dinner. No frills, fresh vegetables, good meat, olive oil, bread and everyday wine. Hard not to like.
Another Dario Cecchini enterprise where everybody dines communally on parts of the cow you might not normally come across, along with vegetables, beans in oil, bread, dessert, wine, digestifs and coffee included, and all for €30 a head. The whole opera takes about two hours and you are free to bring your own wine with no corkage charge.
Enoteca Baldi, Piazza Bucciarelli 25, Panzano in Chianti. Tel +39 055 852 843
Smack in the middle of Panzano, this is a very casual little restaurant with a small menu of mainly simple, fresh and top-quality ingredients. You can order a selection of salami with olives, cheeses, and super-fresh and flavour-filled vegetables. Bottles of olive oil on the table and plenty of crusty bread turn simple basics into a delicious lunch or dinner. Well worth a try.
Antica Trattoria La Toppa, Centro Storico San Donato in Poggio. Tel +39 055 807 2900
This was a chance find one day in Spring and a very happy one at that. It’s another cool, calm and elegant little restaurant in the old part of this tiny village. Known locally for their home-made pasta with duck sauce, La Toppa is a great place to eat. The usual extensive wine list but when we walked in at lunchtime one day, the owner just poured us two glasses of a local Chianti, left the bottle on the table and charged – not very much – for what we drank.
Worth a look – even a detour
Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Via XX Luglio 11, Panzano in Chianti.
Part butcher shop, part opera, this must-visit little shop in the centre of Panzano is run by one of Italy’s best known characters, Dario Cecchini. His butcher shop is full of his own preparations from Porchette to Tonno del Chianti and you can sample lots of lovely things with no obligation, and often there’s even a small glass of wine offered too. This is quite an expensive place to shop for meat, though the quality is tops, but the Mostarda Mediterranea, a zingy relish based on red chillies, and the Profumo del Chianti, a seasoning with salt and a mixture of finely chopped herbs, are affordable and worth buying.