/Piedmont Slays Tuscany

Piedmont Slays Tuscany

Susanna Bianco of Az Ag Gigi Bianco in her vineyard
Susanna Bianco of Az. Ag. Gigi Bianco in her vineyard.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Piedmont is way better than Tuscany. Nebbiolo pummels Sangiovese Grosso, the Langhe and Roero are cooler than Val d’Orcia and Chianti, and I’ll take carne cruda over bistecca fiorentina any day of the week. Of course it is silly and subjective to rank one region over another, and to be fair, Tuscany is pretty awesome, but Piedmont speaks to me in a way Tuscany never has. I just wish more people give well marketed more famous Tuscany a pass and head north to Piemonte.

Carne Cruda
Carne cruda.

I took my first trip to Piedmont with Papa Parla in 2006. We were both many kilos lighter and that was back in my coata days when I wore ridiculous Roberto Cavalli outfits. There were a lot of animal prints and mesh shirts involved. Picture a thin and literate Angelina from The Jersey Shore. Yeah.

We were based at Poggio Sul Belbo (UPDATE 2016: NOW CLOSED), a B&B in Santo Stefano Belbo owned by the parents of a childhood friend. We spent five days there, using it as a base to explore Piedmont’s Langhe region. I returned this trip and I can’t tell you what it feels like to wake up to views over moscato vineyards that rise and plummet with such a dramatic gradient. You just have to go there and find out.

Barolo tasting with Giulio Viglione
Barolo tasting with Giulio Viglione.

I’ve been back a handful of times since but not nearly as often as I would have liked. During my most recent visit, I decided to return several more times this year. Piedmont, you bugger, you’ve got me hooked.

Throughout my most recent visit, I posted pictures to my Facebook profile. A friend commented on the Piedmont album, inquiring “How would you describe the differences between Piemonte & Toscana…Would you please list a few of the things that you especially like about Piemonte?”. My reply was brief and incomplete, so I would like to elaborate on it here with a list of my favorite things in one of my favorite regions.

Moscato Country
View from Ezio Cerruti’s vineyard.

The landscape: What possessed man to live in such impossibly vertical terrain? Who knows, but I’m glad for it.

Small, natural wine producers: Ezio Cerruti, Giulio Viglione, Baldo Rivella, Susanna Bianco, Augusto Cappellano, Mario Fontana, Maria Teresa Mascarello, and others are dedicated to producing small amounts of high quality wine without the use of herbicides, chemical additives, and selected yeasts, or the addition of sulfur dioxide.

Silvio Pistone
Silvio Pistone.

Silvio Pistone: An artisan cheese producer who treats his 35 sheep like children and makes the world’s best tuma.

Piemontese: The dialects are amazing. I love going to parts of Italy where I can’t understand a word when locals talk amongst themselves.

Barolo: The king of wine and the wine of kings.

Nebbiolo: The grape that is transformed into Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Bramaterra, and other wines reaches its full potential in the climate and soil of Piedmont.

Eggs and Peppers with Salsa Tonnata
Eggs and peppers with salsa tonnata.

Salsa tonnata: A paste made with mayonaise, tuna, capers and anchovies that is used to fill peppers or hard boiled eggs or is spread over thin slices of cold veal. One of the many things I write about that tastes way better than I make it sound.

Fritto misto: Imagine a feast of fried foods, with everything from vegetables and fruit to meat and offal.

Chocolate: A long history of chocolate production and a universally recognized regional sweet tooth means a bit of high quality chocolate is never far away.

Ravioli del Plin
Ravoili del Plin.

Ravioli del Plin: Tiny ravioli stuffed with rabbit, pork and veal and served with butter, sage and grated nutmeg. They are little purses of perfection. A variation, agnolotti, are amazing too and the ones at Relais San Maurizio are unbelievable.

Superior craft beer: Italy’s craft beer was born in Piedmont and continues to thrive. Producers like LoverBeer, Birrificio Montegioco, Troll, and the grandaddy of it all, Baladin, produce great stuff from interesting ingredients.

Il Talucco
Il Talucco.

Il Talucco: This restaurant and B&B serves creatively prepared food made with carefully researched ingredients.

Artisan Mills: Mulino Marino and Mulino Sobrino produce organic flour from heritage grains.

Eugenio Pol: Saving the best for last, one of the world’s greatest food artisans bakes bread in Fobello.

I hope by now you are over Tuscany and into Piedmont. Check it out sometime and keep checking back for more reports on the incredible experiences I had last week.


  1. Julius Chai May 1, 2011 at 10:49 am - Reply


    I could not agree more. The Piedmonts’ wine had more soul. So reminded me of Burgundy and The Willamette Valley, where I live. I loved the food, as our mutual friend Guido Gamboni loves to say, ” the wines are GORGEOUS! “. We are back in Rome in Late September/Early October – would love a more concentrated Vatican tour???

    Every wine maker in Piedmont/La Morra , I asked what do you like to drink? The universal response was good Champagne, and Grand Cru Burgundy! How do you say in Italy??? Che Buono??? Absolutely!!

    The food…..oh the food!!! So simple and pure!!! Buonisimo!

  2. Randy Kiarsis May 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Hey Katie,I’m sure your still prettier then Angelina now or she could ever be..:) My mother and I went to a Truffle festival in Alba in 2007.And she was there last year..WE LOVE IT!! Still love Rome the best!!


  3. Engred May 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    What Julius said! :):)

  4. Katie May 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    ah so it’s unanimous then:) Julius & Engred, I would love to give you and the fam a more concentrated Vatican tour. I can’t wait to catch up. We have a lot of meals to talk about!!

    Randy you are very kind. I would also like to clarify that I may have had terrible taste in clothes but I was not as trashy as her and no one ever called me the “Staten Island Dump”. The truffle fest is amazing. It gets crazier every year but Im thinking about going this year! Say hi to your mom!

  5. […] “Piedmont Slays Tuscany.” That’s what one of my favorite bloggers, Katie Parla, noted in a post two years back. I love that headline because it declares a primal “this is better than that” certainty we all look for as writers. But her headline also reminded me of eighth grade, when it wasn’t uncommon to hear a classmate declare “Megadeth Slays Metallica!” … or more likely with me, “Urge Overkill Slays the Gin Blossoms!” […]

  6. […] I noted that you said that SO many people that you MUST go to Tuscany. I mentioned that it was because Tuscany is heavily marketed and so many people go there, so it's what they recommend. It's not necessarily because Tuscany is better than other areas of Italy. Here is a little comment about that from Katie Parla. She is very noted food and travel writer based in Rome. She's written and edited 20 books on travel in Italy, writes for dozens of travel magazines, and regularly writes about travel to Italy in the Travel section of the New York Times. Perhaps it will ease some of your concerns. http://www.parlafood.com/piedmont-slays-tuscany/ […]

  7. Pennie September 7, 2015 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Randy Kiarsis do I know you??? Seems like I should.

  8. Benessere May 9, 2017 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    Katie, I just stumbled on this page from a reference at flyertalk.com. I completely agree. Having lived in Tuscany for a year, and now having very good friends in the Langhe, I have to say, although the food and wine in Tuscany can be outstanding, the food and wine of Piemonte are profound. There are three places that I highly recommend: all’Enoteca in Canale, the Trattoria alla Posta in Monforte d’Alba, and the Locanda dell’Arco in Cissone just outside Monforte d’Alba. The last place in particular is so real, so extraordinary, and so reasonable, that I make a point of driving there whenever I’m even remotely in the area. It’s a B&B with a kitchen, and the guy who runs it makes his own Dolcetto and grows his own hazelnuts. The cook, Maria Piera, is from Bovio, and has perfected everything. The white truffles are everywhere. The wines are what my sommelier friend in Rome calls “spaziali.” I’ve been there in the autumn and the spring, and it’s always great. It’s the one place, perhaps you can tell, that I rave about like a child, it’s kind of embarrassing. But that’s what Italian food and wine made with Swiss precision can do to you, I guess.

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