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Southern & Eastern Piedmont/Italy

Introducing Southern & Eastern Piedmont

Gourmets on the rebound from an Emilia-Romagna food tour (fattened up with balsamic vinegar and Parmesan) might think it couldn't get any better. But it can and it does. The rolling hills, valleys and townships of southern and eastern Piedmont are northern Italy's specialist pantry, weighed down with sweet hazelnuts, rare white truffles, Arborio rice, delicate veal, subtle cheeses and Nebbiolo grapes that metamorphose into Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Out here in the damp Po river basin, they give out Michelin stars like overzealous schoolteachers give out house points, and with good reason. The food is sublime, steeped in traditions as old as the towns that fostered them. There's Bra, home of the Slow Food Movement; Pollenzo, host to a University of Gastronomic Sciences; Asti, replete with truffles and wine; and Alba, home of Barolo wines.

Many trace the gourmet routes in a car, but to compensate for the calorific overload, there are also excellent walking and cycling opportunities.

South of Cuneo, and forgotten by most, are the Maritime Alps, a one-time hunting ground for Savoy kings that's now open to hikers.