Gourmets get ready to indulge: the rolling hills, valleys and townships of southern Piedmont are northern Italy's most redolent pantry, weighed down with sweet hazelnuts, rare white truffles, arborio rice, delicate veal, precious cheeses and Nebbiolo grapes that metamorphose into the magical Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Out here in the damp Po river basin, the food is earthy but sublime, steeped in traditions as old as the towns that foster them. There's Alba, the region's vibrant, pretty capital; Bra, home of the Slow Food Movement; Pollenzo, host to the University of Gastronomic Sciences, and the constellation of charming villages that includes La Morra, Neive, Barolo and Barbaresco. Further north, the Monferrato area occupies a fertile triangle of terrain between Asti, Alessandria and its historical capital, Casale Monferrato. Vineyards fan out in all directions interspersed with castles and celebrated restaurants.