Experience Langhe in E-bike!
A Fabulous Journey to the Land of Wine
I had the opportunity to spend a little more than a month in this picturesque area known for its vineyard landscape, ancient villages, castles and wine. It all started with an unexpected offer – to take part in the European exchange programme Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. I decided that this was a great opportunity to not only gain knowledge and practice of the business I was planning to develop but also to get out of my everyday comfort zone, to immerge in a different world and to throw myself to the unknown for a while, far from my home and loved ones. My choice was Italy, Le Langhe and BikeSquare. I had never heard anything of this area of Italy until then.
The Langhe is a hilly area located to the south and east of the river Tanaro, in the province of Cuneo, in Piedmont, northern Italy. The area is famous for its wines, cheeses and truffles and part of it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014 for its cultural landscapes and outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking. I found myself here at one of the best times of the year – October, the month of the harvest and wine, a paradise for the lovers of good wine like me.
One of the most enjoyable tasks was to ride a bike around the area. Biking makes you feel the joy of movement, gives you a sense of freedom and lightness while you are experiencing what is happening here and now. On e-bike, it is very easy to ride up even the steepest hill and enjoy the downhill at your own pace. At the same time the hilly landscape offers a variety and delight for the eyes. After each turn you discover new breathtaking views. Small picturesque villages attract you to the top of the hills, ancient castles take you on a journey back in time, while the immense vineyards of ripe black grapes are a promise of fine wine. Riding a bicycle outside the city is not only a great pleasure but it also allows you to quickly visit many places while not losing touch with nature.
Novello, Food and Wine Tasting
I stayed in a small house near the main square of Novello called Terrazza Nizza. The village is a very good starting point for all the interesting places in the Langhe. There are a few bars and restaurants in the village. Right next to my house there was a restaurant called Vineria La Nas-cetta, where I spent amazing time with my friends from Milan in late October. The food was delicious, while the view from the restaurant was really stunning. We started with a plate of cheese and salami, combined with a good local wine. Then we tried some traditional Piedmontese dishes. I took Vitello tonnato, which is a dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavoured with tuna. My friends took Brasato and Tajarin al ragù. Brasato is beef cooked in wine, in this case in Nebbiolo wine, they served it with purple cabbage and creamed potatoes, while Tajarin al ragù is pasta with a beef ragu.
One of the neighbourhoods is the home of Azienda Agricola Stra, a winery that boasts a 200-year tradition in wine growing and production. I made a wine tasting there. It is free but you are supposed to buy some wine. The most representative black grape variety for the Langhe is Nebbiolo. The name derives from the Italian word “nebbia”, meaning “fog”, since fogs are a common occurrence in October when it is harvest time. The famous Barolo wine is made from Nebbiolo, as well as the Barbaresco and Nebbiolo wines. The taste is amazing! I am not a sommelier, I’m just a wine lover, so it’s hard to describe, but I was impressed by the weightless power and aromatic complexity of the wine. According to the experts, these wines have an intense taste, high alcohol content, and a delicate sensations of fruit, flowers or spices.
Barbera is another grape variety from which Barbera wine is made. I wanted to buy a wine from Stra to make a present to my friends in Milan. The Barolo wine seemed to me a little expensive – over 20 euro, so the owner recommended Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2016. A great wine at a price of just 12 euro. The white grape is Nascetta, from which Nascetta wine is made. I liked this wine very much too. You can sense the flavor of acacia, fruits – apple, peach and tropical, as well as honey. There are many wineries in the Langhe. The wine tasting is free in some of them, but you are supposed to buy some wine and don’t forget to make a reservation first, while there are wineries where against a price of 10 euro you can taste a variety of wines without the need to buy something.
Novello is a nice small village. The biggest attraction is the Castle of Novello, which is located just at a stone’s throw from the village centre, high above the vineyards and the woods. The castle is a magnificent neo-Gothic building from the 19th century designed by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Schellino that rises on the remains of the ancient medieval castle. Since 1967 the castle has been transformed into hotel restaurant after a new building was built beside the old one. To the right of the castle there is a street that takes you to a terrace with an amazing view that embraces the Tanaro valley and the crown of the Alps.
Langhe a Barolo Tour
Yet on the second day of my stay they gave me an e-bike and let me follow one of their tours. It was a warm sunny day at the end of September. I set off from Novello without knowing where the road would take me. I followed the tour via the BikeSquare app which is really easy to use and very helpful. Thus, the only thing I had to do was to enjoy the riding and the beautiful landscape. The tour passes near La Volta Castle, which is wrapped in mystery and legends. One of them tells about a marquise who had many lovers and invited them in the castle. They used a secret underground passage that connected La Volta Castle to the Falletti Castle in Barolo. One night, during a party, the guests engaged in such a rampant excessive lust that God decided to punish them and made the ceiling collapse over them. When the remains were removed, no traces of them were found. I didn’t stop at the castle but I stopped many other times to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
After a few turns, I was in La Morra. It is a small village located on the top of a hill, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. A walk in the village took me up to the panoramic terrace called Piazza Castello, where I took a rest enjoying the astonishing view over the Langhe. I have heard about a small colorful chapel hidden in the vineyards near La Morra. I did not see the Chapel of Barolo that day but I came back later. It is located on a steep path going from La Morra to Barolo. I was told that it was better to go there by foot or by car as the path was really steep. So, we left the car down in Barolo and went up the hill by foot. Painted in bright colours, the chapel is a joy for the eyes! It was built in 1914 as a refuge for farmers during bad weather but was never consecrated. Unfortunately, it became a victim of bad weather itself, broken down by time and abandonment. In 1999, two contemporary artists from the USA, Sol LeVitt and David Tremlett, decided to bring the chapel to life. The idea came to them in front of a glass of Barolo wine and while contemplating the inspirational landscape.
From La Morra I continued cycling to Verduno. It is another old village located on the top of a hill and surrounded by vineyards. All houses are gathered around the castle of Verduno, now hotel-restaurant, wine cellar and holiday farm combined into one. I did not spend much time around the streets of Verduno, I just stopped to have lunch at Trattoria Dai Bercau, a small but authentic Italian restaurant where you can taste traditional meals from the Langhe. In addition to the great food, the prices are really affordable. If you decide to have a lunch there, don’t forget to make a reservation first because the place is really small but quite popular. You may be criticising me but I took a glass of nice Nebbiolo wine before continuing on my way on e-bike.
My next stop was Roddi. Located on a splendid position on the hills towards the town of Alba, Roddi is a medieval village developed around its castle. Now the Castle of Roddi hosts a cooking school and a truffle museum. Roddi is also the village of poetry. There are poems written on the walls of houses and an interesting tour that tells the story of the trifulau, namely the truffle seeker. The walk in Roddi is very nice and the old streets and houses will easily take you back in time and history.
Then the tour passes through Barolo, a delightful little village that is home to “the King of Italian wines”. Unlike most of the other villages in the area, Barolo is not located on a hilltop but down in a valley. In Barolo, I made a walk through the historic centre and visited the Wine Museum (WI.MU). It was designed by François Confino, who designed many museum displays throughout the world, including the National Cinema Museum in Turin. It is an unusual wine museum, which takes you on a sensory tour through the history of wine in nature, art, music, literature, cooking, myth and traditions. There are fancy multimedia effects, exhibits that can be touched, ingenious machinery and other curiosities. An incredible interactive experience that is really worth it!
From Barolo I easily ride up the hill to Novello not resisting the temptation to stop and make photos of one of the most beautiful sceneries towards the Langhe.
Monforte d’Alba and Dogliani Tour
During this tour I got to know the Langhe a little more. From Novello I cycled through the hills and vineyards towards Monforte d’Alba. It is a small but wonderful medieval village which in 2018 was included in the list of the most beautiful old villages in Italy. The village has a modern square with bars and restaurants where I locked my e-bike. Then I took the little steep streets past coloured homes and stone buildings up to the medieval square which is on the top of the hill. Part of the square is a natural open-air amphitheatre called Auditorium Horszowski where Monforte holds its well-known jazz festival in July. During the summer, there are also many theatre events and film screenings. On my visit in October there was a watercolour exhibition. The square is dominated by the bell tower, part of the parish church of Santa Maria. The view from the upper part sweeps over the wonderful surrounding scenery with vineyards as far as you can see and hilltop villages scattered among them. In the distance the Alps can be seen.
From Monforte d’Alba I continued to Dogliani. I enjoyed a long downhill passing through vineyards, woodlands, little streams and farms. Dogliani is a town divided in two parts. The most recent part is built along the Rea river. After crossing the river by the bridge I found myself in front of the nineteenth century parish Church of Saints Quirico and Paul. Then I cycled along the streets of the historical centre, which is very nice and still held traces of the festival of TV and new media that takes place in May. I stopped at the historic pastry shop Dellaferrera. Then I climbed up to the upper part of the town which is built around the castle ruins, with the tower built by Italian architect Schellino. There is also the Church of Saint Lawrence, which is surely worth a visit. On my way back I passed by the Confraternita dei Battuti church, which is down by the river, and continued cycling on a path along the river. Dogliani is the home town of Dolcetto wine and there are several wine shops and bars where you can taste the wine and the wonderful local meals. I set off for Novello. The road was generally uphill but this did not worry me because on e-bike you don’t need to think about the terrain.
This was an incredible month spent in the Langhe. I think there is more to discover but the next time I’ll come I will take my husband and my boys. There were moments I felt so happy that I wanted to share these feelings with my loved ones.
I live in Varna, on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. I have a degree in Italian Studies and I am passionate about Italy. I have experience as an Italian teacher, interpreter and English content writer. Now I am a freelance content writer and translator.