A corner of Italy which encapsulates unique gastronomic delights, often only whispered as secrets to gourmets around the world. Here Nebbiolo reigns, with its noble sons -the Barolo and Barbaresco, protected by castles, towers and fortified villages that take us back to medieval times of struggles and splendours: pilgrims, salt merchants, soldiers of fortune, the Crusaders, and Benedictine monks have all trodden this soil leaving a heritage, a sign, a legacy. But it was the farmers whose centuries of toil shaped the hills into the breathtaking landscape which widens the eyes of the tourist today.
And under these so-special hills, the ultimate and most secret treasure: the White Truffle of Alba: the “grey diamond” that made Cavour crazy and sent Vittorio Emanuele II into ecstasy , the Tuber Magnatum Pico made world-famous by the youngest son of a poor family of sharecroppers, Giacomo Morra, founder of the Fiera and true deus ex machina of the Langhe.
Because the Savoy Piedmont of royal palaces and courts, of stately homes and gardens, retains its ancient wild and native soul in the Langhe and Monferrato, between groves of oak and fragrant valleys known locally as rittani, among hazelnuts and pastures, among pheasants and wild boar, in stone villages and remote rural churches. A soul with an ancestral beauty which is reflected in the snow-covered chain of the Alps which protects it from the ruffling of the marin, the sea wind that warms and perfumes it, providing the special microclimate for its inimitable wines.
But it is also a tough soul, made of hard work and sacrifice, poverty and emigration, endurance and fatalism, so well recounted by Cesare Pavese and Beppe Fenoglio, not by coincidence two of the greatest Italian writers of the twentieth century who grew up in these hills.
Do not be surprised that today all this has become a World Heritage Site and the Cultural Landscape of these vineyards has been declared the 50th Italian location to be protected by UNESCO: we have always known how to live in a unique, special and magical place. Knock say “friend” and the door will open.
© Copyright Pietro Giovannini
Langhe’s rolling hills and ancient hamlets, hidden among noble vineyards, are two of the main reasons why tourists, often from abroad, are compelled to visit this area of Southern Piedmont, situated between the Ligurian Apennines, the Maritime Alps and Monferrato. The landscape of the Langa is unique in being consecrated, finally, in June 2014, with its inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage List. The main element, which almost totally characterizes it, is its hills.
In fact, the hills are the dominant feature of this area, even if they do display different contours depending on whether you are looking from the right side or left side of the Tanaro River. From the left bank of the Tanaro you can, in fact, find Roero which is geologically younger (these hills emerged and formed some 5 million years ago), and characterized by striking rocks, with steep walls that open real clefts into the landscape.
However, from the right bank, long hills start to rise, becoming real flaming “ridges of earth”, which emerged in an even more ancient time, about 15 million years ago, in the Pliocene, and are called Langhe. Over the millennia, the weather has eroded the sides, making them today sweet and soft to the eye, creating a unique effect, which reminds some of a succession of sea waves. A rich green sea, because today the element that best characterizes the Langa immediately stands out: the vine. The neat rows of the vineyards instantly recall another important reason that pulls visitors to visit this region: the wine.
In Italian we say Langhe, the plural form of Langa, because we must remember that there are several Langhe; Bassa and Alta Langa, whose distinction is not simply the altitude of the two areas (Bassa Langa, Low Langa in Italian, does not reach more than 500 meters above sea level) but, above all, it is what is produced that makes the real difference. In fact, we can then speak about the Barolo Langa, whose name is clearly given by the fact that in that very small and limited area, the Nebbiolo grape is king. Also present are the Barbaresco Langa, the Dolcetto Langa, and also the Langa of the hazelnut, where we find the municipality of Cortemilia where a famous hazelnut variety is produced. This last one is also the Langa of several types of cheese (different kinds of tuma and robiola) and mushrooms; the excellent porcino variety that competes against the other great protagonist of the territory – the truffle.
The Langhe and Roero district of Italy make for one of the most charming landscapes in the Region of Piedmont. Think rolling hills, quaint villages struck on cliffs, and prized vineyards and gastronomic traditions.
For food and wine lovers this area is the height of excellence, ideal for relaxing and enjoying the good life amidst nature, art, the epicurean’s favorite hobby of wining and dining.
The only difficulty involved? Choosing from the cornucopia of products and delicacies, especially to take home as souvenirs.
The Terrain and Places
Located between two rivers, the Tanaro and the Bormida, Le Langhe are an alternation of hills cultivated – rather densely– with vineyards (in the Bassa Langa) and of valleys and small fortified borghi on their hilltops (Alta Langa).
The Roero, then, to the west of the Tanaro, was named after the family that governed a little fiefdom in the district for centuries.
As in the rest of Italy, the local villages and towns were long-contested divided and reapportioned again and again into various Medieval communes and feudal estates, thus explaining the numerous castles and defensive structures.
The Langhe and Roero , filled with historic testimonies, not only produce highly sought-out wines, but are also the site of distinguished white truffles (the White Truffle Fair of Alba is internationally-known).