Steeped in rich history and shaped by striking mountains, the food in Piedmont region of Northern Italy is as luxurious as it is rustic.
As a visitor, you’ll sample world-renowned cheeses that tell the tale of generations of alpine shepherds. Whether you dine along the wide boulevards of Turin or an ancient rural village, you’ll fill up on hearty pasta complimented by plenty of fresh vegetables.
It doesn’t take much to get us hungry for an adventure in Piedmont. If you dream of truffles, hazelnuts, and wine, you’ll probably feel the same way.
Where is Piedmont? Welcome to Italy’s Secret Food Capital
Tucked along the edge of the Alps, Italy’s second-largest region is bordered by the Italian regions of Liguria, Valle D’Aosta, and Lombardy, as well as southern France. It’s influenced by all its neighbors but has a flavor all its own.
Piedmont is a foodie paradise that travelers often overlook. With miles of farmland, close proximity to mountains and sea, and a truly diverse landscape, food in Piedmont is as rich, varied, and tradition-bound as its culture.
The capital of Piedmont, Turin, known as the birthplace of Nutella and aperitivos, and has enough of food, architecture, and history to keep you busy exploring for days. But don’t forget to venture into the countryside! You’ll find cheesemakers offering a variety that’ll make your head spin and some of the country’s best red wines.
Northern vs Southern Italian Food: Key Differences
One of the easiest ways to irritate any Italian is to make a generalization about Italian food (test this claim out at your own risk!)
Each of Italy’s regions offers a unique cuisine. The people honor culinary traditions with pride – don’t be surprised if you’re pointed towards one specific city or town to get the “true” version of a particular dish!
Still, geography and weather can tell us a bit about Italy’s two major culinary regions: the north and south. Piedmont is in the north, and food in northern Italy is very different from what you’ll find in Naples, Rome, or Sicily.
Food in southern Italy is influenced by warmer weather and longer coastlines:
- Fresh seafood is more common.
- Plenty of olives, olive oil is the base of many dishes.
- Warm-weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers are prominent.
- Pasta and pizza originated in southern Italy, but have since spread all over the country (and the world!)
Food in northern Italy is influenced by mountains, colder climate, and nearby countries like France and Austria:
- Nuts and mushrooms add earthiness to dishes.
- Meat is more common, from animals farmed, herded, and hunted (think wild boar!).
- Abundant dairy makes for a variety of cheeses, and butter is often used in place of oil.
6 of the Best Foods in Piedmont, Italy
The town of Alba in Piedmont is the capital of one of Earth’s most coveted ingredients: white truffle.
With a pleasantly pungent aroma and creamy golden color, these aren’t just any truffles – they’re considered the best truffles. Truffles grow wild in the forests surrounding Alba for just a few months out of the year. But you can’t just stroll into the woods and fill a basket with truffles – they grow underground. And knowing that they often grow near tree roots won’t help you much!
Piemontese tartufai, or professional truffle hunters, partner up with their trusted dogs to sniff out truffles. Between the leg work involved and the exquisite flavor, white truffles can fetch over $4000 per pound!
Luckily, a little goes a long way, so you’ll still be able to afford Piedmont’s signature truffle-infused dishes, like tajarin al tartufo bianco, or egg noodles with white truffle.
These long, thick egg noodles are a Piedmontese specialty. You might be familiar with tagliatelle, a noodle shape that’s grown popular in US-based restaurants. Now, imagine something a little thinner, with that same delightful chew and bright gold color. That’s tajarin!
Made from just egg yolk and flour, tajarin were once a peasant dish saved for special occasions. Today, you can’t walk down a street in Piedmont without running into a restaurant that serves it.
Tajarin are famously dressed in a sauce of white truffle, butter, and pepper, but they also pair excellently with sausage ragu.
Salsiccia di Bra
Salsiccia de Bra, or Bra sausage, is a unique veal sausage from the Piemontese town of Bra (which is also known for its cheese… more on that later!)
What makes Bra sausage so unique? It’s one of the only sausages best served raw! If you’re a fan of carpaccio or tartare, this dish will be right up your alley. Pair it with fresh bread or breadsticks and you’ve got a distinctly Piedmontese snack to go with your aperitivo!
Made mostly of beef, this coiled sausage also contains a small amount of pork fat, which helps keep it fresh and safe to eat. It’s flavored with a mixture of spices unique to each producer. Because it’s considered a traditional regional food, it has its own consortium that publicizes strict rules around its production (if you speak Italian, have a look!)
Not so convinced? That’s fair, raw food isn’t for everyone! But when in Piedmont…
We didn’t title this section with a specific type of cheese because it’d be unfair to crown just one as the best cheese in Piedmont!
Piedmont has generations of history in animal agriculture, so cow, sheep, and goat cheeses all add their unique flavors to one of Italy’s finest cheese scenes. From raw cow’s milk Bra cheese to chestnutty montebore sheep cheese to soft and complex robiola di roccaverano made from goat’s milk, this is a cheese taster’s paradise.
Any trip to Piedmont would be incomplete without a cheese tasting. That’s why we dedicate a whole afternoon to cheese on our Italy Yoga Adventure!
Agnolotti are Piedmont’s signature stuffed pasta, with origins dating back 900 years. You’ll most often find them filled with meat: veal, pork, rabbit, or even rooster!
Unlike ravioli, which are made from two separate pieces of pasta pressed together, agnolotti are formed by a single sheet folded in half. They’re served with a simple sauce that allows the flavorful filling to shine through.
Another prized crop in Piedmont is the hazelnut, which takes center stage in many of the region’s desserts, including gianduiotti, a triangular chocolate and hazelnut candy.
Pastry chefs in Turin began blending hazelnuts with chocolate when Napoleon’s trade blockade drove up the price of cocoa. The result was the now-beloved Italian flavor combination called gianduia. Gold-wrapped chocolate morsels called gianduiotti are a portable, melt-in-your-mouth dessert perfect for bringing home to your friends and family (if they survive the plane ride!)
Mangia and Adventure Well in Piedmont
Ready to hop on a plane and eat your way through Piedmont? We don’t blame you. The regional food in Piedmont is more than a daily luxury. It’s a profound part of the local culture and inextricably linked to the region’s history.
On our Italy Yoga Adventure, you won’t just eat well – you’ll grow to appreciate each meal through intimate experiences with cheesemakers, hazelnut growers, chefs, winemakers, and mixologists. You’ll use this richness of culture and cuisine to fuel your exploration by foot and bike, and you’ll re-center yourself daily with a balanced yoga practice.