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One of the most iconic Italian wines is Barolo. This complex red wine originates in Piedmont, a prosperous yet quiet region in terms of tourism. For true wine lovers, visiting the sleepy town of Barolo is a dream come true, especially as it appears in front of you after driving countless windy two-lane roads. This independent guide to visiting Barolo, Italy will include tips for visiting Barolo, where to taste Barolo wine in Barolo, tips for setting up Barolo tastings on your own, and getting to Barolo on your own.
Despite being a power player in the chocolate and wine industry, Piedmont has still not developed the infrastructure for large-scale tourism. Similarly, wine and chocolate producers in Piedmont are often family-run operations that aren’t always prepared for large groups without warnings. In many cases, you will need to do some leg-work and a car to set-up tastings at your favorite Barolo wine producers if you so choose, unless you choose to take a day tour to Barolo where the appointments are prearranged.
One of the most traditional Barolo producers (whose wine that I enjoy!) is Borgogno, which has a vineyard just outside of the city center. They have one of the oldest cellars in Piedmont (more than 250 years old!) and all grapes are produced sustainably without chemical fertilizers. You can take a tour with comes with a tasting for 15 euros. The winery is open daily (besides major holidays) in the late morning and afternoon. Call in advance to be sure that they have availability!
If you’re more one for spontaneity, this does not mean that you cannot do a tasting, but you can certainly try calling the various wineries surrounding Barolo. One great alternative for those with limited time (or on a budget!) is the Enoteca Regionale Barolo. Although cantinas tend to have more generous pours, Barolo is generally not a cheap wine, so a tasting of quality Barolo will cost more than tastings of other Piedmont wines.
The Enoteca Regionale of Barolo is a tasting room within a castle run by the city of Barolo that provides wine lovers the ability to taste 16+ Barolo wines from four different regions. At the bar, you’re given a card that you can insert into the machine. After you select your wine, you’ll be given a tasting quantity for 2-4 euros. Once you’re done doing a tasting, you can pay for your tab. My tab came to about ten euros after 5 tastings.
Depending on the micro-region, Barolo varies wildly in taste due to the geography and terrain. Barolos from La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, and Roddi are known for their fruity, less tannic flavor due to the sand in the soil. This was my favorite kind of Barolo that I tried! Barolo from Barolo and Novello is grown in a mix of sand and clay, which creates more harmonic Barolos that are smooth. For the “heavier” Barolos, I recommend the Barolos from Serralunga d’Alba (a city that I adore!), Monforte d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, Diano d’Alba, and Grinzane Cavour.
Although Barolo is certainly famous for its wine, the town itself is picturesque with small alleys where cars aren’t allowed. Although I personally recommend heading to La Morra (10 minutes driving) for the best views over Barolo from above, it’s easy to spend at least a few hours wandering the streets of Barolo after enjoying a good meal.
Those looking for a great Italian meal can head to Osteria La Cantinella, which is down an alleyway for traditional Piedmontese dishes paired with Barolo wine. For something quicker and simpler, there is a cafe named Bar Antico Caffè di Luciana Astegiano next-door that serves paninis and salads for a reasonable price. Bring cash!
There are a number of world-class restaurants in Barolo and it might be worth staying overnight at one of few agriturismos located in the city center if you want to drink without worrying about driving. (Italy is strict with DUIs [Driving under the influence]!) They book up quickly, so book your hotel in Barolo ahead, especially if you intend to visit Barolo in fall. One highly recommended agriturismo is Agriturismo La Terrazza sul Bosco, which is located on the edge of Barolo.
Getting to Barolo without a tour
Getting to Barolo on your own is fairly difficult without a car although certainly possible with some dedication. Alba is the closest major city to Barolo, which is reachable by train. If you will be visiting Barolo without a car, there’s nothing wrong with doing a tour if you want to avoid driving. It’s safer to avoid drinking if you’ll be driving. Click for a day tour to Barolo from Turin! There’s also a hop-on, hop-off bus for those on a budget who want the ease to move around.
For more dedicated independent travelers, Alba is a great base for visiting the various Piedmont wine towns. From Alba, it is a short 15 minute (9 miles) drive, which is very doable by taxi. (Just be aware that you might hit some tolls while driving to this region from Turin, so be sure to carry some change on you!)
There is free parking in the city center if you follow the signage although it is limited and you might need to park further out of town on busy weekends. October is the busiest time for Piedmont, which is when the International Truffle Festival occurs.
Have you visited Barolo, Italy?
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