Smugglers' Return Langhe – Maritime Alps - Riviera
Smugglers’ Return: From the Langhe through the Maritime Alps to the Riviera

On this tour, we will follow in the tracks of the old salt smugglers, as they made their way back from inland trading centers to the Mediterranean Sea through some of Northern Italy’s most spectacular countryside. The tour is ideal for those keen to explore the Barolo wine country, wander through olive groves and hill towns below the 9,000-foot Maritime Alps and discover two splendid Mediterranean ports. It is wonderful both in the spring and the fall: wildflowers abound from April to July and in the fall our guests can watch grapes being harvested, or savor Piedmont’s famous white truffles.

Day 1

Into the Langhe - La Morra

We will begin our journey at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, where we will meet our guide and driver. From there, we will travel through the risotto-rice growing Po River plain to the heart of the Langhe hills, where the unique Nebbiolo grape achieves its maximum expression in Barolo and Barbaresco wines. We will have lunch in the hill town of La Morra, our home for the next three nights, stroll amidst cru vineyards and enjoy a tour and tasting at a traditional La Morra Barolo wine producer.

Day 2

Upper Langhe & Italian Resistance

Today we head into the rugged hills of the Upper Langhe, to taste the savory cheese made from the milk of the Langa sheep, a breed that has disappeared from all but a few local farms. We will then follow in the tracks of the Italian resistance fighters of the Second World War, traveling through some of the Langhe’s most pristine natural environments, where those who opposed the German invasion attempted to turn back their enemies.

On our return to Barolo country this afternoon, we’ll peruse the artisan chocolate production at a nearby village, and enjoy dinner at an agriturismo (working farm) run by a young, talented staff. Here we’ll experience directly the historical importance of the salt smugglers. Legend has it that, in their attempts to avoid discovery by customs agents, they hid their salt under layers of anchovies –inadvertently introducing the anchovy to Piedmont cuisine. We’ll have the opportunity to try local specialties that feature this tiny fish in delicious salsas like the Bagna Caôda (‘Hot Bath’) and Bagnet Vert, a parsley-based green salsa.

Day 3

Monforte, Serralunga & Alba

After visiting Monforte d’Alba’s historic town center, we’ll walk through vineyards and hazelnut groves to the town of Serralunga d’Alba, with its towering Gothic castle. We’ll stop for a wine tasting and lunch at spirited producers in Serralunga. Every Barolo village produces different wines, thanks to the unique soil composition and sun exposure of the particular vineyard sites – and Serralunga Barolos are reputed to be among the biggest. After a brief rest back at our inn, we’ll visit the town of Alba, capital of the Langhe, and have free time to explore on our own, perhaps to shop for torrone, tartufi (truffles) or other local goodies. Dinner is on our own this evening in Alba, where there are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from.

Day 4

The Maritime Alps and the Italian Riviera

We hop a train this morning in Cuneo and head south towards the Maritime Alps. We’ll pass through the Colle di Tenda pass, one of the most important trade routes through the Western Alps. On the other side of the tunnel, we arrive in the town of Tende, France, which we’ll tour with a local guide. After a typical regional lunch, we’ll stop at a marvelous frescoed chapel before continuing down the valley, the larch making way for olive trees as we approach the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll re-enter Italy in the region of Liguria. Our home for the next three nights is in a beautiful hilltop village, inland from the aptly-named Italian Riviera dei Fiori, or ‘Flower Riviera’.

Day 5

Domain of the Doria

We’ll explore our home village this morning, meandering through its narrow lanes on our way to the central piazza. Then, accompanied by a local guide, we’ll head up to a nearby, higher hill town which overlooks 6,000-foot peaks to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Our walk takes us up through Taggiasca olive groves (the small Taggiasca olive makes one of the best olive oils in Italy) to a lovely agriturismo overlooking the valley. Here we can enjoy a wonderful lunch on homegrown and homemade specialties, perhaps including a pesto dish, a torta salata di verdura (savory vegetable pie) and abundant fresh fruits. Afterwards we’ll descend to the fortified town of Dolceacqua, former seat of the powerful Doria family.

Day 6

Bordighera

Our destination today is the lovely coastal town of Bordighera. Our local guide will lead us on a walking tour of this renown winter residence of European nobility, with its many splendid villas, one of which we will visit. Then, we’ll make our way among the date palms that border the trail along the sea, following in the footsteps of Claude Monet who painted several scenes of Bordighera from this vantage point. Our walk will conclude with a visit to the historic center of Bordighera Alta, perched above the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.

Day 7

Nice

Nice is one of the largest and most important cities in France, and long a favorite of the well-to-do. On this, our final day, we will tour its beautiful streets in the morning with a local guide, and then have some time on our own to explore, shop, or just take in the sun and people-watch from the Promenade des Anglais.
While the excursion officially ends at mid-day, we would be happy to book a hotel for you in Nice for the evening - or make accommodations for you in a hotel of your choice elsewhere on the French or Italian Riviera. We will also provide you with information about restaurants and other points of interest in the area, should you wish to extend your visit.

In the meantime, we hope you will have fallen in love with this corner of Northern Italy as we have, and that you will return again soon.

A presto!
Walking Level
2 - good trail running/walking shoes or hiking boots recommended.

Info
Group of minimum 6, maximum 12; includes accommodations (country-village inn in the Langhe, lovely B&B in hilltop village in the Maritime Alps near the sea), all cultural visits, wine and cheese tastings, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, transportation, guide and driver costs.

Dates
On request, spring & fall recommended

Tour Notes
This tour is wonderful both in the spring and the fall. Wildflowers abound from April to July and from September to November, our guests can watch grapes being harvested, or savor Piedmont’s famous white truffles.

Late spring and early summer are ideal for walking in the Maritime Alps, with their remarkable endemic flora, and more extended trips to this range can be arranged upon request.

Cooking classes can also be arranged in any of the regions of travel.