Piedmont is a region in the north-West of Italy celebrated for its culture, baroque houses, elegant l9th-century cafés, museums and sophisticated cuisine. People flock to the white-truffle fairs of Alba and to taste the acclaimed Barolo and Barbaresco Wines. But there is a more rustic Piedmont, mostly overlooked by visitors, Where you will find some of its ﬁnest producers. They grow organically, and make food and drinks with little or no additives and minimal processing of the raw ingredients. There are natural Wines, farmhouse cheeses, sourdough breads, charcuterie, terroir honey and live beers, among a raft of other goodies that not only taste exquisite but are healthy, too. For some of the ﬁnest examples, head south-east from Alba or Asti towards the border with Liguria and Lombardy, Where a Wilderness creeps towards you. Instead of manicured, vine-covered terraces and showy trattorias, there are hills cloaked in forests, which skirt gullies roaring with Wild, turquoise Waters and concealed creeks, and biodiverse farms where life is holistic and wholesome. Here in rural Piedmont is a World of extraordinarily inspiring farmers, with shared philosophies and Ways of seeing the World. Once you infiltrate the network, you’ll discover a parallel existence of clean produce, proper cooking and delicious drinks you might otherwise miss entirely.
On the outskirts of Novi Ligure, I eye my satnav apprehensively as it announces that my destination is imminent. Warehouse after Warehouse lines the streets of an ugly urban jungle that has sprouted up around the town’s historic centre because of the chocolate and steel industries that have taken root here. I can’t believe I am about to come across anything of note When, all of a sudden, the sea of factories parts to reveal a delightful, acacia lined lane winding away from the industrial madness and up into a farming idyll. There are acres of crops, woodland and Vegetable gardens, as Well as fruit and nut trees, cows, ducks, poultry and farm dogs, who are the ﬁrst to greet a stranger passing out of the shade of the trees into the airy, peaceful prairie that is Cascina degli Ulivi. And, of course, there are the Vines: local varieties, including Cortese, Barbera and Dolcetto, alongside international ones. But what is especially remarkable is that, unlike the bare-earth terraces that dominate most viticultural landscapes, vines here grow together with a multitude of other plants, including broad beans, chickpeas, trees, peaches, ﬁgs and wild salads. “Traditionally in Italy, vines were very biodiverse,” says Stefano Bellotti, who runs Cascina degli Ulivi, the family farm. “They grew alongside trees or vegetables, which were cultivated between the rows? Reserved and quiet with huge, freckled hands and a faraway look in his eyes, Bellotti is a peasant in the noblest sense of the word. He is intimately connected with his land and has fought for his convictions the whole of his adult life; he has a remarkable warmth and generosity of spirit. Through his eyes, you begin to see an alternative view of the world.
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