BEST TIME TO VISIT ITALY: LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER

Turin is no longer a mystery to most tourists thanks to the exposure it received during the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. And thanks to the Slow Food Movement (founded in Bra, Piedmont) and the growing international success of such local wines as Barolo and Barbaresco, the northwest corner of Italy features prominently on tourists’ maps. They’ve been coming to Liguria’s Cinque Terre for some time now already. I recommend late summer as the best time to visit because if you’re touring vineyards, you want to do so when the fruit is on the vine. By late August, the harvest is just around the corner. The only trouble with visiting in September is that rain is fairly likely in the North. Fly into Milan’s Malpensa airport and rent a car. On the way down to Turin, spend some time in Lake Maggiore, an idyllic respite just a quick drive from the city. As much as I love the restaurants in this city and the royal palaces downtown, it has to be said the Turin doesn’t have the same blockbuster attractions that other cities in Italy do (with the notable exception of the Shroud of Turin, the renowned Christian relic that only occasionally is on display.) Unless you plan to have a job here, Turin would be an unusual choice for a foreigner in search of a new life in Italy.

On the other hand, just south of the city is a magical area referred to as Le Langhe. Not only is it home to many of Piedmont’s best wines, but also to the famous white truffle, celebrated in a festival in Alba every September. In nearby Bra, the Slow Food Movement holds two huge gastronomical festivals in alternate years: the Salone del Gusto, a massive banquet of foods from around the world, in even years (October), and Cheese, a celebration of, you guessed it”every type imaginable, in odd years (September). For gastronomes, this is a little piece of heaven. Because of this and the surrounding vineyards and castles, and its location midway between the Riviera and the Alps, Le Langhe has been attracting foreign homeowner attention. Farther south, Liguria and its Riviera have been hosting foreign tourists for more than a century. Have a look around the coast between Camogli and Rapallo and you’ll understand why. It is tempting for these same visitors, after hiking in the Cinque Terre and loafing around in around Portofino, to skip Genoa and shoot right up to San Remo and the beaches by the French border. That would be a mistake. Genoa has truly cleaned up its act”even UNESCO has recently named Via Garibaldi’s row of merchants’ palaces as one of its World Heritage sites.

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