NORTHERN ITALY: Piedmont, Val d'Aosta, & Lake Country


NORTHERN ITALY: Piedmont, Val d'Aosta, & Lake Country

from 3,475.00

Private Tour – WineStyles of West Des Moines
June 10-21, 2020

Double Occupancy: $6,950 per person
Single Occupancy: $7,650 per person

Join Cheese Journeys’ Anna Juhl, Tenaya Darlington (aka Madame Fromage) and Bryan & Andrea McGinness - owners of WineStyles of West Des Moines - for an unforgettable trip to Northern Italy! Beginning and ending in Milan, this 2020 tour is designed for 15 food, wine, and cheese enthusiasts - customers and guests of WineStyles of West Des Moines. Just as the Langhe is a cradle of Italy’s fine food and wine culture, Bra in the Piedmont is the epicenter of the Slow Food universe. The aesthetics of this region and the principles of its famous organization will serve as the foundation as we explore two additional food and wine areas, Val d’Aosta and the Lake country.

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Day One--Wednesday, June 10

Welcome to Milan; Dinner event
Our 12-day journey begins with a rendezvous in Milan. (We highly recommend that our travelers arrive one or two days prior to the start of the trip to get acclimated and take advantage of our recommended touring, shopping and restaurant options.)  

Guests arrive at Hotel Gran Duca di York, in Milan, Italy by 3 pm.* for a two night stay in Milan. Room accommodations and assistance will be provided by Cheese Journeys host at check in. The tour opens with an evening welcome event/dinner at a nearby restaurant with an opportunity to meet tour guests and relax at the start of the tour.

*Please note that transportation to the Hotel Gran Duca di York is the guest’s responsibility on arrival. From Malpenza, International airport to central Milan,  guests may take a taxi or train. Additional information available.


Day Two- Thursday, June 11

A Taste of Milan; Shopping and Tour Peck’s Grocery
After breakfast at the hotel, we embark on a half-day walking-and-tasting tour of six of the city’s foremost food purveyors in the old central Brera district. Energized by the hustle and bustle of Italy’s culture and fashion capital, we savor the best of such local and regional specialties as mondeghili (Milanese meatballs), culatello (the king of cured meats), as well as classic, traditional cannoli and gelati for dessert.  

In the afternoon, we’ll spend time touring and tasting at two of Milan’s iconic food shopping destinations- Peck’s Grocery and Eataly. Enjoy dinner on your own at any of the restaurants before returning to hotel for the evening.

Day Three- Friday, June 12

Travel to Piedmont, Cheese class
We depart Milan for a scenic drive south to Castiglione Tinella and the lovely Albergo Castglione Langhe hotel This lovely property is completely surrounded by world class vineyards. Our private group has full access to the hotel, complete with a swimming pool and private baths. All meals, daily events and educational classes will be held here. After settling in, experience a classic Piedmont lunch prepared by our chefs- Sylvain and Romain. 

After lunch, enjoy a Giro D’Italia (Tour of Italy) cheese tasting, organized by our team of experts, in our private courtyard. The Giro will feature a selection of the country’s best-known and finest regional cheeses paired with a local sparkling and designed to set the benchmarks for a week of tastings and pairings. Enjoy an afternoon swim, hike in the vineyards before a chef prepared dinner.


Day Four- Saturday June 13

Parmigiano- Reggiano Affineur Giorgio Cravero

Wine Tasting- Italy’s Best; Slow Food University Wine Caves, Dogliani and Barolo regions

After breakfast, guests are treated to an exclusive visit to Italy’s most prominent affineur-exporter of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Giorgio Cravero, a close friend of Cheese Journeys. Giorgio affords us an intimate look inside his five-generation family business and shares his insights into the history of the Bra Cheese Festival and of Parmigiano-Reggiano and joins us for lunch at his family’s restaurant.

After a relaxing meal, we’ll visit the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Slow Food’s academic arm--a picturesque sprawling campus, encompassing several restored buildings of an ancient castle on the edge of Bra.  We’ll receive a private tour of the campus followed by a horizontal tasting of regional Langhe/Piedmont wines at the affiliated Banca di Vino (wine bank); these include the reds Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo-based Barbaresco and Barolo, and the whites Roero Arneis and Moscato D’Asti. We’ll return to our hotel in the countryside for a chef prepared dinner.


Day Five- Sunday June 14

Cooking class; Truffle hunting; Evening meal featuring truffles
While in Italy, a big Sunday family-style meal is a must, so Anna and the chefs are preparing one for our guests- but first we have to assist the chefs with the cooking.  Bring your apron and meet up in the kitchen for cooking demonstrations and hands on fun!

In the late afternoon, we’ve off for a truffle hunt with our local trifulau (truffle-hunter), Livio, and his dog, Lula, on their home turf and in the woods nearby. Learn the mysteries surrounding the most precious of the earth’s fruits. We have orders from the chef to bring some of these delicious treasures home –the perfect final touch to his impressive feast!


Day Six- Monday, June 15

Craft-Brewing Genius at Baladin; A visit to Dogliani and Barolo wine country

After breakfast, our first stop is the long awaited tour and tasting at Italy’s innovative and world-renowned craft brewery, Birreria Baladin. They are a model of all-natural, sustainable and forward-thinking practices and their beers go great with many of our favorite cheeses

We’ll enjoy lunch at the beautiful Osteria dei Catari in Monforte D’Alba, one of the eleven picturesque hilltop villages in Barolo country. After a beautiful lunch, our first stop is Cascina Corte, above the ancient village of Dogliani, where proprietor Sandro Barosi—an original member of the Slow Food movement and friend of Anna’s, produces award-winning Dolcettos and other wines—will walk us through his vineyards and explains his organic and biodynamic approach to viticulture. We’ll taste Barolo wines later in the afternoon with the first women Barolo wine maker, Chiara Boashis, The view back to our hotel is beyond scenic, traveling through some of the most coveted vineyard real estate in the world. We’ll enjoy a restful evening and chef-prepared dinner.

Day Seven--Tuesday, June 16

A day with La Spinetta & Contratto wine makers

What would a visit to Italy’s premier red wine-making region be without a glimpse of some of the region’s best white wines? After breakfast, we travel a short distance down the road to one of our favorite wine makers at La Spinetta. See the UNESCO World Heritage cellar of Contratto and enjoy tour, tasting and lunch at their beautiful restaurant. Late in the afternoon, we’ll be back at the hotel for a relaxing swim and chef prepared dinner.


Day Eight, Wednesday, June 17

Dessert cheeses at Bepino Occelli; Lake Maggoire’s Hotel Splendid 

After a breakfast, we say farewell to the Langhe wine region and head north to the lake country. But on the way, enjoy a tour, tasting and beautiful lunch, in Valcasotto.  This remote hillside hamlet has been beautifully restored—as has the region’s local mountain cheese and butter production—by Beppino Occelli, an Italian cheese legion and friend of Cheese Journeys. Part of Valcasotto’s charm is its renovated 19th century flour mill, fully operational today. Meet and experience first-hand, the Occelli family and their award-winning and delicious “cake-like after-dinner cheeses.”

We’ll spend the next three nights on the shores of Lake Maggoire. Guests be greeted by palm trees and the welcoming staff of the Hotel Splendid in Baveno. A light dinner is provided at the hotel.


Day Nine, Thursday, June 18

Rest, Guffanti Cheese Aging Caves

After breakfast, enjoy a leisurely morning at the lake, walking, swimming or the hotel spa.

In the afternoon, visit the aging facility and shop of Luigi Guffanti 1876, Italy’s premier selector and affineur of over five hundred cheeses. This fifth-generation family-owned firm, spear-headed by the Fiori brothers, Davide and Giovanni, offers us a tour and a delectable selection of their finest cheeses for tasting and mid-day meal. You’ll taste some of your favorites–mouth-watering Gorgonzola Dolce and Piccante as well as many delicious rarities unavailable in the United States. A perfect opportunity to purchase cheese before returning to the states. The evening is free to enjoy the spa, a light meal on your own or a late night swim.


Day Ten, Friday, June 19

Mountain cheese and wines of Val d’Aosta

After breakfast, we head west toward the steeply walled Val d’Aosta, Italy’s smallest but not least influential region. At the head of the valley, we tour Vallet Pietro, a top independent producer of genuine Fontina Val d’Aosta, one of the nation’s quintessential mountain cheeses. We taste several variants of PDO Fontina while enjoying lunch paired with unique wine of this region. From the narrow wine terraces in Donnas to the wine growing region in the valley planes of Gattinara, travelers will have an opportunity to experience contrasting flavors of beautiful wines and styles of vineyards as they enjoy dinner in this unique area.


Day Eleven, Saturday, June 20

Lake Maggoire, Borramean Island tour: Shopping in Stresa

After breakfast, the morning is free to stroll and shop in the nearby lakeside town Stresa, with a quaint waterfront lineup of 19th century luxury hotels and lovely shops. We’ll return to our lakeside hotel after shopping and lunch (on our own) for a private boat tour of the Borramean Islands, their baroque palaces and formal gardens.

In the evening, our farewell dinner takes place at the remarkable Il Divin Porcello–the restaurant arm of one of Piedmont’s finest family producers of salumi. Order from an extensive menu featuring house-cured meats and regional specialties such as chestnut-flour gnocchi, a superb dish of braised tripe, hearty pastas and stews with an equally exquisite wine menu. 


Day Twelve, Sunday, June 21


After breakfast, and a restful sleep, we say a fond arrivederci to the lake country. Transportation will be provided to the Malpenza airport- (less than a one hour drive)- as guests prepare to travel back to the USA or on to another destination.

Tour Price Includes:
Lodging for 11 nights, 11 breakfasts, 9 noon meals, 10 evening meals, and alcoholic beverages served with meals. All transportation during the tour, all classes and/or day tours provided by local hosts, cheese educators and chefs.

Tour Price Does Not Include:
Round trip airfare to and from Milan, hotel accommodations before or after the tour, and any personal shopping and additional food or beverage during walking tours and free time.

To the best of our ability, this itinerary is final. However, if due to unexpected extreme changes in weather, or an emergency situation with our hosts, Cheese Journeys reserves the right to substitute an event if needed. During the tour, you have the option of declining a particular excursion or tour, but please note that we are unable to make refunds for any missed meals, classes or events. Please see Terms and Conditions for additional details.