Elio Sabena is not A guide but rather, THE guide for hiking in the Langa Hills of Piedmont. He identified and maintains the trails, drew the maps, and placed the trail signs.
On a cloudy summer morning with chance of rain, we set out from Novello to do a loop from there to Barolo, along the Monforte trail then, back to Novello.
The first segment of the trail followed the road until it turned off into the vineyards.
Soon, we were looking down on Barolo, with the castle where the Marchesa Juliet Colbert Faletti de Barolo lived with her husband, Tancredi. A French noblewoman, who survived the French Revolution, she is credited with creating Barolo wine as we know it today: dry, elegant and capable of long aging. The Castle now houses a Wine Museum and the Barolo Wine Enoteca. .
We stopped at the first cafe/bar in town for a coffee, walked down the main street, and down the steep hill behind onto a wooded path. In the frenzy of the 80s and 90s, large swaths of woodlands were cut down to plant more vineyards. (Read more about the Barolo Boys)
In the woods, Elio spotted lots of wild cherries. Stopping to eat our fill in the quiet among the trees was a summer treat.
We came out into vineyards between Barolo and Monforte, walking along a ridge with a view of Novello on the other side of the valley.
Along the side of the trail, Elio pointed out small holes in the dirt embankment that are the entrances to birds’ nests.
As we walked down into the valley, through the vineyards on the way back to Novello, we came across a tree laden with blackberry vines and had another summer feast.
Walking up the hill toward Novello, we passed an abandoned cascina (farmhouse). Before the Barolo boom, this area was farmed with grapevines being only one crop along with raising animals and growing other things like hazelnuts, fruit trees and grains.
Elio has written a book about the area, including hiking routes, that has been translated into English: Discovering the Langhe. It’s also available at the tourist office in Alba, at the Wine Museum Shop in Barolo and in various other bookshops and even bars in the area. He has made a useful accompanying map.
Barolo is located in the northern Italian region of Piemonte.