Set in the midst of vineyards and hazelnut trees in the heart of the Langhe is a charming, self-contained haven for wine travelers: the Agriturismo Marcarini.
The Agriturismo Marcarini is an excellent choice for any traveler, wine-focused or other. Located in Neviglie, it is strategically placed near towns like Alba and Barbaresco, and the proprietor offers a host of different activities to do while visiting. But let’s be honest—if you don’t do some wine tasting while staying in the Langhe, you must be a teetotaler.
I had the opportunity to tour the agriturismo with the owner and director, the young Chiara Marchetti, daughter of the owners of Marcarini Winery located in nearby La Morra.
The term "agriturismo" traditionally means accommodations on an active farm. Agriturismo Marcarini is part of the Marcarini business that includes the winery, and is surrounded by its property-owned vineyards of barbera.
In Italy, one of the best accommodations you can find is an agriturismo. It is like a home stay, where the proprietor usually lives in the agriturismo or in a nearby building. The overall atmosphere is familial, welcoming, and above all, personal—no standardized pictures in cheap frames or long hallways with barely-cleaned carpets. In fact, there is little need for long hallways, because usually an agriturismo has just around half a dozen rooms, making for a quiet and intimate stay.
Agriturismo Marcarini has six rooms—all clean, comfortable, and conveying an authentic Piemontese farmhouse feel with personal touches in the wooden furniture and antique decorations. And this may sound a bit odd, but I was especially struck by the steps inside the main building. “Everyone comments on those,” says Chiara. “They’re the original steps of the farmhouse.” When was it built? “1800s.” Only a few inches high, walking up and down the well-worn but sturdy stairs feels like gliding up and down between stories.
The breakfast room is across the drive next to the sauna and fishpond, and will soon serve as a restaurant. Its interior is fantastic: all whitewashed wooden beams, a conglomeration of styles in seats and tables, and lots of natural light. A chandelier lends a touch of farmhouse-chic.
We took a quick tour of the cheerfully-painted kitchen, which is slated to be Chiara’s domain, too. She trained as a chef, and can’t wait to start cooking for guests (and for the public, upon reservation). She plans to cook traditional Piemontese dishes with her own creative flair, using only seasonal ingredients, many of which will be harvested directly from her garden (does she ever find time to sleep?).
Walking over the grounds of the agriturismo, we came upon a spigot spilling out cold, fresh water. Chiara splashed a hand under it. “These are our natural sulfur waters. The water is always fourteen degrees Celsius,” or 57°F.
The area and this farmhouse in particular have been known for centuries for the natural sulfur waters. One of the farmstead’s earliest owners was a “little sergeant,” or Sargentin in Piemontese dialect, named Vittorio Doglio. He and his wife were ahead of their times when they opened their doors in the second half of the 1800s to guests and travelers, welcoming all to partake in the healing powers of the sulfur and Dolcetto wine. Drinking and soaking in sulfur waters has long been thought to cure any number of ailments; and certainly, wine has been believed to have healing powers since time immemorial. It is “man’s oldest known medicine,” and articles abound that announce the positive health effects of a daily glass of wine (as though we needed reasons to drink it).
What to do on vacation in the Langhe
Agriturismo Marcarini is ideal for a wine vacation. It is a spot for nature lovers, isolated from busy roads and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But this certainly doesn’t mean guests will get bored; on the contrary, the area offers plenty to do here, and Chiara helpfully arranges activities for the guests.
First and foremost are winery visits. “I usually reserve a couple of wine tastings for guests during the time they spend here,” says Chiara. She sends them to her family winery in La Morra, giving guests the chance to see the Barolo wine region and taste the Marcarini Barolo wines; and also to the other cantine in the area. And it’s not just any old area for wine tasting: Neviglie is five minutes from Barbaresco, ten minutes from Alba, and surrounded by many other winemaking villages, including Treiso, Mango, and Tre Stelle. Heart of the Langhe, indeed.
“Five new hiking loops through the vineyards have recently been added,” said Chiara when I asked her about other activities in the area. Hiking trails from Neviglie pass through Neive, Mango, and other nearby towns; and Wine Pass has done some hiking and biking in the area, too: Ancient Wine Trails and In the Heart of Barbaresco are biking routes, whereas Circling the Vineyards of Barbaresco is a great, easy hiking route.
Guests can also take cooking lessons, go horseback riding through the vineyards, mountain biking, and ride along the curving roads astride a Vespa or—increasingly popular—e-bikes.
E-bikes deserve a quick aside. They’re fantastic for exploring the region, because unlike Vespas (or cars, for that matter), you don’t need anything to ride them except your own two legs. You get exercise, but also a boost up and down the many rolling hills; and the battery lasts for 70 hours, so no worries about getting stranded (not really such a bad thing in wine country…). A new e-bike company has opened up in Castagnole delle Lanze, Ciclisti della Domenica (Sunday Cyclers), and they bring the bikes to the agriturismo at no extra cost (www.langhebike.it).
Finally, truffle hunting is always popular. The prized tartufo bianco d’Alba, or white truffle of Alba, has an autumn and winter growing season, but guests can enjoy truffle hunting even in the summer, “when there are black summer truffles,” says Chiara.
Località Tinella, 19
Neviglie (CN) Italia
Tel +39 0173 630004