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The Salt Road Food Tour

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The Riviera Backcountry and Pristine Piedmont

An exceptional itinerary for food lovers and an exciting opportunity to discover both France and Italy, their connections with each other, and the off the beaten path places where eating and drinking are a living art. Led by a professional chef, the tour includes authentic experiences such as the fascinating world of  Barolo and Barbaresco wines, truffle hunting, cheese and olive oil tasting, cooking experiences, and dining in picturesque settings.

Itinerary

About the Salt Road

Starting from the Mediterranean coast in Nice, all you have to do is follow the olive trees. They’ll lead you through rugged landscapes, gorges as red as Mars, and hilltop villages reminiscent of Tibet. A place where civilizations meet, torn between the sea and the mountains, the Salt Road follows a timeless valley – La Roya.

Since the Bronze Age people have accessed the coast carrying salt from the Camargue to the Upper Roya through drailles, hidden paths used by local traders and their mules. In 1458, the Duke of Savoy introduced La Gabelle, a tax on the salt trade. And when the County of Nice came under the control of the House of Savoy in 1581, the entire area between Nice and Piedmont became a single territory. Shortly after the Nice-Piedmont road – the Salt Road – was born following the ancient paths

The Salt Road, also known as the Royal Road, is the route you will discover in the company of your very own French chef. Starting from the sea, find Mediterranean products such as citrus, olives, chickpeas, and a highly colorful cuisine. Continuing to the ‘white cuisine’ of the Roya Valley discover dairy products, wild plants, honey, root vegetables, and edible flowers. In Piedmont taste hazelnut, game, white truffles, chocolate and explore the world capital of slow food movement in the medieval city of Bra.

Day 1: Departure by car along the Riviera

Pick-up at Nice airport. Before arriving in the spectacular medieval village of Roquebrune Cap Martin, stop for a picnic in a picturesque location boasting splendid views of the mountains and sea. Enjoy a coffee in a historic troglodyte café. Continue to Sospel, the start of the Salt Road.

Aperitif and dinner at an idyllic farm, where donkeys roam freely. Known for producing the best caillette olive oil, the owner also makes exceptional jams, breads, and provides vegetables from his biodynamic garden to Michelin starred chefs, such as Bruno Cirino. He also built his farmhouse from earth, timber and straw. When the night comes, you’ll be enraptured by the dance of fireflies under a starry night.

Overnight at a charming guesthouse in Menton.

Day 2: The lemon road

Menton, the last town before entering Italy, is a charming place blessed with a front-row seat facing the sea and circled by citrus groves. The local cuisine is marvelous and worth a taste: ravioli stuffed with lemon, pichade (a pizza-like specialty with rich tomato sauce) and barbajuan (deep fried dumpling stuffed with herbs, chard, eggs, and cottage cheese). Explore the city, the market and a lemon grove. Since 2015 citron de Menton enjoys a PGI, the European level recognition of its properties and superior quality. Stock up on lemons for a future workshop, then head to the Roya Valley.

Meet with a tea maker, who creates herbal teas from wild plants. Her blends are made with care to get the best from the plants and the taste.

Overnight at a guesthouse in Saorge.

Day 3: Discover the Roya Valley

A little higher, as you continue on the Royal Road, a village looks down from above. A true gem of the valley, Saorge enchants with its restful convent and borage ravioli. Find yourself at the gates of Vallée des Merveilles, a stunning gorge home to about 100,000 protohistoric engravings.

Spend the evening in La Brigue, a small medieval village at the base of the valley, known for its exceptional food products and restaurants that have their own vegetables gardens. The village has a unique culture with its own language. An endemic sheep that looks like a prehistoric mammal can be seen roaming the fields, the extraordinary flora attracts bees resulting in one of the best honeys in the region. The medieval apiaries are in fact protected by stone walls in the event of bear attacks. On the other side of the border, there is another Brigue, the “Upper Brigue”, which also shares this unique culture despite the fact that it is located in Italy.

In the evening, your chef will delight you with the “white cuisine” specific to the Roya valley: dairy products, edible flowers, wild plants, flours, roots, and venison.

Overnight at a guesthouse in La Brigue.

Day 4: Slow Food experience

Take a morning walk through the narrow streets of La Brigue and its colorful market. Grab a coffee on the village square and mingle with the locals to appreciate the friendly atmosphere.

Cross the border into Italy and head to Cuneo. Discover the city renowned for its sheep, goat and cow’s milk cheeses. In fact, there is a festival of raw milk cheese organized each year in Cuneo.

Spend the evening in Bra, the world capital of Slow Food, a movement that promotes traditional cooking, preparing dishes from scratch using only locally sourced foods. Discover the medieval city that elevates gastronomy to the rank of a living art through a gourmet walk led by your chef.

Overnight at a guesthouse in the vineyards of La Morra.

Day 5: Barolo and Barbaresco

Explore the stunning landscape of Barolo on an electric bike or Vespa. Among the rolling hills, hidden in the midst of vineyards, discover traditional Piedmontese villages with their slow rhythm and warm hospitality.

Arrive at a small family azienda near Alba, the perfect setting to learn about the origins of Piedmontese cuisine.  Taste specialties made on site, including the famous plin and tajarin. Then, enjoy a private appointment with one of the most talented winegrowers in Italy from the famed Barbaresco region.

Overnight at a 5-star monastery hotel in Santo Stefano Belbo.

Day 6: The Ligurian hinterland

In the morning meet a trifolau – Ligurian truffle hunter – and head to the woods in search of truffles, the celebrated white gold of Alba. Your chef will prepare a meal featuring these fragrant fungi, a culinary experience you’ll never forget.

Explore the Ligurian hinterland transitioning from the culture of Piedmont to that of the coast. Arriving in the timeless village of Bajardo, visit an olive farm where the cultivated olive varietal is tagghiasche, the Italian version of the French caillette you tasted on the first day of your trip in Sospel. You’ll observe the differences in cultivation as well as terroir and taste.

Enjoy an aperitif and the impressive panoramic views of Liguria and the Alps from the nave of a ruined church taken over by moss and wild plants. End the day with a tasting of local products, such as ciausun, a pie with wild herbs, and cubaite, a waffle with roasted hazelnuts and honey.

Overnight at 4-star inn in Apricale.

Day 7: From mountains to sea

Visit the pearl of the Ligurian hinterland, the village of Dolceacqua. A stroll through its medieval alleys and you’ll understand why the painter Claude Monet was so fond of this secluded place. Browse the charming cafés and taste some local wines, followed by lunch in a family trattoria in the picturesque village of Rocchetta Nervina that specializes in Ligurian dishes.  The cod tail stuffed with brandacujun (mashed potatoes with stockfish) and a glass of a Rosesse wine are must-haves.

Arrive in Bordighera, a charming little seaside town dotted with villas, Mediterranean gardens and libraries – legacies of the 19th century golden age when European nobility settled here. At nightfall, stroll through the historic alleys carrying the smells of sea, exotic plants and refined cuisines. An unforgettable experience to complete the journey across the Royal Route.

Overnight at a 5-star hotel in Bordighera.

Day 8: Depart home

Private transfer to Nice airport. Return home.

Book this itinerary for $4,750.00/person.

Pricing is based on double room occupancy. Other options (i.e. single supplement, family rates) are available on request. Rates valid for travel in 2021. Trip is customizable for an extra fee.

Package includes:

  • Unique accommodations with breakfast
  • Escorted tour by Astrance-trained personal chef
  • Meals prepared by the chef
  • Private customized day excursions
  • Private meetings with craftspeople
  • Private cooking workshops
  • Private olive oil and wine tasting
  • Private truffle hunting
  • Private transportation
  • Digital travel diary
  • 24/7 assistance and customer support

Package does not include:

  • International airfare
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Wine purchases
  • Entrance fees to attractions not in the tour
  • Personal expenses
  • Extra meals and drinks
  • Gratuities

Payments

  • Deposit 35% of total – paid at booking
  • Trip balance – 60 days before travel date

Cancellation and Refund Policy

  • Cancellable and refundable up to 60 days before trip start date
  • Maximum refundable amount is 75% of total trip cost.