THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & drink:
Italy has so many personalities, which extends to it’s kitchens! As opposed to the seafood heavy South, the local specialties in Piedmont are incredibly rustic- think agnolotti in sage butter sauce, 40 yolk egg noodles and sausage ragu, Brasato al Barolo (red wine braised beef.) After my nine month plus hiatus, we were also very much there for the wine – Piedmont is home to Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto on the red side, and Moscato, Cortese, and new-to-us Arneis on the white.
We stayed in an outrageously wonderful Airbnb sleuthed by our friend and Piedmont veteran C. We split it between a group of 12 guests (plus Sweet Baby J) in Monforte d’Alba – a note that we used the Splitwise app to track expenses and pay each other back, so easy! You do absolutely have to rent a car in the Piedmont region (and for heavy wine drinking days consider renting a bus for a group) – the luscious little villages are perched up high on hills and there isn’t a transit system to navigate you around to each.
Taste wine, eat, and sit by the pool. Seriously consider the bus if everyone in your party wants to indulge – Piedmont roads are windy (Ireland style) and you’ll be happy just to take in the views!
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
I don’t think there was an area I was more excited to visit that Piedmont. Having studied abroad in Rome in college (but without much of a wine palette at 20, where my strategy was to strictly order the “second cheapest” wine on the menu to appear less lame) I had been lucky to see much of Italy, but never got up to the Piedmont region. With our dear friend K’s time running short in Geneva before his return to the US, we were incredibly keen to visit his favorite place in Europe with a visit to Monforte d’Alba.
With a long weekend in May in celebration of Ascension Day, we drove the roughly four hour trip from Geneva. To avoid truly epic holiday weekend traffic through the Mont-Blanc tunnel (which we could not avoid for our Easter trip to Lugano), we left Wednesday night and stayed over in Turin, Italy.
The views from the rest stops in this corner of the world are truly special – this is a shot from the parking lot in Courmayeur (which we visited at Christmas during our week in Chamonix)
We really only walked the main drag in Turin and had dinner, but really enjoyed it! They don’t seem to claim their Olympic status nearly as much as other cities, but it is home to the second largest Egyptian museum in the world – regrettably we didn’t have time to visit, and we also had an 11 week old baby with us…) I read the ascetic of Turin is often compared to Paris and while I was doubtful, with the iron wrought terraces and large boulevards, I could see the comparison!
We had a lovely stroll around the town of Alba the next day, and when we arrived at our Airbnb palace, our mouths dropped. Even with Airbnb so mainstream, you still hold your breath sometimes about a place until you’re safely in the as-advertised door. But the photos could not do this gem justice. Every room had picture windows with views of the Italian Alps and the rolling hills and it was just sensational. The house was on a small vineyard and you could even buy bottles for 10 euro each (reminded me of the cheese in the Alps.)
Our first evening, Chef K made a delicious bolognese and it was lovely to sit around and chop and talk and drink (particularly while our little guy was passed around between friends.)
The next day we had a wonderful lunch at L’Aromatario in the adorable little village of Neive and loaded up on local specialties before visiting two wineries – La Spinetta and Cascina Delle Rose. Both had wonderful hosts who served us a variety of yummy wines and with the purchase of wine covered the cost of the tastings. We loved the incredibly drinkable Barbera D’Asti and “Pin” blend (named for the founder) at La Spinetta (which also served us some yummy parmiggiano and bread) Barbera D’Alba at Cascina Delle Rose, which had sensational vineyard views. The following day, we loaded on a bus and started out bright and early at Lodali – where we met the cutest little Italian grandmother who served us perfectly salted salami and herby frittattas. We loved the Arneis here. We followed up with an excellent set menu at Cascina Schiavenza – more delicious ragu and views for days.
Our last two stops of the day were at Alessandro Rivetto (a very sweet host but a much higher purchase cost to waive the tasting fee) and Ettore Germano (probably the stingiest pours of the whole set but gorgeous scenery and the only spot with a wine from our wedding year, which I had to grab!)
Our last night we sat around the pool with friends scarfing down leftovers and wishing we’d never have to leave. We jumped in the car early the next day to beat the traffic and waxed nostalgically the whole way home about our weekend in the vines. We are super grateful to our friends C, C, and K for all their coordination in planning such a heavenly visit for our group! It was absolutely a trip for the books and certainly on our all-time favorite list.
Oh yeah – and the baby slept beautifully. I’m afraid he has a taste for the good life.
And we took lots of family photos!
James has a special visitor next week (his grandmother!) and in a few weeks, he’ll finally meet his Aunt J and visit Spain for the first time! We’re visiting Malaga, Seville, Asturias, and Mallorca on a quasi work/fun 10 days and really looking forward to James’ first visit to the beach (as well as the manchego!)
Thanks so much for reading! As always check out the travel tracker for our archive of places visited so far!