Friday morning we took a cab to the Europecar office in Lingotto, and then drove the short distance to check out Eataly, the SlowFood showcase store. The place is an huge new space, laid out like a Whole Foods Supermarket. There isn't an enormous amount of stock, since everything seems so carefully chosen. You can eat and drink in the various departments-- a cheese plate or salumi plate here; pasta or pizza there; wine over there; salads and vegetables near the produce area. We each had a very good plate of pasta for lunch, and bought cheese, bread, oil, fresh pasta, and some other goodies. That's a whole aisle of just olive oil.
Larry insisted on using his laptop and GPS to guide our way to the cottage. I don't trust the damn thing after my experience using it to go to the school recycling center in Boston, when it told me to continue on Blue Hill Ave for 5034 miles; and then directed me east through Roxbury and the South End to go to my western destination. But we got to San Martino Alfieri in under an hour.
The cottage is at the very end of the village, up a steep road where if you met a car coming from the opposite direction, one of you'd be in trouble. It's very cute, comfortable but not overly tarted up. There are several levels of terraced yard, pretty views down the hills, and a huge fig tree. The figs aren't yet ripe, which is torture. Here's a picture of sunrise from the bottom terrace:
We drove over to the larger village down the hill, San Damiano d'Asti. It's a pretty, everyday town with an old main street shaded by porticos, a small piazza, and light industry and modern suburb surrounding. We bought some basil at the fruit and vegetable store from what must be the saddest woman in Italy. The poor thing sighed, frowned, and could barely manage to open the cash drawer. I hope she has tomorrow off.
Saturday morning, we were woken up by a rooster, every dog in the hills, and birds fighting in the fig tree. We drove to nearby Asti, and after circling the parking lot in the Campo del Palio with everyone else, finally squeezed into a parking space. It was market day, so town was hopping. We walked down the lively main street, followed the walking tour in the Cadogan guidebook, popped into chruches. I like Asti--it's attractive, busy, has some lovely old buildings. We circled back to the enormous market, spread out over two piazzas. Clothing in one area, housewares in another, food on the far end. Fig and prosciutto ravioli caught my eye from a pasta fresca truck, and we bought a lot of fruit and vegetables.
We returned to the house to unload, then drove around a bit. The area is interesting--most villages have an old core, and there are a lot of newer buildings, light industry, hills covered in vines, hazlenut or peach trees. We drove up a road circling the ridges from Canale d'Alba to Cisterna d'Asti, and had a long, very good lunch at Restaurant Garibaldi. Tables of older ladies eating alone are my benchmark of a restaurant to try when in Italy. It's in an old building, and the interior is covered in great old photos and drawings of the area. We had a good half bottle of wine, an array of antipasti, pasta, and really wonderful dessert.
After lunch,, we headed up, and up some more, to La Morra. Bought wine at an enoteca, rested in the shade (it's really hot today!) On the way home we stopped in the neighboring hilltop village of Govone, where there's a castello, a few shops, and amazing views for the residents of the retirement home in the piazza.
A nice evening on the lower patio. We were still stuffed from lunch, so dinner was sauteed zucchini and zucchini flowers with basil and parmesean. Perfect.