On Sunday, we had a lazy morning and then took a drive. It's been an adventure finding detailed information about the villages in Piemonte. The guidebooks tend to focus on the large towns and cities, and the more popular wine towns. I've found myself pulling information from several sources--several guidebooks, SlowTrav posts, piles of tourist office pamphlets, maps, the looseleaf binder in the cottage--and then cross indexing to make sense of routes, opening hours of castellos and interesting churches, local shops for cookies and chocolates, market days, museums, less expensive places for lunch. The area is packed with small treasures, it's just a bit of effort to find them instead of driving past what seems to be an unremarkable village.
We wound up driving to Costigliole d'Asti, a pretty larger town with a castello, a cooking school for foreigners, and a wedding in a church staffed with what looked like security guards. Outside of town, a road led up hills and around hairpin turns to Calosso. This was the prettiest village I've seen so far in the area. Old houses, steep streets, a castello, an old tower, churches, and amazing views down into the valley and across to crests of hills. We had lunch at the restaurant of the enoceta, on the patio overlooking the panorama. It was hot under the awning, but the view made up for it. Several groups of families were also eating, and the place looks like a popular destnation for a Sunday drive and pranzo. We really loved this place--the food was wonderful, the people funny and friendly. Antipati of vitello tonnato, and robiola with an herbal sauce; agnolotti al plin; and desserts of a peach stuffed with amaretti and cocoa, and a light hazlenut cake with zabaglone. Desserts in Piemonte are to die for. La Crota de Calos, Calosso, closed Wednesdays.
We followed roads through more villages, and were very amused to see a crossroads outside Montegrosso d'Asti where two scantily-dressed ladies were waiting to transact business of a personal nature.
We stopped back at the house, and then drove the five minutes to Gavone, the village on the next hill. There are a few shops, two cafes, some winding streets, a pretty hilltop park and castello. The Castello, like many others in the area, is only open on Sunday. This was an amazing place to visit--it was begun as a medeival fort, enlarged and given a Baroque facelift, and owned by the Savoys. It was used as the town offices, and many rooms and hallways have shredded wallpaper, waterstains, and a lot of damage. However--many ceilings and walls have unfaded original decorations, marble or wooden inlaid floors and gorgeous ceiling paints. When I read in the guidebook that there were rooms of Chinese wallpaper, I wasn't terribly excited. But this is like no wallpaper I've seen before--detailed paintings of silk production, porcelain making, daily life, animals--it's simply stunning. Our volunteer guide was great--a young woman whose English was as limited as our Italian, but who happily showed us all around and cheerfully made the best of our questions in lousy Italian.
And look at a detail, below: