Today we are leaving Bologna and driving to Alba; a few years ago we stayed in another part of Piemonte and I wanted to return and see another part of the region. Well aware that one does lose time in the travel process, we have a final breakfast at the Hotel Paradise, pack up and take a taxi to Europcar.
Front seat/back seat driver
What should be a relatively simple process is somehow not; paperwork seems endless in spite of the reservation, and then we are driven to a lot away from the office in a car that barely holds our luggage – I am thinking renting at the airport may have been a better idea. The car on the lot that is supposed to be ours has a trunk that does not fit our luggage and a missing piece on the front. I am starting to feel like that ugly American because this is not going to work out, at least not for me. The driver gets the office on the phone, the office person says he can have another car for us maybe in the afternoon, when are we leaving? We are leaving now, I say. Long pause, he says there are no cars at the airport, I repeat that this car is not going to work. Another long pause, he finally says well he supposes he can give us the BMW that is parked in front of the office. So we squeeze ourselves and the luggage back into this 2 door car and drive back to the office. The BMW parked in front of the office is the same car we drove to Bologna a week earlier; I decided not to ask him why he did not just give us the car back in the first place, especially now that it will be returned to where we picked it up. Guess it makes for a story, but I am happy to be driving out of Bologna.
The trip to Alba is relatively painless after that; it is raining lightly, we stop in Parma to retrieve David’s shoes and I can’t resist buying another wedge of parmagiano at the agristurismo shop. Back on the highway we decided to stop for lunch at the Autogrill, have to do that at least once in Italy, and we know what happens when we decided to explore a small town – we get lost, there are no places open, etc. and it’s raining. This is a small Autogrill since we are on a smaller highway, more of a snack shop, but David has pizza and a beer, and I have a caprese salad and a pressed sandwich with a spinach-ricotta filling. This is definitely not the American burger and fries pit-stop of US road trips. Plus I love to look at what else the Autogrill sells, from children’s toys, to pastas, to a deli counter of Italian meats and cheeses.
Our GPS guides us to the Villa Favorita in the rain, even though there is a new highway that totally confuses her. We negotiate the driveway and are met by Roberta, who is very charming; her villa is beautiful, just the perfect blend of cozy and elegant. We will have to explore the grounds tomorrow when it is not raining. She sits with us over a glass of Nebbiolo under a pergola, and basically gives us a complete touring guide to the region, from restaurants to drives; our 4 days will hardly be enough.
View from front door/Villa Favorita
View from our room
Sleeping under the cherubs
After all that a nap is definitely in order, under the cherubs that hang from our ceiling. It is raining harder towards dinner and we decide to venture down the hill to town, and hope for a parking place near the restaurant on the Piazza Savona that looks the shortest walk for David. And we find one, a miracle, I think. We have a delicious dinner in the wine cellar at Enoteca: an amuse-bouche of vegetable frittata, then starters of eggplant parmigiana and ravioli with butter and sage. We both have a segundi of a local specialty: guanciale (beef cheeks) braised in Barolo, there is a hint of cinnamon in the reduction sauce. David is happy with his bottle of Barbera. We share a dessert of spring cherries in a Barolo wine sauce over a fior de latte gelato; David also has a glass of dessert wine. Total comes to just under 90 E, which is fine for a ristorante not a trattoria.
Cherries in a Barolo sauce over fior di Latte gelato
Definitely raining harder on the short ride home, need the defoggers to find our way up the hill, and then off to bed – the wireless access seems to have disappeared, and I hope it is due to the rain. We will make a plan for tomorrow depending on weather, so I guess we will have more than one plan.