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2009 Italy - Piedmont, Lakes Archives

April 23, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 1

Like a lot of you, I started planning this 2009 trip to Italy the minute we returned from the last trip in 2006. In my head, of course, because I didn't dare tell Bill I was ready to travel again to the same country we had just returned from.

Bill is of the opinion that people should travel to places they haven't been before. I believe that, to a certain extent, but when there is a place that you completely fall in love with, you want to return there. And, besides, I wanted to go to a different region of Italy, so it WAS a new location for us.

And that different region was Piedmont! And the ultimate destination there was Baur Bed & Breakfast!

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Photo by Karen Mickleson

Several of our Slow Travel bloggers have visited Baur B&B and written glowing reports - particularly Palma and Jerry. They raved so much that I knew we had to visit there. So, this became the centerpiece of our trip planning.

Baur B&B was planning huge renovations during 2009 and, originally, was not planning on opening to guests at all. But, lucky for us, the plans changed slightly, and they decided to open for late summer and early fall months. Our dates were in September, so the trip was ON! This was the first (and most important) reservation that we confirmed. Yeah!

April 24, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 2

After confirming our reservations at Baur Bed & Breakfast, the next task was to find airline flights. I had saved up points on my American Express card for several years, I now had enough points for us to fly business class to Milan. But, having the points and getting the reservations is (as we all know) two different things.

So, I haunted the Continental website (where I could book either Continental or Delta flights) well before the date where I could actually book a flight. I wanted to get a feel for what was available.

When you live on the West Coast, traveling to Europe is an all-day proposition. I am really envious of East Coast travelers who can make a quick trip to London or Paris or Rome for a weekend. How great that must be!

Anyway, my goal was to try to get flights from the West Coast with only one layover. AND I didn't want to fly out of LAX - Ontario is the closest major airport to where we live and much easier to get in and out of.

It turned out that the only itinerary with only one layover was on Delta from ONT to ATL and ATL to MXP. So, after checking every day (several times) for availability, I booked the tickets online. No confirmation, though, so I called Continental to see what the problem was. Long story short, it took several calls, but I got business class tickets on Delta for the outgoing flight but could only get coach seats on Continental on the way home.

That's OK, though, because on the way home, I don't care that much - the vacation is over and I will be depressed anyway, so we might as well sit in coach!

So, flights are booked - Leaving September 2nd and returning home September 22nd. I can't wait!

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April 25, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 3

Now that airline flights are booked, other hotel reservations can be made. Here is the itinerary I have figured out:

9/2/09 - Fly ONT to MXP - Arrive on 9/3
9/3/09 - Two days in Milan before heading to Lake Como
9/5/09 - Four days in Lake Como
9/9/09 - Pick up car in Milan and drive to Torino for two days
9/11/09 - Drive to Acqui Terme for 10 days at Baur B&B
9/21/09 - Drive back to Milan to spend last night
9/22/09 - Fly home MXP - ONT


Milan

We haven't explored Milan before - just passed thru the train station on the way to Lake Como in 2006. So, we will take a couple of days to get over our jet-lag and check out the city.

I looked at a lot of hotels online and came up with Hotel Lancaster near Cadorna station. It is a smaller hotel (which I like) and near public transportation into the central part of the city, but only a 15-minute walk. 189E a night and it now seems to be completely booked for our dates, so I am glad I made an early reservation.

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Lake Como

We loved Albergo Lenno when we visited Lake Como in 2006, so we decided to stay there again. It's located right behind the ferry station in Lenno, which is a nice quiet little town. We loved it there! 180E a night for a room with a balcony overlooking the lake.

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Torino

We've never been to Torino either, so we are looking forward to our stay there. Several Slow Travel posters have raved about Hotel Victoria - I thought that was a good recommendation, so I booked two nights there. 190E a night plus 22E for parking (we are picking up a car at the Milan train station and driving to Torino).

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Piedmont - Acqui Terme

Next, of course, is our 10-day stay at Baur Bed & Breakfast in Acqui Terme. We will drive there from Torino and will do daytrips to many of the surrounding towns. I am SO looking forward to that, especially Diana's out-of-this-world breakfasts!

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Milan Again

Back to Milan again for our last night in Italy before flying home. I wanted to stay close to the airport to make sure we didn't miss our flight. I checked out several possibilities online and decided on First Hotel Malpensa. Got an online bargain rate of 99E, which I thought was great.

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So, the lodging is all booked - on to other research!

April 28, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 4

Yesterday I wrote about our cheesemaking group on Slow Travel and said "there is no such thing as too much cheese". We will find out if that is true in September when we are in Piedmont.

On the last weekend of our stay at Baur Bed & Breakfast, a bi-annual event is being held in the nearby town of Bra, the Slow Food CHEESE! festival.

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I haven't found the schedule for the 2009 event yet, but here is lots of information for the last CHEESE! festival in 2007.

Wikipedia has a page on the Slow Food movement and its history.


Here are some photos from the brochure for the 2007 event:

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Continue reading "2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 4" »

May 8, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 5

Milan To-Do List

Our first stop in Italy is Milan. I knew we would probably be jet-lagged when we arrived, so we are spending two nights there before we head to Lake Como.

Having never been to Milan before, we do want to see what the city is all about, but two days is not a lot of time, so this needs to be an organized effort. For that reason, I am booking a half-day tour of the major attractions. Here is the Viator tour I am planning on booking.

The Last Supper - First and foremost (like all first-time visitors to Milan), we want to see The Last Supper painting.

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The Last Supper is housed at Santa Maria delle Grazie

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the stops on the Milan tour.

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Another stop is La Scala theatre and museum.

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The last stop on the tour is the Duomo di Milano. I have heard so much about the view from the rooftop, so I really want to do that.

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May 9, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 6

Lake Como To-Do List

Our second stop in Italy is Lenno on Lake Como where we will spend four days. We have a few things we would like to do while we are there.

When we were in Lenno in 2006, one of the highlights was a tour of Villa del Balbianello. The setting is so beautiful, and we would really like to revisit the Villa. Here is one of the photos I took in 2006:

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Bill has requested that we take a day trip by train into Switzerland. Since Como is only a few miles from the Swiss border, that shouldn't be a problem. So, maybe just a short trip for lunch and back again. Or maybe the Bernina Express. Guess I need to do a little more research on that!

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I have read a little bit about Isola Comacina, the only island on Lake Como. It sounds like an interesting place to visit. A restaurant on the island, Locanda dell'Isola Comacina, serves a multi-course meal that has been on the menu since 1947!

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Last but certainly not least, I would like to have a George Clooney sighting. That would really make my day! Here are some photos of his Villa Oleandra in Laglio, Lake Como.

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Of course, I read in People Magazine that David Beckham is subletting the villa, so maybe George won't be around.

May 11, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 7

Torino To-Do List

On to Torino from Lake Como - just for a couple of days, though, before we head to Piemonte. So, once again, we have to cram a lot of sightseeing into two days.


The Egyptian Museum is definitely something we want to see. It contains the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt.

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The Mole Antonelliana is called the symbol of Torino. It houses the Cinema Museum, which sounds like a really interesting experience.

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And then there is the CHOCOLATE! Torino is known for its chocolate, called Gianduiotto - a combination of cocoa, sugar, and hazelnuts. A visit to Caffè Al Bicerin is definitely on the schedule! Here is a great review from Slow Travel.

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Almost forgot! We want to be sure to visit Eataly in Torino. It is said to be the world's biggest food and wine center. This I have to see!

May 12, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 8

Piemonte To-Do List - Events

Things to do in Piemonte - this is a hard list to start because we are going to be there for 10 days, and there are so many possibilities!

The weekend that we arrive, Acqui Terme will be having its Pro Loco Festival, so we wouldn't want to miss that! I am told that this is a street fest where all of the local food producers serve samples. Plus I am sure there will also be local wine. Can't wait!

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The last weekend we are in Piemonte, the bi-annual Slow Food CHEESE! is being held in nearby Bra. I wrote a blog entry about that a couple of weeks ago.


That same weekend is the Palio di Asti - here is what Wikipedia says. This is going to be a hard decision - too many events, too little time!


May 13, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 9

Piemonte To-Do List - Places

We chose Acqui Terme as our base in Piemonte because of the lovely Baur Bed & Breakfast, but Acqui Terme itself has a lot of things to see. Here's what Diana (of Baur B&B) writes on her website:

Acqui Terme

Lying in the southeastern corner of Piedmont, Acqui Terme is really a geographical and cultural combination of Piedmont and Liguria. In this area, the Ligurian maritime atmosphere, with its multicoloured hidden villages and olive groves transforms into Piedmont‘s stunning Appennine mountain scapes, noble wine hills, and rich cuisine.

Acqui Terme is about 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the harbor city of Genoa and the Mediterranean coast, 80 kilometers (55 miles) from Turin, and 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Milan. The city of 20,000 boasts 75 degree Celsius thermal spas with day facilities, a historically restored shopping district, and countless restaurants, cafes and shops. Cathedrals, churches, museums and historical ruins can be found everywhere.

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Diana also wrote an article on Slow Travel on the charms of Acqui Terme.


Because of the close proximity of Acqui to the Ligurian coast, I definitely want to spend a day in Camogli. We visited Camogli back in 2004 on our Med cruise, but it was only for a couple of hours. Everyone who has spent time there gives such glowing reports, so I want to pay a return visit and see more of it.

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Then there are the rolling hills of the wine regions to explore. The grape harvest should be in full swing, so that will be fun to see. No definite destinations - just see where the roads lead us

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May 14, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 10

Piemonte To-Do List - Restaurants

After eating the huge gourmet breakfasts at Baur B&B, we will probably only need one other meal a day. And, instead of dinner on Italian time, I am thinking that a late lunch would be better and then just snacks for dinner. That way, we will be hungry for Diana's feast the next morning!

But, I plan to break that rule at least once - after hearing the glowing reports from Jerry and Palma, I just HAVE to have dinner at I Caffi in Acqui Terme. Here is Jerry's blog post on dinner there.

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Other than that, we have no definite restaurant plans. I am making notes of restaurant names that Slow Travelers have mentioned and will take that list with me to refer to.

One thing is for certain - we won't go hungry!

May 15, 2009

2009 Trip - Italy - Planning, Part 11

Piemonte To-Do List - Wine

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Like the old saying goes, so much wine, so little time! But we are going to do our best to taste the wonderful wines that Piemonte has to offer. Here's a little background from Wikipedia.

I am hoping that Diana (of Baur B&B) will be able to arrange a winetasting at her friend Domenico's place, like Jerry and Paul did last year. It sounded like a great way to really get to know the wines at a very local level. Here is what Jerry reported on the tasting - it was one of his top five favorite things during his May 2008 trip.

Other than that, we will probably taste a lot of the Big Three B's (Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera) and one D (Dolcetto) plus anything else we come across in our travels. I know most of the reds in Piemonte are world-class, but I want to try some of the whites too. And one other B, of course - Brachetto, a frizzante light red dessert wine.

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So many wines - So little time!

May 18, 2009

2009 Trip - Camogli or Portofino?

Last week I posted that while we are in Piemonte in September, we want to visit Camogli. Now I am wondering if it should be Portofino instead. Or if we can visit both towns in one day.

Feedback anyone?

Camogli (as I have previously mentioned) was a stop on a Med cruise we took in 2004, but we only spent two hours there. I would like to see more of it, and I don't want to shortchange it by rushing off to see Portofino too.

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We also visted Portofino on the cruise (same stop same day), and it seemed more tourist oriented (very high prices), but it too has its charm. We walked up to the darling little church above the town and enjoyed being away from the tourists.

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What to do, what to do?

September 1, 2009

Preparing to Leave Town

Had lots to do today, but Mother Nature (and the Oak Glen fire) didn't want to cooperate. Our electricity went off about 9:30 am and wasn't restored until 3:30 pm.

This meant, of course, that the work I intended to get done today did not happen. Plus the fact that the house got hot, hot, hot! Personally, I do not like hot weather, but Hoochie hates it even more than I do. She should definitely be a beach dog!

So, we took Hoochie girl to her vacation B & B a little early so that she could cool off. Renaissance Pet Resort is located about 10 miles from where we live.

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We have tried several boarding facilities and like this one the best. They are really nice to all of the animals, and the doggy rooms are very cute, with little cot-type beds for the dogs.

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September 2, 2009

On Our Way - A Bad Start

Yes indeed, it was a bad start to a very long day.

We got up at 3 am to leave at 4:30 to drive to Ontario Airport.

Out the door at 4:30, but Bill can't find his wallet. Searched the house for half an hour with no luck. So, he has no driver's license, no ATM card, and no credit cards. Luckily I had his passport.

We were late getting to the Park 'n Fly place - they whisked us over to the airport with just under half an hour to spare, but that was too late for our checked bags. So, we had to take them as carry-ons.

In the meantime, going thru security, Bill got completely wanded and searched because of his hip replacement. They then found some large bottles of liquids in the bags that were to have been checked. Two bottles they let go, but the third one was a bottle of fancy cologne (about $50) which they kept. Bill argued, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, the flight was giving its final boarding call. We made it but by the skin of our teeth.

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Atlanta Airport - A Pleasant Surprise!

Our luck changed in Atlanta. First of all, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is lovely. This was my first time there, and I loved it It was clean and roomy and uncrowded.

We landed in Terminal B and made our way to Terminal E for our international flight. Very easy to navigate.

But, what we found in Terminal E (besides many nice shops) was a complete surprise - a high-class restaurant - One Flew South..

We just happened upon it while trying to find our gate and, since we had a five-hour layover, decided to try it. It was a good decision!

Michael was our waiter, and he told us a little bit bout the restaurant and its chefs, Duane Nutter and Todd Richards, who even competed on Iron Chef America back in 2006.

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First came the wine - a number of wines by the glass to choose from. Momo New Zealand sauvignon blanc for me and Kenneth Volk Paso Robles chardonnay for Bill. Each glass was served in a small decanter - very classy.

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We chose two of their sushi rolls - Spicy Tuna Roll and Bagel Roll (Smoked salmon, yogurt, English cucumber and citrus). Then an Arugula Salad (arugula, potatoes, cherries, pecans, honey vinaigrette) and Salmon Hot Pot. Everything was delicious! Not what you would expect at an airport restaurant.

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Michael even had Chef Duane Nutter come out to meet us, and I had my picture taken with him.

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This lovely dinner sort of made up for the hassles getting to our flight.

September 3, 2009

Milano - First Day

The Delta flight was very pleasant. I had enough FF points to fly business class, but we could only book the outgoing flight. So, we are back in coach for our trip home. Boo hoo!

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We took the Malpensa Express to the Cadorna station and then walked to Hotel Lancaster. Our room was very nice and had a huge bathroom with two sinks.

We hadn't slept much for two nights, so we crashed for a couple of hours. By then it was time for dinner. We got a recommendation from the hotel desk and headed won to Corso Sempione (a main drag). Lots of sidewalk cafes, so we sat down to have a glass of wine and to eat free appetizers. I had heard of the aperitivo bars in Torino but not in Milan. Yum! This was enough for dinner.

We walked a little further down Corso Sempione and found a huge crowd of partying young people. Headed back to the hotel at about midnight.

By the way, Milan is still pretty hot and humid, but a cooling trend is on the way. Yeah!

September 4, 2009

Milano - Second Day

We are taking the city walking and bus tour today at 2:30, so we had the whole morning to relax and look around.

We walked thru Parco Sempione on the way to the tour meeting place. Nice cool place to walk. They even had a section where dogs could run without a leash. Hoochie would have loved it here!

Here are some photos of Castello Sforzesco, which is on one end of Parco Sempione.

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I booked the city tour thru Expedia about a month ago and paid 67 USD per person then. The tour's cost was now 55 Euro, so I guess I got a bargain, I am not crazy about tours, but we only had one full day in Milan, so we wanted to at least see the highlights.

The tour included the La Scala opera house, Milan Duomo, Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, Castello Sforzesco and last - what everyone was there for - a viewing of The Last Supper.

Here are photos of the famous La Scala opera house:

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This is the Galleria Emanuele - I wish we had more time to look around the shops:

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And the Milan Duomo:

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When we got to the location of "The Last Supper", each group had only 15 minutes inside. A lot of people don't know that The Last Supper is not painted on canvas but on a wall. The painting is huge, measuring 15 x 29 ft.

On the opposite wall, facing The Last Supper, is the Crucifixion fresco by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano.

After resting and cooling off a little, we did go to the recommended restaurant - La Taverna dei Golosi and had a light dinner.

September 5, 2009

Moving Day - Off to Lake Como

After breakfast we headed back to Cadorna station to catch the train to Lake Como. I am just getting used to our new Garmin Nuvi 770 GPS unit, but I think it did help us get there.

Malpensa Express is operated by FerovieNord, a local commuter line that also goes to Lake Como and a couple of other places. It arrives right at the waterfront in Como rather than at the Trenitalia station.

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We hopped on the ferry and arrived in Lenno about 40 minutes later. Albergo Lenno is right behind the ferry station, and it looks just the same as it did three years ago.

We didn't get our same room but the one next door, which has a larger deck. It is SO beautiful here, and the weather is just gorgeous!

After unpacking a little bit, we walked down the waterfront to check things out and make our dinner reservation.

Our favorite restaurant last time was Ristorante Plinio, so that is where we had our first-night dinner. Bill had a green salad and spaghetti with a wonderful ragu sauce. I had homemade tortelloni with spinach and sage and butter sauce. Then lake fish with sage and butter sauce.

Since I was behind on my gelato consumption (I vowed to have at least one a day), we stopped for dessert on the way home.

September 6, 2009

Lake Como - Villa Balbianello

We just couldn't be this close to Villa Balbianello and not go to see it again. We thought about walking but thought better of it and took the motorboat.

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A tour of the buildings was just leaving, so off we went. Such a gorgeous location!

Our tour guide was a darling young girl. She was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

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We wandered around the grounds a little after the tour and then headed back to our hotel.

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Dinner this evening was at Santo Stefano, a tiny little place with a good reputation.

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My pasta course was great - gorgonzola and melon. Sounds like a strange combination, but I loved it.

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My secondi was a veal chop with butter and sage. Bill had a veal chop too, but his was breaded and fried. Both were very good.

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We shared a semifreddo with amaretto for dessert.

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September 7, 2009

Lake Como - Isola Comacina

In researching for this trip, I read about the only island on Lake Como and the unusual dinner that is served at Locanda dell'Isola Comacina. This was on our agenda for today.

But the best-laid plans do not always work out, do they? We had kind of decided that dinner there wouldn't work because the ferries don't run late enough to get us home. So lunch was our only option. But we got up so late that we weren't ready for a five-course lunch by 1:00 or 1:30.

Plus the fact that the set-price was 60 Euro - this kind of convinced us to skip the meal and just go visit the island. So that is what we did. We caught the ferry to the island and hiked around it for a couple of hours.

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Someday we will go back and have a better plan on how the eat the meal too. The exact same meal has been served since 1947 - kind of a tradition.

No restaurant for us this evening. We picked up food to go andf brought it back to enjoy on our balcony/deck and watch the world go by.

Another beautiful day in Paradise!

September 8, 2009

Lake Como - Ferry Tour

Our last day in Lake Como - Boo Hoo! We decided to get a day pass on the ferry and visit some of the other towns. Since we had already been to Bellagio on our last trip, Varenna and Mennagio became our agenda for today.

Varenna came first and we spent a couple of hours there walking along the water and visiting two gardens - Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. The latter was quite large, and both gardens were by the water's edge. I guess we must be more into gardens than museums or churches - it seems like that is where we usually end up.

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Continue reading "Lake Como - Ferry Tour" »

September 9, 2009

Moving Day - On to Torino

I think that I have said this before, so please forgive me for repeating myself, but I HATE moving days.

We stalled our checkout at Albergo Lenno until the last possible moment (we hated leaving beautiful Lenno). Said goodbye to Luca at the front desk, who had been so helpful to us.

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Took the ferry back to Como, checking out the shoreline for George Clooney's house in Laglio. Here is a nice article about George's house there. Also some pictures.

Walked to the train station (Bill insisted that it was close enough to walk, but getting lost made it a hike) and had an hour's wait for the fast train to Milan. It was very busy there, ticket lines were long, and most of the automatic ticket machines were out of service. This darling young Italian boy/man helped me get the tickets, and we barely made the train to Torino. We paid for first class but never found the right car, and we had too much stuff to keep hauling around so we just stayed where we found seats.

When we got to Torino, I insisted on taking a cab to the hotel, the beautiful Hotel Victoria (thank you Palma and Brad for the recommendation).

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After getting settled in, we headed on in search of aperitivo bars. I had read an article online about all of the aperitivo bars in Torino. #1 on the list was Caffe San Carlo, just down the piazza from the famous Caffe Torino. Here is a list of several of the apeitivoi bars.

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Not too busy when we got there, so we got our wine and a plate of goodies and sat down on one of the old velvet couches. Splat! The couch I sat on broke! The little wooden leg collapsed!

I was fine and we moved to another location. But, when we went to pay, they refused to take our money (24E) because of the "incident".

Free dinner and wine - yeah!

Here is their beautiful Murano glass chandelier:
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September 10, 2009

Torino - One Day is not Enough!

A lovely breakfast at Hotel Victoria started our day.

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By the time we got ready to go, it was nearly noon.

We headed straight to the Cinema Museum at Mole Antoniella.

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By the time we walked thru the whole museum and took the lift to the top to check out the view, it was too late for the Egyptian Museum - at least to give it the time it deserved. Guess we will have to do that on another trip.

We took a different route home thru Giardini Royale. Kind of a funny story - we stopped this lady on a bicycle to ask directions. She asked if we spoke English and then proceeded to tell us that she had lived in SoCal for more than 20 years, but her husband wanted to move back to Italy to die and now she was stuck here. She just loved California and her two children were there but she had to stay in Italy with her husband. She was so funny!

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After resting a bit, we headed back out to an aperitivo bar for dinner. This one was called Arancia di Mezzanotte and was also mentioned in the article I mentioned yesterday.

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All I can say is WOW! After we had ordered our wine (8E each), the plates of aperitivi began arriving until they covered the whole table.

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It's a good thing we had a long walk to get back to our hotel because we needed it after all that food!

September 11, 2009

Moving Day - Torino to Acqui Terme

After another great breakfast at Hotel Victoria, we caught a cab to the car rental place (Europcar) in the Lingotta area. There was a method to our madness because Eataly (a Slow Food entity) is right down the street. We walked there because we didn't think we could find our way back in the car - it was a long walk but well worth it.

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Eataly is fantastic! I could have spent half a day looking at all of the food products - aisles of pastas and olive oils and cheeses, gorgeous counters of meats and fish - just anything you could think of that pertains to food.

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Then we had the ask of getting out of Torino. Even with the GPS (or maybe because of the GPS), we just went round and round.

Once we got on the main road (autostrada?) we did fine until we got to Acqui Terme and couldn't find the road to Baur B&B.

We finally made it there and were greeted and shown around by Diana, Micha and Max. What a lovely place. I can tell I will not want to leave when our 10 days are up.

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Diana fixed us a delicious dinner - focaccia, a light pasta and for dessert fresh peaches with Brachetto d'Acqui plus fresh goat cheese and marmalade that had a kick to it.

I neglected to get a photo of the dessert, but here is the delicious pasta:

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Ah, I feel like I have come home!

September 12, 2009

Acqui Terme - Pro Loco

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Our first gourmet breakfast at Baur B&B, and it lived up to its stellar reputation! Take a look at this spread:

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Pear crostatta - Yogurt & Muesli - Fresh baked bread, butter & jam - Fresh peaches and figs - Salumi - Tomatoes & mozzarella - Micha's new fruit drink of cantaloupe, strawberries & bananas - A couple pots of coffee too.

Then Bill and I shared a cheese and herb fritatta - it was delicious!

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We just hung out at the B&B until noon and then drove into Acqui Terme to look around. Stands were going up for the evening's Pro Loco festival.

Too early to stick around, so we went back to the B&B for a little nap before the evening's festivities.

The Acqui Pro Loco is one of the many local festivals in Piemonte where local food products and wine are featured.

We wandered around checking out all of the booths and finally settled on a couple of items, including a seafood pasta - we sat at one of the picnic tables to eat.

A band began playing and the serious fun was just beginning, but we wanted to drive "home" before it was completely dark.

Just call us old folks!


September 13, 2009

Acqui Terme - A Drive to Barolo & La Morra

Woo Hoo! Breakfast #2 at Baur B&B, and I was hungry!

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Today's spread included the following:
Focaccia hot from the oven - Figasms (as our friend Palma calls them) - Proscuitto - Yogurt & muesli - Fresh strawberries, figs & plums - Fresh goat cheese with Acacia honey - Tomatoes & basil & balsamic - Fresh fruit drink (cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas) - Again, lots of good coffee.

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And here is a closeup of the Figasms:

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For those of you who don't know what a Figasm is - This name was created by Palma of Palmabella's Passions on Slow Travel when she first visited Baur B&B a couple of years ago. Diana knew that Palma was a fig fanatic, so she stuffed the figs with Gorgonzola and wrapped them in Prosciutto and sauteed them in butter. It was an orgasmic experience, thus the name Figasm.

We decided to drive to Barolo today. Micha marked the map for us with both the "fast way" and the more picturesque way. We decided to take the picturesque route on the way over and the highway route on the way back.

The road kind of winds its way thru the mountains, and the rolling hills of vineyards were just gorgeous. The grapes were heavy on the vines and almost ready to pick. Bill kept remarking how manicured the grapevines were compared to those in California.

Barolo was jammed with people and cars, so we kept going to La Morra where we stopped.

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Tried for lunch at the famous Belvedere, but we were too late.

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Had a late lunch at a little place in La Morra - a couple of pastas, a cold roast beef special, and a chocolate dessert.

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A bonus was the entertainment provided by an accordian player at the restaurant.

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The trip back to Acqui took about half the time it took to get there but was not nearly as picturesque.

September 14, 2009

Acqui Terme - A Rainy Day

Our day began with a rainstorm - lots of thunder and lightening and rain, so breakfast was served in the Baurs' lovely new kitchen. What a pleasure it must be to cook there.

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On the menu today was:
My usual yogurt & muesli - Freshly baked focaccia - Peach crostata - Local goat cheese - Fresh strawberries, pears & peaches - Proscuitto -Tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic & marjoram - Fresh fruit juice drink created by Micha - Coffee too.

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These are our neighbors in the other room at Baur B&B - Joe and Judy, who are also from Southern California. Joe read my blog and noticed that we were going to be at the B&B the same week, so we introduced ourselves by email before we even arrived.

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We took a ride into Acqui to scout out the location of tonight's restaurant, I Caffi. Several of our Slow Travel friends have dined there and raved about it, so it is our one splurge dinner of this trip.

Acqui Terme - I Caffi Dinner

Well, tonight was the dinner we had been eagerly anticipating - I Caffi! We had read the reviews of several Slow Travelers, including Jerry's, whose review I printed out in color and took with us to the restaurant. I gave it to the proprietor, the handsome Paolo, before we left, and he was trying to read it, with help from Sara. So, Jerry, you will be welcomed back with open arms after your beautiful review.

We arrived at the restaurant right at 8 pm and were the first to be seated in the dining room. We were also the last ones to leave at 11 pm. It was a slow night, I guess because it was Monday, so that meant that we got lots of attention and wonderful service.

Here are the two of us just after we were seated:

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Here are the table settings - color coordinated "placemat" and "bread plate" and water glass. Mine was green, and Bill's was gold. The glassware was very familiar to us - it was the Riedel Vinum Extreme series that we use at home. I love the shape of the glasses, kind of modern. The Italian beer was served in the sauvignon blanc glass, the dolcetto was served in the cabernet glass, and the barbera was served in the pinot noir glass.

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Our first course was a small sandwich with salami and fig. It was paired with an Italian beer.

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Next, as Jerry had predicted, came the never-ending basket of small rolls. We were each served four on our "bread plate". Bill finished a couple of his, and they were immediately replaced.

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The second course was beautifully presented - Raw veal with shaved parmesan on top. It was served with a little glass of lemon juice and three types of salt, along with some fresh goat cheese. Luckily, I knew that we were to pour the lemon juice over the top before eating it. It was wonderful!

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The next course doesn't photograph nearly as well as it tasted. It was a potato that was hollowed out with mushroom souffle inside and a Parmesan cream sauce. This may have been our favorite course of the evening. We may try to recreate it at home.

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Before we began our dinner, we had been shown some white truffles and asked if we wanted them served on our pasta. I was really excited to hear that it was a possibility because it wasn't really truffle season for another month or so. The additional price was 14E per person. We said yes, so our pasta was served with olive oil and the tartuffi. Yum!

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Next came the meat course, which was small lamb chops with braised fennel and a rosemary sauce. Another winner!

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As previously reported by Jerry, a plate of small sweet treats arrived first, followed closely by the dessert, a kind of chocolate lava cake with lavender gelato in a dark chocolate "box". It took second place on my favorite list.

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Besides the Italian beer with the first course, we were served Chionetti Dolcetto di Dogliani and Vigne Marina Coppi San't Andrea Colle Tortonesi Barbera. Both were delicious.

The cost for the dinner with wine was 66E each plus the additional amount for the tartuffi. Well worth the price, we thought.

September 15, 2009

Acqui Terme - Market Day

Still raining today, so breakfast was in the kitchen again. On the menu today was the usual yogurt and muesli, fresh juice drink and freshly baked focaccia PLUS:

French Toast with sauteed apples and plums - A beautiful plate o mixed fruits - Local cheese, prosciutto and tomatoes.

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Diana and Micha told us about today's market day in Acqui, so we figured we could drive in the rain at least that far. So off we went.

Wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables plus cheeses and fish. Take a look:
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Continue reading "Acqui Terme - Market Day" »

Acqui Terme - Wine Tour

On the agenda for today was a wine tour with Micha Baur of Baur B&B.

We started with a stop at Alice Bel Colle, one of the highest points in the area. Here is the view from there:

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And the darling little church just below:

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Then on to Ricaldone Cantina Sociale, which was really interesting. It is a cooperative where many people bring grapes, and wine is made from the combined grapes. It is distributed in bulk from machines that look like gas pumps. Take a look:

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People bring in large containers for the wine to be "pumped" into. Micha says that sometimes they take it home and put it in bottles to make it last longer. What a great deal - wish we had that in the US!

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Next stop was Cantine Maranzana, another cooperative, where harvest of the Freisa grape was in progress. Any member of the cooperative who had Freisa grapes brought them to the cantina to be combined and crushed. It was a fun thing to watch.

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The young guy in the last photo really liked having his picture taken. He kept smiling and hamming it up for the camera.


Then a quick stop in the "cookie town", Mombaruzzo, where we bought both almond flavored cookies but also nocciolo flavored ones. I hope they don't get squashed on the way home.

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Our last stop of the day, though, was the best - a visit to Diana and Micha's friend, Domenico, who hand-crafts his wines like his father and grandfather did for years, producing about 20,000 bottles a year.

Continue reading "Acqui Terme - Wine Tour" »

September 16, 2009

Acqui Terme to Alba

The rain continues, and it is making me very nervous. There's supposed to be a heavy rain today, and the road to Baur B&B is already washing out in places. Wimp that I am about driving on Italian roads, I must admit that I am concerned.

I talk this over with Diana and Micha,, and they suggest that we leave before the rain gets too bad to get closer to Bra where the Slow Food Cheese festival is being held - perhaps to Alba. I certainly didn't want to leave them in the lurch, but they explain that they have someone on a waiting list (who is already in the area) who would be delighted to have our room.

So our 10-day visit turned into just five days, but a wonderful five dauys it was! Thank you to all of the Baurs, including the adorable Max.

Diana was kind enough to find us a room in Alba at Hotel Langhe and gave us Via Michelin directions to get there. It rained quite a bit on the way there, but we made it.

The Hotel Langhe was a pleasant surprise. We weren't expecting a lot since the town is full because of the Slow Food Cheese and we got the very last room at Hotel Langhe. But it was lovely - a couple of miles outside the city center and very quiet, with lush foliage.

Here are some photos:

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They welcomed us with a glass of wine and cappuccino:
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This is the front desk area and where breakfast (and cocktails) are served:
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And pictures of the room:

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The best part was the huge balcony with a view:

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September 17, 2009

Alba - A Lazy Day

Hotel Langhe has a buffet breakfast - not lavish but fine.

We drove to the centro storico (city center) to look around and scout out a restaurant for dinner, but it was during the mid-day closing, so most stores and restaurants were closed.

Didn't do too much for the rest of the day - Bill has been catching up on his reading and has finished four books so far. He's a pretty slow reader, so that is a lot of reading for him.

We saw a pizzeria a couple of blocks from our hotel that we could walk to for dinner, and it turned out to be a great choice. It was called La Pignatta. I found their website - only in Italian though.

Bill had a Shrimp Scampi Pasta - the shrimp were whole, with heads included. It was good, he said, but a lot of work.

I had my first Italian pizza, with tomatoes and arugula. Yum! Half a carafe of their house white and half a carafe of their house Dolcetto.

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September 18, 2009

Alba - To Bra for Cheese!

One of our main sightseeing goals was to attend the bi-annual Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra.

I checked out their website for parking options, and they said that the best way to get there was by train, with the festival only a couple of blocks from the train station. I thought that was terrific - I could drink a little wine and not have to worry about driving back to Alba in the rain.

There was a nice parking structure at the train station in Alba, so we parked there and hopped on the train for the 20-minute ride to Bra.

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We could see the festival tents about a block away - a LOT of tents!

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I have never seen so much cheese in my whole life! Every kind of cheese you can think of (and some you wouldn't think of) from countries around the world.

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This cute little man was serving a delicious Balsamico on a hunk of cheese
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It was actually kind of overwhelming. If I were to go to Cheese again, I would have a better plan on what to taste. And also plan to do a couple of the organized seminars.

We spent about three hours there tasting cheeses and drinking a little wine before we took the train back to Alba. It had started to rain a little bit by then, so we just had a light dinner in the lobby of Hotel Langhe.

While we were waiting for the train in Bra, we noticed an apartment building with this little kitty sitting in the window.
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We bought hunks of two cheeses (Emmentaler from Switzerland and Geitost from Norway), along with a plate of various French Goat Cheeses, so we had something to snack on for a couple of days.

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September 19, 2009

Alba - Hanging around Town

The sun is out this morning - yeah! We got another late start and arrive in central Alba (again) during the mid-day closing.

We did find a great gelateria that was open and sustained ourselves with a couple of scoops (actually, Bill had three).

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We had been told that there was a Michelin-Star restaurant in Alba named Piazza Duomo, so we tried to find it. Not that we wanted to eat there because it was 100E for just the tasting menu (no wine), and we had already had our "splurge dinner". We found the location and at least got to see the menu.

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As we were heading back to our car, the heavens opened up, and it rained harder than I have ever seen in my entire life. We got under the tent covering of one of the sidewalk cafes, but that ended up being a huge lake, so we ran under one of the porticoes until it slowed down a little so we could get to our car. I had an umbrella, but I got soaked anyway.

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I am hoping that this downpour didn't disrupt the Slow Food Cheese too much, but I suspect that it did.


Back to the La Pignatta for dinner. This time we both had pizza. Bill's was shrimp and arugula, and mine was Italian sausage (I didn't write down the exact name) and Gorgonzola.

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And our wine was a wonderful La Strette Barbera d'Alba.

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September 20, 2009

Alba - Visiting Neive & Barbaresco

Our last day in Alba, so we decide to drive to some of the neighboring towns. Nico was the front desk guy, and he suggested Neive, which is just a couple of miles from Barbaresco. He said it was the prettiest town in Italy and one of his favorite places.

We agreed - it was a darling town. Several nice sidewalk restaurants and a couple of beautiful churches.

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Then on to Barbaresco and the Enoteca Regionale.

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Continue reading "Alba - Visiting Neive & Barbaresco" »

September 21, 2009

Alba to Milano

Yikes! Another moving day! We checked out about noon. Everyone had been so nice at Hotel Langhe - the front desk people went out of their way to help us in any way they could.

We had map diections and our GPS to get us to Malpensa Airport in Milan. I made a few wrong turns along the way, but we finally made it.

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First Hotel Malpensa is located just a mile or so from the airport, and they offer a free shuttle service. Our first order of business after we checked in was to return our rental car to Malpensa, and the hotel came to pick us up.

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We loved the little Peugeot 207 that we rented in Torino. It had 1500kl on it when we got it, so practically brand new. Bill would have taken it home if he could have gotten it into his suitcase.

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Back to First Hotel Malpensa, and we had a glass of wine in the lobby, which was decorated in kind of a modern theme.

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Continue reading "Alba to Milano" »

September 22, 2009

Milano to Home Sweet Home

One last photo of First Hotel Malpensa.

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We had a 6 a.m. wakeup call - I wanted to get to the airport early to try to resolve a couple of little travel glitches.

We were flying coach on the way home and I took a calculated risk and booked seats C and E in the center section, hoping that no one would be sitting between us. When I checked the seating chart before we left home, it appeared that the plane was full and we would have a passenger between us.

More important, though, was the fact that we each wanted to check a second bag to accommodate our wine purchases, and Continental was charging an astronomical $50 each. Since we are not Elite flyers, our only hope was that Bill has a Continental FF credit card which would exempt us from the baggage fees. Or should I say he HAD a credit card - remember the missing wallet?

Luckily I had photocopied all of his credit cards and DL before we left home, so I thought it was worth a try to get out of the baggage fees.

We got to Malpensa Airport at 8 a.m., and our flight wasn't until 10:20, so there was no one in line for our flight. The Continental rep accepted the photocopied credit card and tried and tried to make the baggage exemption work. He finally had to get a supervisor to help him put it into the computer. Mission accomplished! If they had been busy, I don't think they would have taken the time to do it, so I'm glad we got there early.

The bonus was that, without our even asking, he moved the passenger who was seated between us to another seat! I was thrilled - coach is so much nicer with an extra seat. Yeah Continental!

PS - We did have someone between us for the other two segments of our trip home, but they were much shorter flights, so that was OK.

So we left Milan remembering all of the wonderful meals we had in Italy and came back to the reality of airplane food.

Bill had Pot Roast and I had Chicken Parmigiana - not too bad for airplane food.

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Depressing, isn't it? But, never fear - our food fest was not yet over for this trip! Continue on . . .

Continue reading "Milano to Home Sweet Home" »

October 29, 2009

Italy 2009 - Final Episodes

Just wanted to let you know that I have FINALLY posted the final two episodes of our Italy trip. Plus I have gone back to the first few posts and added the pictures. Here are the links in case you are interested:

Milano to Home Sweet Home

Alba to Milano

Milano - Second Day

Milano - First Day

Atlanta Airport - A Pleasant Surprise!

On Our Way - A Bad Start

Preparing to Leave Town

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Winelover's Wanderings in the 2009 Italy - Piedmont, Lakes category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

2006 Italy - Rome, Venice, Lakes, Tuscany is the previous category.

2010 Pebble Beach/Santa Cruz is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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