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Report 1104: Perfect Piemonte and Bella Bologna: A Succulent Journey for the Senses and Soul

By Palma from California, Fall 2006

Trip Description: September 1-18, 2006. This trip was an exploration of Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna. We began in Torino, and ended in Bologna with a truely magical week on an enchanting hillside near Acqui Terme in-between.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 18: Palm Desert to Piemonte

photo by Palma

Torino

Getting ready for this trip reminds me that European travel is like childbirth. There is all the pre-event excitement for the new “baby”, or new area to explore. Then comes the planning, anticipation, and waiting… especially the last few months. We wonder what will it be like? We buy new clothes, and last minute items. After each trip, we forget the final hours of actual travel time, the flights, lines, luggage, and other necessary hassles. The joy of stepping onto Italian soil more than makes up for uncomfortable airline seats, security checks and jet lag! The first day after giving “birth” to a new trip, a peace washes over me, and I am “home” to the place that fills my soul.

The afternoon before our flight from LAX, I picked up a rental car in Palm Desert, and left by 3:30 to pick up Brad in Pasadena. We drove to LAX, checked into the Doubletree, and had a nice “We’re on our way to Italy” dinner at the Backstreet Bistro. I had a filet stuffed with lobster and cambazola cheese in a cherry reduction sauce, mashed potatoes and spinach. Brad had a ribeye in a peppercorn brandy sauce. We played with SlowTalk on our TV screen, and were asleep by 10:30 for our 2:30 a.m. wake-up call.

We left the hotel at 3:30 a.m., returned the rental car, and were twelfth in line at United at 4:00 a.m. There was NOT enough coffee running through me yet! They began check-in at 4:30 a.m., and after a last cigarette for me, we parked ourselves at a Starbucks near our gate. Boarding began at 7:20, and we had an uneventful, but slightly late flight to Chicago. Our connection would be cutting it close. We quickly grabbed a train to the International terminal, hurried to Alitalia, where we lucked out with bulkhead seats right behind first class. There were only 2 seats left on the plane after ours, and a party of four behind us was forced to split up! PHEW!

I stayed awake through dinner and a glass of wine, and then slept four and a half hours until we were served breakfast at 5 a.m.. It was a stunning sunrise as we flew over snow-capped Alps and Piemonte, during our final approach to Milano. Our luggage was almost the first out, and I had the first of MANY caffe lattes and a smoke before picking up our blue, 4-door, Alfa Romeo from AutoEurope.

We arrived in Torino an hour and a half later (Brad made GREAT time, and I tried not to look at the speedometer). We began the process of looking for our hotel in the central district. We were inching closer, and with two brief stops asking directions from taxi drivers, we found the charming Hotel Victoria. Our room was comfortable, on the fourth floor, with a balcony overlooking the courtyard garden and breakfast room.

We unloaded our bags, parked the car in a parking garage around the corner, freshened up, and walked to Via Roma on Piazza San Carlo. We walked a few blocks in either direction, and up to Piazza Castello. On our way back we realized we were tired, and “out of fuel”, so we sat at Café Torino for some coffee, a snack and gelato. We decided to return to the hotel for a nap, and I slept for an hour and a half. Revived, I left Brad still asleep, sent an email home, and had a “laser shopping” fix. I bought a gold charm of Torino’s Mole, and a gift for a friend.

Brad was awake when I returned in thirty minutes, so we showered and dressed for dinner. Our first night’s dinner was at Taverna dell’Oca, a wonderful choice recommended by our hotel. We were served a complementary aperitif. For our primi piatti, we shared a torta salata con fiori di zucchine and formaggetta (zucchini flower and cheese pie), and a timballo di lasagna con gambaretti e zucchine (an individual lasagna with shrimp, zucchini, and béchamel sauce). Both dishes were amazing. For our secondi, I had a delicious filetto di vitello avolto nelio speck, flambato a cognac, su crema di frutti di bosco (veal fillet stuffed with prosciutto, flamed with cognac, with a side of berry gelato). Brad enjoyed his scaloppa di branzino con pomodorini e olive ( seabass with olives and cherry tomatoes). We sampled two local white wines: Arneis Langhe and Gavi di Gavi. The total was 64 Euro.

After dinner, we moved to an outdoor table, and lingered for over an hour with cappucini and grappa. It was a magical evening. We sat, holding hands, and shared how relaxed and at peace we felt, having arrived back in Italy. It was a beautiful balmy night, and we were across the street from a quiet park. We were filled with more than just the delicious food. All the logistics of getting there were behind us. We had sixteen days of new experiences ahead of us. I felt as though my soul had received a much-needed fill up of Italian diesel joy fuel.

We returned to the hotel at 10:30. I checked in on SlowTrav, and Brad watched the US Open tennis match where Andre Agassi won his epic match in the second round. Lights out at 12:30, we were ready for sweet Italian dreams.

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