Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)
Yet another beautiful sunrise at Luisa's Smile, less nebbia this morning. I had packed fairly light and I needed to do some laundry. The greeter had shown us the laundry room, which is shared space with the owners. It was early and I didn't want to chance disturbing the owners or my sleeping beauties by banging around, so I simply hand washed a few items and hung them on drying racks in the sunroom near the kitchen, no biggie.
We would be having dinner at Mira Langhe this evening and since I bought extra pasta that could be breakfast? sure why not! Guarene is so quiet and our mornings spent in the gorgeous garden off the kitchen was a peaceful start to our days.
It was decided that the famous town of Barolo would be our first stop today, it's about 12 miles and 20 minutes. At this stage of the trip we really didn't encounter any traffic, I'll assume that July/August is a different story? There are several parking options near Barolo, but we didn't panic park and found a space up close. Compared to yesterday we noticed a lot more visitors in this town of 650 residents, but there was room to breathe, I actually expected a larger crowd.
This is a beautiful hill town! We had considered this as a home base, it would have certainly been a totally different experience compared to Guarene. They are set up well for many visitors with plenty of shops and cafe/ristorante's. I expected Barbaresco to feel more like this, but we liked their differences. We walked the whole town and the outer ring is very quiet, majority of visitors hover in the busy town center. The 2 airbnb's we considered were in a nice quiet section and there was a small cafe with terrace there, that certainly would have been our go to spot. I remember that parking wasn't included with those airbnb's, now having been there parking would not be a concern, at least this time of year. With a larger crowd there was surprisingly no hustle and bustle, everyone seemed to just be chilling out, nice. There were no tour groups, shops weren't crowded, but I'll also assume in summer months this changes?
We discovered that the majority of ristorante's required that you have a meal, we were just looking for a drink. On the edge of town we found a less crowded cafe that was nice enough to let us forgo a full lunch, thank you DiVin Cafe! We simply asked for the house wines and the nice waitress brought out a Teo Costa Nebbiolo d'Alba and Barale Fratelli Barolo, very pleased with both.
After drinks we walked back to the center and the ladies would not be denied gelato, hazelnut I think. On the way to the car we said shouldn't we at least buy a bottle? The ladies went into the Marchesi enoteca while I got the car, funny as I waited curb side I could see them talking to the shop keeper with a glass of wine in hand, I'll be idling for a while! When they got in the car they showed me a Gillardi Langhe Nebbiolo from Dogliani which is just south of Barolo ...I said "what, no Barolo?...it's all good! Kinda similar to me buying a Ruche' in Barbaresco ! By the way this wine was very good on Lake Como, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Next stop Serralunga, another medieval town about 6 miles away. Won't get tired of saying "what a beautiful hill town!" This classic hill town of less than 600 residents has a great tall castle! Serralunga was designed well to defend, or at least they could monitor the activity on the lower fields. There were very few people here. You can tour the castle, but we decided to stay outdoors except for admiring the inside of the church like we do in every town. The views of the countryside are amazing in all of these towns. Barolo and others are such close neighbors, I read they would communicate to each other using lanterns or torches, cool!
When we told Maurizio (Mira Langhe) that we were going to Serralunga he said they produce some of his favorite wines. On a quiet terrace we took the edge off with a nice panini with fresh mozzarella and speck, ladies had Nebbiolo Serralunga d'Alba and I had a medium birra. After lunch we continued our walk around town and stopped in a charming wine shop that also has a small section of meat and cheese etc, I would buy some dried porcini's here to take home. I saw they had boxes to carry 3 bottles, so we decided 3 would do just fine. The nice shop owner helped us decide on a Massolino Langhe Chardonnay, Boasso Gabutti -Barolo and a Pira Barolo -Serralunga, I think we were set for Lake Como!
It was getting late in the afternoon and we decided on just one more stop and chose La Morra, which has a great road system around it. This small town is much higher up than the others at almost 1700 feet, cyclists didn't seem intimidated by the long steep climbs. From the parking lot the town felt big, but once inside it's pleasantly small. This is yet another Roman era town rich in history, population 2700, multiple churches and the amazingly large Piazza Castello. I read that there were strict ancient laws that prohibited cutting down the nebbiolo grape vines, I'll assume the severe consequences were carried out on this piazza. La Morra has wonderful wines of course, but we simply walked around. We found a visitors center, shops, restaurants, cafe's etc similar to the other towns we visited. What this town has over the others we visited was the panoramic views of the Langhe region, INCREDIBLE! If we had chosen to stay here the sunrise and sunsets would have been off the chart. It was time to head back to Guarene, excited for dinner at Mira Langhe.
It took about 20 minutes to get back to the comforts of Luisa's Smile. Forgot to mention we tried the Ruche' with last night's pasta, the ladies enjoyed it again while getting ready for dinner, I had a birra while folding my now dry clothes. Our timing was perfect and promptly arrived for the 7:30 seatiing. Funny "you know you're in a small town when..." ..we were greeted by a different waitress and she had trouble finding our reservation, then a waitress we knew walked up and said "hi, tables ready" as we walked in the waitress we didn't know says "oh, the Americans!"
Maurizio walks to the table at the same time carrying a decanter of very deep red wine, says proudly "Barolo"! how awesome is that! Then Ana shows up with another bottle of Nebbiolo d'Alba and says "if I might recommend this to start..." Ana always thoughtfully and passionately describes the wines and where they are from. Over our 3 days we learned so much about Piemonte wines from her. This small production Nebbiolo d'Alba was from just a couple miles away at Azienda Agricola Margherita. She then tells us the Barolo will pair nicely with the fassona beef we'll have later. The Barolo is from Boggione Claudio, another relatively small producer. We really enjoyed that all of the wines we had here were from the vicinity and by small producers, all were very good recommendations. Only downside is that we won't find them in our local Total Wine stores in Virginia!
A long table was set up for 30 people in the center of the dining room, explains the extra waitress! Reminds me that an embarrassing thing happened on our way out of Guarene this morning, I approached a Bride and Groom taking pics and 50 guests spread out in the plaza. I slowly and respectfully eased the Audi through the crowd, nobody seemed agitated at me. As we started down the hill my daughter sees a big road closed 9:30-11:00 sign...it was 10:50. I did not see a sign on the side I came from ugh! And yes, some of the 30 diners from Nieve may have recognized me as "that guy"!!
The sunset view from the dining room was spectacular, in the distance just 3-4 miles away is Alba. The dining experience was again outstanding, especially when the wedding party would break out in song, cool. Tonight's meal was served family style (see menu pic) Tray after tray of delicious appetizers were walked around the room, as soon as you finished what was on your plate the tray returned to offer you seconds, how do Italians maintain their weight!! We literally tried each item on this menu with the exception of extra desserts. Ana also wheeled out a cart full of local cheeses to try, so many varieties and so gooooood! The wine, the food, the people and atmosphere made for a perfect night. Ana asked if we'd like a digestivo, we declined and thanked her for a memorable dinner.
So we thought the night was over, until we saw the "Goats" gathered outside, some of the 15 we met previously. The men of the town have a fraternal order and they are known as "Goats" Maurizio says "come sit", we could not resist. Now our daughter could get by with a little with French while I kept Chiara nearby to translate. We are handed Genepi again, but once that was done my new friend Bruno pours Vermouth into my glass and says "it's good!". The conversation was really enjoyable, some Goats were very reserved but interested in the conversation. Local farmer Bruno likes to joke and if I asked Chiara to translate she might say "I can't repeat everything, but..." That alone made the reserved Goats laugh many times. Maurizio and Bruno asked if I wanted to be a Goat, with the help of Chiara I said yes, but is there an initiation ritual, they all looked around laughing! It was really late when we started saying our goodbyes and Bruno tells Chiara not to let us leave until he returns. Soon he returns with a box of big peaches, we each take one, smelling the ripeness and saying grazie. He hands the whole box to us and says to enjoy them at Lake Como. This community has the most generous and genuinely nice people we have ever met, I highly recommend a visit!
To be continued..............