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Piedmont, April 27-May 5, 2018

#1
I haven't been very active here, mainly because we have had limited travel opportunities over the last few years because of elderly family obligations. FINALLY, we are off to Italy! Since this area is not as heavily travelled as other parts of Italy, I thought I would share our family trip here.

Background
Last year a a fundraiser was held to benefit a lovely young couple in Umbria who had lost their home to the earthquakes. I'm not even sure how I found out about it (maybe a FB post by Mindy?). Anyway, as I looked through the offerings I saw that Villa Ribota had four nights offered to be taken from April 10-May 10, 2018 - a year away! I decided to bid on it, hoping somehow we could make the trip. Guess what - I "won". I'm very excited to finally see Villa Ribota since I had followed Richard and Allegra's journey in restoration and bringing it to life from their blog:

https://livinginthelanghe.wordpress.com/

We decided to make the trip a family adventure by inviting Tom's brother, Dave, and his wife, Cindy, to join us. Tom and I have visited this part of Italy before and visited the towns north of Torino where Tom's grandparents were born. Now, we wanted to share it with his brother who had never visited Italy.
 
#2
Planning
First, we decided that we wanted to go during the Vinum Alba festival.
https://www.vinumalba.com/en/

Once we figured out our dates, we had to coordinate travel. Dave and Cindy from Michigan and Tom and I from Boston. It turned out that Lufthansa Airlines had flights that would work. We will be meeting up in Frankfurt and then travelling onward to Torino together.

We already had a four nights at Villa Ribota but had to decide whether we would stay in Torino and make day trips north to Cuorgne and surrounding towns or stay in the Cuorgne area. We opted to stay in Torino and make day trips. I found a cute little apartment in Torino for 4 nights. It's small but appears to have a lovely terrace. Our last night will be spent at a hotel near the airport since we have a 6AM flight.
 
#3
Hi Suzanne
Will be interested in your views on the apartment. We've had a mixed bag of apartments in Torino, but the last two have been good. Always keen to hear of other good ones. Let me know if you need any Torino suggestions or have logistical questions. We've been frequent visitors, the most recent time about a year ago for 4 days of 'grocery shopping' :pig::happy:

You'll get a lovely comparison when experiencing Novello and nearby Barolo. The latter is on a slow but steady drift towards becoming touristy. Still well worth visiting and not in the same league as the famous landmarks, but I've seen it steadily change over the last decade. Novello should be a little like Verduno - nicely under the radar. Monforte d'Alba should feel like a nice middle ground and there is good dining there.

Are you planning to visit any wineries? Nearby GD Vajra make good wines with a wide range and a couple of folks on a wine forum spoke highly of them recently for a visit. Plenty in Barolo, though I found Marchesi di Barolo overly commercial (and frankly unimpressive wines) when we visited. They still have a fond place in our Barolo 'education', but I really couldn't recommend them at this point in time. I hope that changes in the future. Tasting visits are easy to organise via email, with plenty of wineries listed on the excellent langheroero.it tourist site (based out of the great tourist office in Alba).

The other recommendation is to find time to walk through the vineyards, which through shared ownership means free access for all. The walking is great and there are also some good woodland paths as well. The cheap (€7?) walking map always seems to be available in Barolo and it's well worth it and a nice easy momento to take home.

Regards
Ian
 
#4
Thank you for all the suggestions, Ian. Since we are staying at http://www.villainbarolo.com/, we'll be able to wake up every morning and gaze at vineyards!

Plans for our first four days at Villa Ribota.

Arrive Friday - Plan to visit Novello to check out the town and purchase any groceries we might need. In the evening dinner will be at Agnulot in Verduno.

As I mentioned above, we will be spending Saturday at Vinum Alba. Already purchased our full wine tasting carnet which includes 18 tastings. Also on the schedule for Saturday is Alba Underground in the morning https://www.vinumalba.com/en/events/alba-underground/. Late afternoon we have tickets for Vinum Cantina https://www.vinumalba.com/en/events/vinumincantina-cordero-di-montezemolo/. We'll be visiting Codero di Montezemolo Winery with apertifs by Chef Allesandro Neri. Because of the Vinum Alba event, many of the wineries will not be having tours during our stay.

Sunday is our totally free day to do whatever we please or nothing at all.

On Monday, we have a cooking class scheduled at the villa with the chef from Agnulot (Shira). Lunch will be whatever we prepare in the class and we've invited our hosts Richard and Allegra (and possibly their daughter Bea).

Tuesday is our transition day from Novello to Torino. Because we can't check into our apartment until 4:00, we are planning on driving to the Ligurian coast - wandering around and enjoying a lunch. Richard and Allegra will be sharing their thoughts on the various towns and then we'll decide which ones we may visit.

Thus, ends the first half of our trip.
 
#5
Torino Part of our trip.

Tuesday afternoon arrive at our Torino apartment. I found it on https://www.vrbo.com/, property #6601981. I'll definitely do a review of the apartment, but so far all communications with owner have been responsive and great.

Wednesday morning we have a Discovering Torino tour scheduled with tour guide Cristina Paolette who came highly recommended by some friends. Once she shows us around, the afternoon will be spent doing whatever strikes our fancy.

Thursday we head north to Canischio (and maybe other towns). We became friends with the current mayor, Ricardo, and his sister on our very first visit there. They have remained friends over the last eight years. So, we'll spend the day visiting the towns Tom and Dave's family are from including a walk though the woods to the original family home which is in ruins.

Friday, nothing definitely planned - just a day to do more in Torino or whatever we want.

Saturday we check out of the apartment and head north again to Cuorgne, another ancestral town for the Ferrio family. Tom's grandfather was born here and we believe we located the house on previous visits. We will be meeting some distant family members in the afternoon. In the evening, we'll return our car at the airport and check into Hotel Le Rondini (https://www.hotellerondini.it/en/home-page.aspx). We really don't like spending our last night at an airport hotel, but since we have a 6AM flight the next morning, this was the most practical thing to do.

Thus ends our trip - short but (hoepfully) sweet! Wish we could do a longer trip, but it just isn't in the cards to spend that much time away from home right now.

Now that I've outlined our trip, my intent is to try to post daily updates as it progresses. We'll see if I can make that happen!
 
#6
Testing out posting photos here since this is my first report.

Original Ferro-Bosone family home outside of Canischio in the middle of woods from trip in 2010:

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#7
Hi Suzanne
Piazza Statuto a very good location for
a) being near a large number of bus / tram routes, so easy to get around
b) very convenient Porta Susa Station and pretty good for the centre
d) Quite handy for a favourite coffee shop - the historic Al Bicerin in Piazza della Consolata. A lovely cosy feel to it.

It looks good!

Nearby Via Cibrario might take away from town, but has a very good food shop for moveable picnic type lunch food (Bottega Sarda at #62) and a fine wine shop at #38 (Il Vinaio). The selection upstairs is extensive, but if such things interest, they have some old/ancient bottles in the 'cantina' downstairs, which the lady there always seems to overly stress that they may be too old, but is happy to check bottles against the light for the colour, to try and find healthy ones. Prices are reasonable for such wines, but I always tend to think of such purchases as likely to have a ~ 50% success rate... and I really like old wines. There may be some old Spanna/Gattinara etc. wines from the north of the region, and these can be a reasonable punt.

Also worth considering (3-4 mins north of via Cibrario), though it did seem to lose the early remarkable excellence, is Piazza dei Mestieri at #29 via Jacopo Durandi. It's an interesting social venture, training youngsters from the fringe of society in cooking / food industry, chocolate and bread making, plus brewing. Downstairs is the pub, serving ok food and better beers. Upstairs (there is a door to the right of the pub taking you into the college itself) is a rooftop restaurant that in the early days was capable of genuine 'wow!' moments (a dressing of celery granita still sticks in the memory - amazingly so for it being a joy despite me hating celery!). In time the menu got a bit more samey / not as brave / ambitious. Still a good experience though. It's a road to look up in advance if you want to go, as it's not on many printed street maps.

Regards
Ian
 
#8
Thanks for all the tips, Ian. Three more days until takeoff. Hopefully, once in Italy, I'll be able to post daily updates. Time to finish packing and making sure everything on our list is checked off!
 
#9
Daily updates would I'm sure be appreciated, but most of all we'd all want you to have a brilliant time there. You're in for a treat.
 
#10
Didn't get to post reports as early as I had hoped - combination of spotty wi-fi and computer issues. But I think I am up a running now.

Friday - Arrival Day

Flights all worked great and we met up in Frankfurt with no problems. On to Torino! Got our rental car and off we were to Villa Ribota. The Villa is exactly as pictured on their website - no trick photography. Rich and Allegra have done a wonderful restoration job and we are looking forward to our days here.

Our entire goal today was to keep active and fight jet lag. We headed to Novello and checked out the town and the local church.

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We left Novello and headed out looking for some lunch. After encountering closed roads, closed restaurants and wrong turns, we found a little cafe and just shared some paninis since we wanted something light in anticipation of our upcoming dinner.

Tonight's dinner was at Agnulot Il Ristorantino in Verduno. My next post will attempt to describe this meal, but I already know I will not do it justice.

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#11
Between spotty wi-fi and computer difficulties, I gave up trying to do updates. We are now home - our wonderful trip has ended, but so many wonderful memories! Now, I'll start recreating it as I go through all the photos!!!
 
#12
Agnulot Il Ristorantino
Facebook

After a short drive, we arrived in Verduno for our dinner at Agnulot. This was probably one of my all time favorite meals ever enjoyed in Italy. There is only seating for approximately 14 people and as you can see from the previous photo, you have a view of the kitchen and can watch as your meal is prepared. Shira and Mirella do everything! They post their weekly menu on their facebook page and are committed to using seasonal, local products.

Menu
menu.jpg


Wine (which was recommended by Shira)
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Saluto Dalla Cucina (this was a pureed zucchini with cheese and bacon topping)
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Asparagi in Crespella con Fonduta e Uovo Poche
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Roastbeef con Salsa Tonnata All'Antica
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#15
I promise I won't post this many photos of our meals; however, this was an exceptional experience. I highly recommend a visit if you're in this area.

We will be seeing Shira and Mirella again on Monday for our pasta class at the villa - we can't wait!

Agnulot.jpg
 
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#16
Two ubiquitous dishes there in the agnolotti and the vitello tonnato. Perhaps only Carne Cruda is more ubiquitous.

It's often very informative though, to see and even compare how different restaurants handle these Langhe staples. Vitello tonnato in particular allows for a few to play with the ingedients and presentation. I generally love the dish.

I do struggle with the English view that pasta needs to be smothered in (generally) a tomato based sauce. Butter and sage works wonders, and it's no coincidence that I have Sage in the herb garden at home.

Faraona (guinea-fowl) a favourite back at home, but also sought out in Italy. Coniglio more difficult though, as we had a pet rabbit when growing up, of a type favoured for its meat. I have come to a compromise. If there is a game pie/game stew, then I won't enquire what is in it (knowing rabbit is almost certainly in there). Likewise if it's in a set meal in Italy, the animal has already been killed and cooked, so to turn it down would be wasteful. I will eat it and enjoy it. I could never order it direct off a menu though.
 

RichN

New Member
#17
Lovely review, Suzanne! We were lucky enough to eat at Agnulot earlier this year and I would also class it as one of the best meals I've had in Italy... I also particularly enjoyed how Shira would come to the table to take the order then walk straight into the kitchen to cook our food while we watched. And it's such a small place that it almost felt like a private dinner party. I get their menu on facebook every week and it makes me salivate every time. I can't wait to go back!
 

RichN

New Member
#18
And Ian, you're right about the staples, it's always good to see how different places do them. I have a friend who has a restaurant in Treiso. When she opened apparently she didn't have any of these local staples on the menu as she wanted to do things a little differently. She was harangued by so many locals who wanted to eat carne cruda, vitello tonnato and agnolotti (despite the fact that they could get them pretty much everywhere else) that eventually she added them to the menu!
 
#19
SATURDAY - VINUM ALBA DAY

Vinum Alba is an annual event held in Alba at the end of April/beginning of May. While we had a great time, it was not quite what we expected.

Up first was the Alba Underground Tour. We knew that they were only offering tours in Italian and they gave us a sheet of paper in English so we could read about what we were seeing. No photography was allowed. It was fascinating seeing the Roman ruins beneath the streets. Our only disappointment was that there was more talking than touring. Would still do it again, especially if during a time when they have English tours.

Then we headed to pick up our carnets for the wine tastings. Another small disappointment - usually the wine glasses that you receive at these events are etched with the name. These glasses were just plain. Onward to taste some wine!

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As you can see, each of the five wine tents had lots and lots of wine lined up from various wineries. They had someone pouring the tasting you picked, but there was no one to explain anything about it. I think to fully appreciate Vinum Alba, you would need to either be fully knowledgeable or do a lot of homework on the many wines represented. A couple of times we pulled the "I'll have what he/she is having" line when it became overwhelming.

This is the main Vinum Alba building where they had tastings of the Barberas and Barolos as well as cheese demos/tastings.

P1020227.JPG


We grabbed a little lunch in the square, wandered around Alba visiting churches, and indulged in our first gelato of the trip. In the afternoon, we had reservations for Vinumincantina. We boarded a bus and headed to Cordero di Montezemolo Winery for our tour. Appertifs were prepared by Chef Alessandro Neri.

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After a very tiring day we managed to find our car and headed back to our home away from home.
 
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#20
That evening we weren't overly hungry, so we decided to just get some pizza. Based on the recommendation of Rich and Allegra, we ended up choosing Osteria Pizzeria Per Bacco in La Morra - just a short ride away. Completely happy with the meal, so happy that we forgot to take photos until half way through.

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You'll notice that we opted for Coke products instead of wine - we were "wined" out from all of our tastings earlier in the day.

This was a great choice for Dave and Cindy to experience their first pizzas in Italy.
 
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