There lived inside of me, since always, the travel bug. Stacks and stacks of magazines, folders organized by country and then by region, endless lists of restaurants and neighborhoods in which to shop… to have a conversation with me was to talk about travel. Never was I ever content in one place, never was I ever ready to go home.
Then I moved to Italy, forewarnings pushed aside, and after a few months, my travel bug all but disappeared. I didn’t realize anything was missing until a few weeks ago when my mom came to visit and asked me where I really wanted to go. Well, no where, I guess. I live in Italy. I think I’m doin’ okay in that department.
My mom, however, was on vacation, and so a bit of exploring was in order. Apparently all those with fear of flying to France plopped themselves in Italy, and this is how one of the most crowded Octobers in memory came to be. It’s a bit too late for the sea, and southern beach towns might leave us with that nostalgic ‘you missed the season’ feeling. We skipped out on Florence nearly as soon as she arrived and headed north, where we might be able to capture that ‘Fall Feeling.’
We drove towards Piemonte with a half-crazed hand-held GPS who was more confused by the insensible road signs than we were (we later learned to simply not believe the road signs as they are frequently wrong, and unless you live in the area you wouldn’t know better). Instead of stopping in Asti like most tourists do, we stopped for lunch in Pavia- just in time for all the shops to close. That is the problem with getting on the road after breakfast, and the smaller the town, the longer the mid-day closing. Unfortunately most of our small town exploring was done between the hours of 12 and 4, so at the very least, we saved our credit cards potential damage. Pavia is, depending how much of a lunatic driver you are, closer to Milan than some subway rides from Manhattan to Williamsburg. It’s positively lovely with its cobble-stoned center and Romanesque and medieval architecture. The ancient, highly regarded university (Christopher Columbus is an alum) has long been one of its claims to fame, but I love it for its peaceful, leafy lanes and its subdued elegance.
Back to our tricked-out GPS. We needed to get to our Piemonte destination before the sun set or we would be stranded somewhere in rural countryside. Entering the rolling hills that I’ve heard so much about, covered in vineyards that seem to be planted in non-sensible geometric patterns, dotted with a house here and there, we immediately forget that we are inevitably lost (it’s somewhere in this direction) and pull over on the side of the road every 20 meters or so to capture early October’s golden hour on the vines. Many remark that the Langhe area is the most magnificent, but southern Piemonte is absolutely spectacular; I can’t imagine how it can get any more painterly than this.
Skip past our endless wrong turns and dead-end dirt driveways, we arrive at La Villa in Mombaruzzo. Chris and Nicola discovered the 1600 relic when searching for a family vacation home to which they could retreat from their busy London lives. Not knowing the language and without local connections, Chris took on the overhaul himself and acted as GC for the entire project. As seems to be the pattern with foreign family vacation homes, the couple decided to move their family permanently and open a boutique bed and breakfast on the property.
With a truly familial ambience, a superb restaurant in a rustic, incredibly romantic room above the living area, and a pool overlooking the landscape, it is no wonder that international celebrities choose La Villa for the ultimate ‘disconnect from the world’ retreat. All of the guests meet at the bar downstairs for an aperitivo before dinner; they chat with Chris and Nicola and discuss the days activities over indescribably good bruschetta. Then everyone ascends to the dining nook together, and dinner is anything but heavy Piemontese fare. Outstanding ingredients, delicate but flavorful and satisfying plates, and delicious Piemontese vino abound. We were just in time for the height of Porcini mushrooms, and yes they deserve to be capitalized when dined on at La Villa.
In the morning, Chris and Nicola are floating about the dining room checking in on everyone; having a jolly chat and making sure everyone has their desired itinerary for the day. All of your Piemonte questions have an answer; there is a unique suggestion for every flight of fancy. Their extensive knowledge is ridiculously impressive, especially considering that they spend so much time on the property looking after their guests. There are those rare people in the world whose limitless energy and affability are destined for a Bed & Breakfast. This is one such couple and one such special Piemontese getaway not to be missed.
To be continued…