When people ask me where my favorite place to visit in North Italy, well, it’s really hard to choose. For choosing in Italy, it would be like choosing between my children. I just can’t do it! I love them all. However in north Italy, it would be Piemonte, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I will always feel like this is my Italian home. The landscape in this pretty part of Italy looks very similar to where I grew up, just at the base of a mountain range and woods (I grew up in Northern New York in the Adirondacks.) There are hills, valleys, and streams like the Pennsylvania rolling hills where I called “home” once too. However, in North Italy undoubtedly it’s the people that bring me back. Year after year, o.k., sometimes several times a year.
This past November, I grabbed a few friends and we visited Piemonte again for my birthday weekend. First on the list, investigate the Truffle Festival for a future TWW trip. Second, visit my friends Claudia Cordara (Cordara Winery) and Ignazio and Guiliana from winery, (La Armangia.) I try to visit a few times a year to practice my Italian and to learn more about the area. This year we also had a goal of previewing the annual “Piemonte, Italy
~ there’s no place like my Italian home ~
It’s the people!
When people ask me where my favorite place to visit in North Italy is, well, it’s like choosing between my children. You just can’t do it! You love them all. Piemonte, in Northern Italy will always have a special place in my heart, and will always kinda feel like this is my Italian home. The landscape in this part of Italy looks very similar to where I grew up, just at the base of a mountain range and woods (I grew up in Northern New York in the Adirondacks.) There are hills, valleys, and streams like the Pennsylvania rolling hills where I called home once too. But, undoubtedly it’s the people here that draw me back year after year, sometimes, several times a year.
This past November, I grabbed a few friends and we visited Piemonte in North Italy again for my birthday weekend. This was the first time to visit The Truffle Festival and investigate for a future TWW trip and then another to visit my friends Claudia Cordara (Cordara Winery) and Ignazio and Guiliana from winery, (La Armangia.) I try to visit a few times a year to practice my Italian and to learn more about the area.
One of the BEST B&B’s in Northern Italy!
If you will be visiting North Italy or passing through northern Italy, I highly recommend staying at B&B Che Piasi in Calamandrana. My friends Denise and Davida are quintessential hosts of this wonderful Agriturismo. These absolutely adorably decorated rooms looked like a bedroom from a Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn magazine. The American-Italian version too – absolutely beautiful and quaint. Their little B&B has a playground, a local church (nearby) vineyards, and groves to take amazing photos.
Welcome your family!
Denise greets you with her wonderful warm smile as you check in and this being our first visit here, she made us feel like we were family coming for a weekend visit. My little group felt so much at home, we were sipping local wines and eating different kinds of meats and cheeses at their large cottage table by mid-afternoon with them. It might sound corny but you arrive as guests and leave as family.
Every morning we awoke to tantalizing smells from the kitchen where they would be hard at work making some delicious, tasty treat for our breakfast. Also VERY GOOD coffee and cappuccino – very important tip!
Having no definitive itinerary (which is unlike me) I asked Denise what we should do with our 5 day stay. She was so excited to help us figure things out! I probably will be planning a trip like this soon – called “Wild Card with Wendy” a weekend trip! Owners choice… still in the works – be watching for that!
First up…Mall ~ McArthur Glen Designer Outlet
Day one – thank you Denise for pointing us in the direction of the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet. (Yes, in Italy.) We were all preparing for Christmas so heading to one of Milan’s largest shopping malls could be a dangerous thing. However, I’m really not that much of a shopper, but some of the gals I travel with are – they are mostly thrifty though and this mall -albeit gorgeous and outstanding had stores like Versace, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Burberry, and Tiffany’s, we enjoyed some window shopping. It was a lot of fun ~
Good “GREAT” Eats!
I always feel a little like Alton Brown when I write that phrase, what a good show ~ I’m not about making the recipes as much as I am about sharing the talents of those around Europe who excel at it! Canelli in Piemonte is some of my favorite Italian food (my increased waist size can attest, it was worth every bite!)
Try the Farinata
A few years ago, I discovered Ristorante Tanti – this famous “chick pea pasta” restaurant has an exceptional reputation and if I am visiting northern Italy, I always make a reservation to eat here. I would recommend ordering a small portion (aperitif) of this regional dish, one, original and one with spices as an appetizer. Leave room for my absolute favorite dish which is Eggplant Parmigiana, I order this every single time. This old fashioned recipe really does look like something my Aunt (Tanti) would have created when I was growing up – tastes like it too.
La Signora in Rosso –Nizza Monferrato – we ate here two of our nights! YUM!
To visit North Italy and my friends at their wineries you can schedule a wine tasting. Although both of them are gracious and wonderful hosts, their wineries are also their homes and a “pop-in” would be inconvenient or worse, you’ll completely miss them! I always make a reservation to let them know when, how many people, even the preferences of the group, etc. This gives them a heads up and it’s just courteous. You can find them both on Facebook as well as writing an email and they both speak English perfectly. Please tell them I sent you.
I met Claudia during a “Bagna Cauda” celebration one November on my birthday way back in 2014. I’ve visited Northen Italy and her every year since, sometimes twice! Her beautiful smile, warm welcome, and wonderful wine, always bring me back. Claudia’s winery is hundreds of years old with recipes and techniques of winemaking that work! You can taste the perfection in every glass. I have several favorites…but in my little group I have a few white wine drinkers who love, love, love the Moscato. This sweet bubbly Italian wine is not quite sparkling champagne but a perfect chilled, spring, summer or fall wine perfect for sitting on a veranda overlooking an Italian valley. This year Claudia tells us it is also a breakfast wine….hmmm might have to give that a try. Think they are called Mimosas.
Ignazio and Guiliana run a highly successful winery just around the corner from Calamandrana where we are staying and like Claudia I met him a few years ago too. Every year, I love visiting because Ignazio is a born teacher, whether he knows it or not. Every time I visit, I learn something new about winemaking, grapes, the life of vintners, and more. I LOVE IT! Ignazio makes several different wines also so choosing a favorite is also very difficult, I think my favorites are his Barbera’s but it is even difficult to say that too because they all go perfectly with different dishes I make. The wines in Northern Italy pair well with most foods. Thank you friend for teaching me this skill!
Wine is not just a tasty beverage to be consumed but it is the culture and livelihood of my friends in Northern Italy and I love learning all about it. Just as we would learn about growing different crops in the States, grape growing has been a part of Italy for centuries and impacts their daily lives. Guess, I’ll always be a daughter of a gardener and a granddaughter of a farmer.
What’s NEXT in Northern Italy?
Massages and Markets
One morning we woke up and asked Denise what was going on around Piemonte and she told us there was a market in Canelli. A northern Italian town not too far from Calamandrana. No one I know would complain about this! She also had a friend who owned a massage beauty shop, right next to the market. So with trepidation (NOT!), my group jumped at the opportunity to sign up for a massage and go to the local market.
While a few of the ladies were in their massage appointments, I decided to walk the town of Canelli to take a few pictures. I hope you like what I captured in this ancient Roman town.
Next UP… Truffle Festival and Asti!
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know, there is typically some “adventure” in every trip. Not because I’m incredibly lucky, just because I happen to be in a lot of places, so it’s bound to happen, right? Our visit to North Italy and Asti was no exception. We had been forewarned by Denise that this year’s truffle festival was not going to be as large because the crop had suffered bad weather. However, we also were not prepared for how gorgeous this northern town of Italy would be so beautiful. Consequently, after lunch we headed to the market, which by the way, happened to be the LARGE market day for the week and the annual “Truffle Festival,” BONUS!
Like any major city in Europe, you want to be careful of your surroundings, we never felt unsafe, but markets are prime target for things to happen. Just be aware.
Alas, it’s time to go ~
It was Monday and time for us to head back to Germany – this is one of my least favorite parts of travel. Nonetheless, I think my family would eventually miss me, maybe? What an unforgettable birthday weekend in Italy visiting some of my absolute favorite places, meeting new friends and visiting old ones, and tasting all kinds of new Piemonte treats.
As I said, if you happen to be in the area, please consider staying with my friends Denise and Davida who are incredible hosts – and even better, don’t plan a thing! She’s amazing at creating FUN and unbelievable moments.