In a former life, I must have been a wine grape. Whenever I visit wine regions like this one, Italy’s Piedmont, I feel like I have come home.
Our beautiful hotel , Villa Beccaris, is in Monforte d’Alba, perched at the top of a hill town, even higher than the town’s church. In every direction, rolling hills, little farms and countless vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, surrounded by massive Alps in the distance. Old stone and brick houses with tile roofs, and working farms and wineries, dot the countryside.
We watch men and women work the fields and vineyards as we drive past, and you can imagine they do it just like their parents, and their parents before them. These real, working small farms and vineyards give Piedmont an authenticity that is somehow more welcoming than a more touristy area.
Oh, and the people! The people could not be more lovely and sweet, attentive and caring without being obsequious. As I speak almost no Italian, and can’t tell caldo from freddo, I end up with cold bread instead of warm, and am trying to employ my best charades techniques to act out what I am trying to say. But the Italians appear not to be annoyed with my deficiency and patiently work with me in my clumsiness, then answer all my grazzies and mille grazzies with a prego and a smile that makes me melt every time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are also all beautiful, men and women, young and old.
Perhaps the most telling thing about this region is that it is the home of The Slow Food Movement, started by Carlo Petrini, as a reaction to the fast food and processed foods that are on the rise around the world. Respect for food and local agriculture, its role in our culture and everyday life, encouraging taking time to enjoy the taste of what we grow and eat, really savoring the pleasures and nourishment of our food, is something I honor and support, even if I don’t practice it like I should. Here, it is inherent to the way the people live and eat, both of which they do, by the way, quite well.
Last night we ate at Trattoria della Posta, just a mile from town, and experienced slow food at its best. We drank a local Barbaresco, and nibbled on delicious foccacia bread that had an addictive, salty crunch. I had the best salad I think I have ever tasted–local greens, warm, shredded capon, so lightly dressed with a sweet vinaigrette that it became one with the salad, topped with a tiny poached egg that undoubtedly came from the same place as the capon. My husband had veal, infused with Barolo wine until it was beet colored, incredibly tender and sweet. Then came the cheese course, which was a veritable landscape of local cheeses, whose rinds resembled the aged stucco walls of the town’s churches, and which tasted creamy and tangy or mild, and exquisitely fresh.
It has been nice to slow our trip down a little bit, too. We are spending four delicious days here, which is giving us a nice sense of the region. Yesterday began with a dusting of snow and was followed by a cold steady rain so after a quick trip to the local market and a chilly walk around the town suare, we lolled around reading, napping, drinking wine and chatting. Today is cool, but bright and sunny, so we will tour around a bit, and then we have an appointment with a local vintner to taste some of his wines.
It is a life I could get used to quite happily.