Monday, August 18, 2014

Brunch with Laura near Casale Monferrato

This past week-end, we took Laura Gobbi's invitation to the letter and drove down to the Alessandria province to have brunch together and personally check how the landscape varies in Piedmont. Laura is a very creative spirit, a woman of 1,000 + talents and resources, just to tell you about three: she's a radio host, the organizer of Di Gavi In Gavi the Gavi, the Cortese di Gavi wine festival that will take place on August 31 and one of the organizers of In Donne Veritas, an event about wine and women through art, literature and music. Laura is your gal in the Alessandria province and it is rather hard to resist to her enthusiasm as she's a real force of nature and fully passionate about her native locality, its wines and foods! So, we got in our car and after about an hour driving from Turin, Laura and her puppy, Booboo welcomed us at with a scrumptious brunch: besides EVO focaccia and olive bread, there were even pretzels and muffins with a jam or chocolate mousse heart, local cheeses, cooked ham and prosciutto, cappuccino and orange juice. 

Surprise! Surprise! In the Alessandria area they make pretzels and a super delish artisanal goat cheese!

Coming from Turin, after visiting Roero and knowing about the Langhe hills, we somehow expected a whole hilly landscape also in the Monferrato winedistrict. When you look at the UNESCO World Heritage Site vineyards of Piedmont, you may believe that Monferrato, Roero and Langhe are all one uniform area given their proximity and the wines, truffles, chocolate and hazelnuts they all produce.
However, they are rather different areas and consequently their products also have very distinct identities: starting in the ground, the soil composition where the truffles grow and the vines rest their roots changes even within the same district; the rivers, the climate and the sun exposure also varies in the different areas, so ultimately, even if you are still in Piedmont, and in an area close to one you have already got the chance to visit, you'll still get into a totally different atmosphere.
So imagine our surprise when we saw the landscape of Mugarone, near Alessandria, the city, where Laura's family has their hotel, a recently restored farm: yes, the dining-room is where the manger was;)

What a peaceful area, fully immersed in the nature, with cyclists along the interstate, wheat fields and spots of darker trees standing out on the vivid green plain.
Each season, the colors change dramatically and coming over in the winter is especially poetic and milder compared to other areas within Piedmont.
To give you an idea of how milder the climate is here, Laura's mom even planted watermelons and chili peppers!

the St Evasio Cathedral from the 12th century
Laura updated us about Di Gavi In Gavi and how she's arranging the historical Gavi courtyards with different topics: a soap bubble artist, a cotton candy man, some poppies to remind everybody of the artistic representations of the countryside and others; and, at the end, over 2k balloons will be freed in the sky. It'll be fun especially because the 16 local associations will participate too and the visitors will get the chance to savor the local producers' Gavi wine paired with the local specialties, first and foremost, the famous risotto with Gavi wine!

After a tour of the property, we followed Laura's suggestion and went to Casale Monferrato. We knew very little about this little town at the feet of the Monferrato hills: the historical Jewish community, the Holocaust remembrance celebrations and the museum. As the weather was surprisingly nice, sunny and with an amazing light, we decided to wander through the lanes of Casale, taking pictures of all that grabbed our eyes.

artsy door
Given it was the Ferragosto week-end, THE summer holiday in Italy, and that it was siesta time, we first saw a sleeping Casale with beautiful Baroque buildings transpiring history and elegance. In fact, most of Casale got rebuilt in the 18th century.

Near the info point, we were fascinated by this diamond concept to advertise the local stores, bars and restaurants. Ain't it a genius idea?
Advertising diamonds

this lane looked like a painting

After our wanderings and remembering it was Saturday afternoon, we decided to sit down at a cafe' and relax Italian style: sipping some iced coffee and doing some people watching.
By that time, around 4:30pm, Casale had woken up from its siesta and everybody was strolling down the center, doing window shopping or taking advantage of the sales and then, like us, sitting down at a cafe' for a mid-afternoon chat and snack: somebody got some pastries and a tea, but the majority got some savory finger food with cheeses, cured meats, veggies and a cocktail. After all, it was the Ferragosto week-end and it was the perfect occasion to indulge in great food!

Now you know it, include Casale Monferrato in the list of the towns where to breath history, enjoy mild weather and amazing food!

No comments:

Post a Comment