I cannot believe it has taken me this long to get around to writing about our weekend break in Piedmont (is it ok if I call it Piemonte? Is that too pretentious?)
In fact, over the next couple of months it's going to be a very odd jumble of posts about things that happened this year, things that happened last year and things that are happening right this second! Please excuse my absolute disregard for chronology and keeping up to date properly. I would promise that one day I will sort things out but seeing as I am unlikely to ever become a professional blogger, it probably won't change
We went to Piemonte last March (last March! I was still in the middle of my year abroad then!) After months of a grey and drizzly Milan, we decided it was time to do something; get out of the city and breathe some fresh air.
And eat some cheese. Vegetarians in Piemonte can expect to eat a lot of cheese as it is otherwise a land of meat.
I am not complaining.
Because Piemonte insisted that I eat cheese at every meal for every course, I was introduced to the insane combination that is cheese, hazelnuts and honey. Don't believe me? Ask my friend Tamsyn. I forced her to try it when I got back to England. We slapped wedges of gooey brie onto slices of fresh baguettes, drizzled honey over it and popped toasted hazelnuts in our mouths with every bite. Incredible.
They even sprinkle hazelnuts on the pasta:
By the end I was very full and very, very tired.
We had come up straight from work that day and whilst the drive was only about three hours, it was fairly late by the time we got in the car and crawled back to the hotel.
And it was fairly cold too; look at the snow in the car park! This is Italy in March we're talking about, what is this madness?
We trundled back to the hotel, dipping and climbing with the rolling landscape, listening to Arcade Fire and watching the fields ripple past in the darkness.
And after a good sleep, we woke up on the Saturday morning to beautiful blue skies!
We stayed at the Relais Montemarino which I booked after a rather fast and furious Booking.com session (I don't know what I'd do without that site!) It's situated in the Langhe region, right in the middle of the beautiful Piemontese countryside and has a really simple, rustic feel and a swimming pool with a view across the hills. I was really impressed by the friendly service too, the woman on reception took us up to our room herself and gave us a quick tour of the hotel, showing us where the pool was and giving us all the information we might need.
On that first day we headed to Asti to meet a couple of friends who were also enjoying the fresh air of Piemonte. We stopped by Il Cavolo a Merenda in the city centre for a spot of good food and good beer.
I had butternut squash risotto followed by baccala and polenta, some of my favourite Italian dishes!
And what's a meal in Italy without finishing it with gelato?
After lunch we spent the afternoon circling Piemonte in the car, visiting the pretty old towns dotted about the countryside and wishing we could go to a wine tasting without having to worry about designated drivers.
Especially as I gave driving a go - it's so strange driving on the other side of the road! I kept hitting the door with my hand, looking for the gear stick.
It was actually pretty terrifying and I managed to scrape the car along the kerb about seven too many times for Michele's liking so we swapped back (the car's radiator actually did end up breaking shortly after I'd driven, not sure if that was my fault or not though!)
The last stop of the day was Alba, a place famous for its truffles.
I am by no means a truffle expert but I do know that whenever it appears on the menu, as long as it isn't ridiculously overpriced, I'll definitely choose that option. I love the smell of truffle oil (although my housemates run away whenever I drizzle some on my pasta because they think it smells like paint stripper) and always have a small bottle in the house to liven up salads and risottos.
As such, a visit to this truffle shop was my idea of paradise.
By the time we crawled back to the hotel, dusk was well underway.
We finished the day with a dip in the pool before heading out to find somewhere for dinner.
I hadn't ever given Piemonte a thought before our trip but I really fell in love with it and would love to go back again. Have you ever been before? Or has another region or city ever captured your heart on a minibreak?