Following a not so auspicious start to our Italian trip, we woke on our first full day of vacation to clear, sunny skies and improved outlooks on life. We ate a quick breakfast at our hotel and hopped in our rental car in search of a gas station. We found one without too much difficulty and I thanked my lucky stars that I had at least briefly skimmed the information in my guide book about gas stations in Europe. This one was full service (!!!) which was a major plus. It felt decadent to just pull up and allow someone else to figure out what gas to put where. After a huge sigh of relief, I entered our final destination into the GPS and we hit the road.
We headed towards the small Piedmont town of Alba. We had a reservation at an agriturismo in an even smaller Piedmont village, La Morra, and wanted to explore Alba on our way there. With the help of GPS and my backseat navigators we hit the Italian autostrada. The roadways were really easy to navigate and traffic was fairly light making the entire experience as stress free as it could possibly be. We drove through farmland and countryside with occasional glimpses of the Alps towering in the distance. The drive took us approximately 2 hours and we arrived in Alba just before lunch time. We parked in a small parking garage and walked to the town center. From the center there is a pedestrian only shopping area that extends for a few blocks. We snagged an espresso (and restroom) and then explored the shops. Hazelnuts and truffles are produced in this region and can be found in many of the shops here. The village feels very friendly and relaxed and the streets are just the right amount of busy. We sat briefly at a restaurant intending to get lunch but the service was poor and before we could be waited on we discovered a small food shop a few doors down. We quickly abandoned our menus and headed to the food shop to snag fruit, cheese, salami and bread. The Italian woman who was running the store spoke no English and my Italian is quite limited but we managed to figure it out and walked out with a lovely picnic lunch. We took this with us up the road about 20 minutes to our agriturismo, La Morra Brandini.
At La Morra Brandini we were greeted with warm hospitality, a refreshing swimming pool and stunning views of the valley below. Our suite featured a main living area, lovely bathroom, and sleeping area in the loft with a large bed plus a couch bed. There was a common area outside with tables and chairs for relaxing. There was a garden on site as well as resident chickens, a goat and a mule. My children quickly made friends with the goat (whom they named Albert) and he became our very own one goat welcoming committee.
After enjoying our picnic lunch we commandeered chairs poolside. I read and journaled and the girls swam. I spent much of the time simply sitting in my lounge chair, taking in the views of rolling hills and green countryside. There are rare moments in life when I feel fully and completely content and relaxed and at peace. This was one of those.
Following our respite, we hit the road again to visit our first winery, Fontana Fredda. It was located approximately 20 minutes from our agriturismo. On a side note, navigating through Piedmont requires a sense of humor and a well developed appreciation for adventure. You must have GPS or an exceptionally good map. The roads are narrow and sometimes steep. The speed limits are posted for a reason. You can easily get lost and sometimes feel like you are going back and forth across the same road fifteen times. You might be. But I’ll always advocate that getting there is half the fun. And sometimes getting lost is all the fun.
At Fontana Fredda, we were treated to the cellar tour which was rich in historical information as well as wine facts. The story of the estate is really cool and even my children enjoyed it. The tour lasted approximately an hour and a half and cost 30 euros for myself while the children were free. While the tour was great, the tasting afterwards was very limited. We tasted just two wines. Not sure why the tasting was so short. No explanation was offered. I decided to just roll with it.
After the winery we drove back through La Morra stopping for a few groceries and gelato. Then back to the agriturismo where we enjoyed more swimming as well as a decadent dinner of gnocchi, pasta, wine and cheese plate.
Sometimes when you travel you are lucky enough to be with amazing people. Sometimes you are lucky enough to be doing something you really love to do. Sometimes you are lucky enough to be in that magical place that just feels right. Every once in awhile, all the forces of the universe come together and you get all of it at once. That is what Piedmont was for me. It was the most amazing, perfect people, in the most amazing place, doing the most amazingly simple yet fulfilling things all at once. It gave me that warm, full, relaxed, contented feeling that will continue to inspire my travels for years to come.