Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 14, 2019

Two excellent wineries in the Langhe district

While in Piedmonte my son and I visited several wineries. Two stood out from the rest.

There is little to suggest the delights inside from the simple front door of Cantina del Glicine.

The tasting room is like being in someone’s home, complete with several cats.

Before our tasting we were taken to visit the tiny winery and cellar below the ground.

With 2 couples from Milan we entered a door with the date 1582 written above it, the beginning of the winery.

The first room looked like a regular winery with steel tanks.

We were led into the next room.

Then came the real treat, down the slippery slope to the cave like area.

 

The walls glistened with moisture.

There were even tiny mushrooms growing on the floor.

Then it was back into the light and into the tasting room.

The wines were very good and the 2 ladies who showed us the wines were delightful…a few bottles came home with us. This place is special, you need to visit.

Cantina del Glicine

Via Giulio Cesere 1

Neive

http://www.cantinadelglicine.com

 

The second winery that impressed us was Vietti in Castiglione Falletto. It was a bit difficult to find as there was no signage. Here is the front gate.

The winery is on the edge the tiny town. Part of the winery is dug into the side of the hill. We arrived early in the morning. The misty views from the terrace were gorgeous. Castiglione Falletto is in the heart of the Barolo zone in the Langhe hills.

Our guide was great. She was charming and very knowledgeable about the history of the winery and the wines. Vietti was begun by Carlo Vietti in the late 1800s.

The winery is modern and stainless steel, but the barrel rooms are old and dug under the building and the one next door.

The old cellars are fabulous. One of the walls is part of the fortification wall of the town.

There are caves where wine and other valuables were stored in times of trouble.

We returned to the ultra modern tasting room above to sample some of the best wines of the area.

Once again, several bottles came home with us.

The mist had cleared to offer a different view.

Vietti

Piazza Vittorio Veneto 5

Castiglione Falletto

http://www.vietti.com

 

We wandered through town in search of coffee.

These 2 completely different balconies appealed to us.

There is an impressive fortress with towers.

We found the perfect place for coffee and a slice of delicious hazelnut cake. (hazelnuts are another famous product from Piemonte)

These were the gorgeous views from the terrace.

This was our farewell from Piemonte…a fitting end.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 7, 2019

Autumn in Piemonte

Piemonte, or Piedmont, means “at the foot of the mountain”. This region, the second largest in Italy, is surrounded on 3 sides by the Alps. (Sicily is the biggest)

We recently spent a few days in the gorgeous Langhe region of Piemonte, best known for wine and truffles…we planned to try both.

Our first stop in Piemonte was Novello, where we were to stay for 3 nights. After we settled into our Chalet we set off to discover the village. There is a lookout on the edge of town offering sweeping views over the surrounding vineyard covered hills. The damp weather actually enhanced the gorgeous vista.

There is a castle, now a hotel.

There is a great enoteca in Via Giordano where we enjoyed aperitivo.

We had a excellent dinner at Barbabuc Ristorante at 35 Via Giordano in Novello. http://www.ristorantebarbabuc.it

On our second morning the rain mist had stopped and we could see the Alps from Novello.

Nearby Barolo is stunning from a distance.

Barolo castle is impressive.

More stunning views from and around Barolo.

Serralunga d’Alba has a huge castle dating from 1340.

…more gorgeous views.

We tasted local wine in this very cute establishment.

In Neive we had a delicious lunch at La Luna nel Pozzo, where we were looked after by the charming Cesere.

Rain cut our exploring short.

 

We did visit a very special winery, Cantina del Glicine…another post.

Did you know there was a town called Mango in Piemonte? It has nothing to do with my favourite tropical fruit, but it does have a castle.

Everything was closed in town, so I have nothing else to show you except the gorgeous views between Neive and Mango.

La Morra is one of the loveliest towns in the area.

 

Piazza Castello at the top of the town has spectacular views of the surrounding villages. Helpful directions are built into the floor of the piazza.

We tasted wine and had lunch at Vineria San Giorgio at 1 Via Umberto.

In Barbaresco we tasted wine in 2 great places. The first was Produttori del Barbaresco in Via Torino.

The second one was in a church, L’Enoteca Regional del Barbaresco.

 

…more gorgeous scenery around Barbaresco.

We found a great restaurant tucked away in a back street in Monforte d’Alba, Osteria La Salita.http://www.lasalita.it

Prunotto winery is in Bussia. Don’t go, as we did, to the office close to Alba. http://www.prunotto.it  It was not easy to find even with GPS help, but worth the effort.

In Castiglione Falletto we found (with some difficulty) Vietti, a stunning winery right in the heart of the village. The winery is built into the side of a hill and some of its walls were part of the early fortifications. They have done an amazing job creating a modern winery in an old setting. I will show you more in the next post.

We stayed at Chalet nelle Vigne in Novello.

chaletnellevigne@gmail.com

It was in a great location, close to everything we wanted to see. It has 2 bedrooms, a comfortable living room, small kitchen and good bathroom…an excellent base from which to explore the region.

 

An almost sunny day offered a different impression of the scenery. I enjoyed the misty views just as much.

Plan to stay a while in this spectacular area in Piemonte, there is much to see and taste.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 2, 2019

Bella Bergamo Alta

I visited Bergamo Alta, the historical centre of Bergamo, briefly many years ago and vowed to return. It has taken 14 years or more, but finally I revisited this gorgeous place. Bergamo is in Lombardy 40 kilometres northeast of Milan.

We parked the car in the city below and took the 128 year old funicular up the 52 degree slope to the Centro Storico. From the funicular station it is a short walk to Piazza Vecchio, the stunning heart of the town.

Built on the site of the Roman Forum, it is the original medieval square. It took its current layout after the Palazzo Ragione was built in 1100, separating it from Palazzo Duomo nearby. Palazzo Ragione is the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy. Beside it is an impressive staircase in the building with the bell tower.

 

 

At the centre of the piazza is the Contarini Fountain, built in 1780.

Facing the fountain from the opposite side from the Palazzo Ragione is Palazzo Nuovo, which was Bergamo’s town hall until 1873 and is now the home of Angelo Mai library. (Full of treasures to be discovered on another visit)

I recommend sitting in this gorgeous piazza as often as you can. It is surrounded by cafes and restaurants where you can have coffee and a snack, lunch, aperitivo or dinner under the stars while taking in the magnificence.

Take the time to find the 18th century sundial in the open area in front of the Palazzo Ragione. Look up to see the face of the sun with a hole in the centre. At midday the sun hits a certain spot on the floor below. It was cloudy when we were there so we missed seeing the track of the sun.

The Piazza Duomo is the home of the cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel,  Santa Maria Maggiore and the pretty octagonal baptistery.

The baptistery was built in 1340 inside the Santa Maggiore church where it remained until 1661. It was pulled apart and remodelled twice before it was relocated formthe last time between 1898 and 1899 on the western side of the Duomo.

The Colleoni Chapel is an authentic Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The exterior is stunning  and the interior beautiful, but I can’t show you because no photos are allowed.

It is the chapel of Bartolomeo Colleoni, a famous Italian mercenary captain who spent most of his life fighting all over Italy. He was born in Bergamo and returned to the city at the height of his power. He was a brutal man. Legend has it that when the Santa Maria Maggiore clergymen opposed the building of the chapel Bartolomeo solved the problem by sending his soldiers to destroy the old sacristy to make room for it.

Santa Maria Maggiore was begun in 1137 on the site of another church from the 8th century which has been erected over a Roman temple of the Clemence. The bell tower was built from 1436 – 1500.

Included in the facade is Giovanni da Campione’s porch, supported by columns on the backs of lions in Veronese marble. The arch has a frieze with hunting scenes.

The interior is sensory overload. It is fun to watch people with goggling eyes and gaping mouths trying to take it all in. The church is filled with painted ceilings, beautiful statues, frescoes, enormous tapestries…to much to take in on 1 visit.

A walk around the church is a delight. There are stunning details from every angle.

Beside the church is the very cute 11th century Capella di Santa Croce in Romanesque style.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Alexander of Bergamo, it was built at the beginning of the 17th century. A major renovation was undertaken in the 19th century, culminating in the completion of the Neoclassical west front in 1889.

The interior is largely from the 17th century Baroque renovation.

We found sections of the 6 kilometre Venetian walls, built from 1561 by the Republic of Venice to face enemy attacks. We didn’t see them, but there are 14 bastions, 2 armouries, 4 gates (we found 2) and underground tunnels…next time.

There are remnants of original Roman walls still visible in Via Vagine.

Climbing the bell tower, also called the Campanone is an excellent thing to do. It is 52.76 metres high with 230 steps to the top. There is a lift almost to the top and another short set of steps to the very top. The bell is the largest in Lombardy. At 10.00pm every night the bell chimes 100 times as a reminder of the closure of the city gates along the Venetian wall.

The view is marvellous, don’t miss this. It is the best way to see the buildings below and the gorgeous surroundings.

There are some great looking food shops.

We stayed in a lovely apartment called Colleoni 20 which is in Via Colleoni at number 20. It was great, with a spacious bedroom, great bathroom, living room and a kitchen. It would be a great base for a few nights…I’m going back to discover more of bella Bergamo Alta.

 

We had a delicious dinner at L’Alimentari. They have an entrance in Piazza Vecchio and around the corner in Via Colleoni.

Bergamo Alta is small and built to make you want to wander all over the historical centre. There is an enormous number of things to see. There are great restaurants, cafes and shops. You really need some time here to take it all in.

Here are a few more random photos.

Visit Bergamo Alta soon, you won’t be sorry.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 29, 2019

Ferghettina, a stunning winery in Franciacorta

One of the wineries we visited in Franciacorta was Ferghettina, a stunning establishment built on a gentle slope with gorgeous views over the surrounding vineyards.

Vine growing is a ancient tradition in the Franciacorta area. It began in Roman times.

Roberto Gatti was born nearby in 1953. He came from a family of farmers and vine growers. In his youth he worked for a local farmer with his father. After 20 years of gathering knowledge and experience he presented his first 2 wines after the harvest of 1991.

Ferghettina was born, taking the name from the area where the winery was built. Since that time Ferghettina has expanded enormously . As well as their own vineyard, the family rents plots of land to plant vines. They now have 200 hectares under organic cultivation. His 2 children, Laura and Matteo (both of whom have graduated in oenology) have joined him, his wife and partners in the business.

The current winery dates from 2002. We enjoyed a tour of the winery with the charming and knowledgeable Daniele.

The winery buildings and surroundings are gorgeous. Some areas are available for events.

The winery equipment is state of the art. These people know what they are doing.

Underground we were shown the enormous tanks holding the current developing wine. Grapes from each area of the vineyards are processed in their own tank!

Daniele showed us the Ferghettina square bottle, designed and patented by Roberto’s son Matteo. In the square bottle wines benefit from a contact surface between the wine and yeast almost twice and a half as large as the typical surface of a round bottle.

The bottles are expensive and more difficult to store than round ones. In the cellar we saw them stacked.

We were shown an exquisite room where samples of all vintages are stored. The winemakers can sample them as they age and record what they find. Nothing is left to chance.

Soon it was time for us to  go to the tasting room to sample some of the wines…best part.

It was difficult to choose, they were all excellent, but we did leave with several bottles.

Thank you Ferghettina for a wonderful experience!

Booking ahead is necessary to visit the winery.

Ferghettina

(39) 030 7451212

info@ferghettina.it

http://www.ferghettina.it

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 24, 2019

Franciacorta and Lake Iseo

My son, who is a winemaker, is visiting from Australia. We set off to discover the delights of Franciacorta, a small, and relatively new wine making area in Lombardia in northern Italy.

Franciacorta is in the province of Brescia and extends from Mount Orfano on the south eastern area to the shores of Lake Iseo, and from river Oglio on the eastern border to the city of Brescia in the west.

We stayed in the southern town of Cazzago San Martino. It was a great base, the wine area is quite small and we were close to everything.

Our first winery was Ca del Bosco, just 10 minutes from our B&B. The tours were booked out so we wandered in the gorgeous grounds and visited their shop.

We booked a wine tour at Ferghettina. It was fabulous and I will tell you about it in the next post.

We went to Iseo on the lake for an evening stroll and dinner. This lovely town has a medieval centre. Piazza Garibaldi in the heart of the town is surrounded by colonnaded buildings and painted facades.

Aperitivo in the piazza beside Garibaldi seemed like a good idea.

We followed with dinner. We tried the local dried sardines with herb polenta and pasta with tomatoes and the tiny lake prawns…both delicious.

The second day of our visit was drizzly and damp, but we set off to Lake Iseo and drove all the way around the lake. It is beautiful, even on a wet autumn day and is dotted with pretty villages. The lake and mountain scenery is spectacular.

Our first stop was Sarnico at the southern end of the lake.

A tower beckoned is into Pisogne, with good reason. It has a grizzly history.

The 13th century Bishop’s tower has a colourful past. The Bishop punished those who couldn’t pay the taxes by imprisoning them in a cage fixed to the tower and subjecting them to public ridicule. This kind of torture was used by ecclesiastic princes because their ministery prevented them from administering punishment by loss of blood.

Tradition tells that during the obscure and terrible period from the 15th to the 16th century when in the Valle Camonica the witch hunting took place, 8 women were imprisoned inside the Bishop’s tower. They were burned in the market square in June 1518.

We could not decide which archway was involved in the next incident.

According to folklore the first archway to the right gave access to the butchers of the infamous legendary bandit Giorgio Vicano, who in the first decades of the 1700s dominated the area and, together with his gang, tormented and bullied all of the lower Valley. Here in his own shop he fell victim to an ambush carried out by one of his comrades: he was shot and decapitated and his head, salted and wrapped in laurel leaves, was taken to the Consiglio Dieci in Venice as proof of his death in order to collect the reward.

By the time we had finished reading all the information in the square it was lunchtime so we followed the umbrellas to Trani,a great little restaurant nearby.

After a walk beside the lake we moved on.

We spotted Monte Isola, an island in the lake and stopped at Sulzano to catch the ferry. It was helpfully labelled Boat. The weather improved a little at this stage of the trip.

This would be a gorgeous place to stay for a few days. The island has an extensive grid of dedicated bike lanes and hiking trails and lots of lakeside cafes. Vehicles are only allowed for residents, who mostly ride scooters.

We walked along the walkway beside the lake.

There is a sculpture of the drying lake fish.

These trees grow in the water.

A tiny island sits a short distance from Monte Isola.

A fort keeps guard.

In 2016 Cristo brought fame to the island when he wrapped floating walkways in bright orange to join the island to the mainland for a couple of weeks. We found these photos on display boards.

Franciacorts and Lake Iseo are delightful places in northern Italy to spend some time. I will certainly be back, probably in spring and will hope for better weather. It was beautiful anyway, but sunshine would make the views even more special.

We stayed at Il Glicine. It was excellent. The rooms have been recently renovated, the breakfast was great and there is a good restaurant on site…and free parking. What more could you want?

Il Glicine, 32 Via Calchera, Cazzago San Martino.

http://ilglicinefranciacorta.it

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 21, 2019

Carrara marble and lardo

Carrara is a city and Comune in Tuscany famous for white and blue/grey marble. There were settlements in the area as early as the 9th century BC, when the Apuan Ligure lived in the region.

The current town originated from the settlement built to house the workers in the marble quarries created by the Romans after their conquest of the Ligurians in the early 2nd century BC. Carrara has been linked to quarrying and carving marble since the Roman age.

The Pantheon and Trajan’s column in Rome are constructed from Carrara marble and many sculptures from the Renaissance, including those by Michelangelo, were carved from it.

The marble industry continues today and the quarries can be seen from the Autostrada along the coast below the mountains. From a distance they are often mistaken for snow.

I have visited the marble caves many years ago, but it is a fascinating area to see, so I returned recently with friends. We found the Frantiscritti Cave from where it is possible to do tours of the area and the caves.

 

We chose the tour of the quarries. There is a ticket office beside the restaurant at the site. There is another ticket office nearby which does the cave tours.

While we were waiting for the tour to begin we wandered through the open air museum which shows how the workers lived and worked in the marble caves. It must have been a shockingly hard life in past centuries before the work became more mechanised.

At the entrance there is a typical worker’s hut. Capannari were quarrymen during the day and night watchmen at night after work. They had no heating and a cold, starving family of 7 or 8 people, including aged people, crammed into a tiny single room.

They lived close to the quarry to avoid a 1 or 2 hour walk to work. Because of the distance the families were cut off from the towns and as a result there was a high level of illiteracy.

There is a blacksmith beside the house. These men were kept busy making and repairing the workers’ tools.

There are various sculptures telling the stories of the marble workers.

There are photos depicting the daily life of the workers.

Soon we were loaded into a rugged vehicle to take us up the mountain to the quarries. We hurtled up the dirt roads at speed…great fun. The work is open cut now, rather than from caves.

Our driver and guide explained the process of excavating the marble from the mountain sides. It takes days to cut a single block from the site. It is still dangerous work, but not nearly as bad as when the marble was cut by hand and loaded on to bullock drays and carted to the port.

This would be an excellent job for people who grew up loving to play with their Tonka toys.

After our tour we headed further up the mountain to Colonnata, a small mountain village 550 metres above sea level. It is famous for marble and lardo. It is a well kept town, with the usual narrow, winding streets.

We came upon Cristo dei Cavatori in a marble floored piazza.

Beside it is a bas relief monument to the marble workers.

They sit in front of a pretty church…lined with marble.

Lardo is made by squeezing pork back fat into a marble basin. It is seasoned with sea salt and herbs and cured for at least 6 months. The marble caves were an excellent place to cure the lardo because the temperature was cool.

We walked past a place where the Lardo was stored and could smell the delicious aroma of the herbs.

Of course we had to try it. There are many places to eat lardo in Colonnata. We chose one with an outdoor setting as it was a lovely warm autumn day.

Lardo is sliced thinly. It is almost translucent. It is usually served on toasted bread and it melts in your mouth. Don’t knock it until you try it!

There are good views of the marble areas from Colonnata.

If you are in the area, a trip to the mountains behind Carrara is a great way to spend a day. The quarry tour is fun and a lardo lunch is delicious.

Thank you Liz and Alan for organising the trip, it was excellent.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 17, 2019

Lunch and an Abbey

After our visit to The Mall (previous post) we ventured on to Regello, a pretty town not far away. Regello is about 30 kilometres south east of Florence. It is surrounded by gorgeous forests of beech and fir trees.

We had lunch at La Gastronomia, a busy family restaurant in a pretty part of the town. It is clearly a popular place to visit. We saw lots of hotels and accommodation seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I think the promise of walking through the forests brings people to the area.

 

Lunch was great…take a look. The prosciutto was excellent as was the rabbit, the grilled porcini mushroom and the ossobuco. First prize goes to the perfect pannacotta.

A guided visit to the Abbazia di Valombrosa had been organised. It is a few kilometres out of the town. The lovely drive took us through some of the forest.

The Benedictine Abbey was founded by Giovanni Gualbert, a Florentine noble, in 1038 and it became the mother house of the Vallumbrosan order.

It was extended in 1450. In 1529 the east tower was built. The wall was built in the 17th century and the fishing ponds in the 18th century. There are now well established gardens within the walls.

There is a shop where you can buy books and produce, jams, sweets and gin, made by the monks.

Father Marco guided us through the beautiful church and cloister.

My favourite room was the enormous kitchen. At one time there must have been a lot more than the 6 monks who now take care of the Abbey.

In 1869 Il Regio Istituto Forestale was established beside the Abbey. It was the first of its kind in Italy.

It is possible to do guided walks in the stunning forest…another day.

Thank you Raffaela and Steve for organising the visit. Having our own guide was excellent.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 14, 2019

The Mall revisited

The Mall is a high fashion outlet south of Florence. It is years since I have been there so it was fun to return with friends recently. It has more than doubled in size since I was last there. See my original post which has instructions on how to get there. The Mall – outlet shopping near Florence 

Lots of new stores have been added, including Dolce & Gabbana, Etro (my current favourites) Loro Piano, Chloe, Ermanno  Scervino, Aquazzura, Gucci and many more.

The Mall is beautifully set up. It looks like a shopping village more than a bargain outlet. There are now a couple places to get coffee and a snack, or lunch to keep you going on your bargain hunting.

 

These are high fashion stores, so items are still expensive. Most things are half price, but there are occasionally bargain areas where you can get things at a fraction of the original price…happy shopping.

http://www.http//themall.it

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 9, 2019

A little bit of Australia in Florence

I love to spend a day in Florence. It is an easy trip from Bagni di Lucca so I do it often. Last week I had an extra reason to visit. I had heard there was an Australian bakery and cafe in Florence called Melaleuca.

Once I had visited Ponte Vecchio with its lovely views up and down the Arno, a must in Florence, I headed off to find Melaleuca.

The cafe is at 18 Via Lungarno delle Grazie, just past the Ponte Grazie, with a view of the Giardino Bardini on the other side of the river. Their signs are not ready yet. The cafe has only been open since August.

I met the charming owners, Chloe from Australia and Marco from Rome.

The interior is bright and cheerful.

They make their own cakes, biscuits,(they have lamingtons and melting moments) pastries and sourdough bread from locally sourced ingredients….their breakfasts look delicious.

The breakfast/brunch photos are from their site. I’m trying one of those next time.

I was very impressed with their toilet. They have green frogs painted on the wall. Many years ago a green frog took up residence in my bathroom. After several attempts to relocate it I finally had success when I took it to a local river.

I wish them well and I will certainly drop by when I am in Florence. Take a look at their menu.

After some exploring I found a favourite shop, Oggetti Contemporanei,  that moved a while ago to a new location. I have been searching for it ever since. Just by chance I spotted the owner in the street and she pointed to the shop behind her.

This shop is where I bought Angela the cake stand! As well as quirky home wares She  also has a small selection of clothing and accessories. I am very happy to have found the shop…I have another Angela to take home to Australia.

Here is Angela at Casa Debbio.

Wandering with no purpose in Florence is great. A walk across the Ponte Santa Trinita with its stunning statues on each corner offers a great view of Ponte Vecchio. By the afternoon the crowds have well and truly gathered on the bridge…go early in the morning for a better experience.

This crowded little shop in Borgo Santi Apostoli always brings a smile to my face.

I seems I am always running to catch my train with these distractions!

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 6, 2019

October in Italy

It is great to be back in Italy for a while. I first went to our apartment in Bagni di Lucca as we had guests staying at Casa Debbio.

Our little bit of Bagni di Lucca, Ponte a Serraglio, is looking gorgeous in early autumn. The weather has mostly been warm and sunny, with occasional bursts of heavy rain, along with some lovely misty days.

We have had some spectacular sunsets at Ponte a Serraglio.

As soon as I could I went up to Casa Debbio to see how our garden had grown, and how it survived the hot summer.

I love the drive up to Vergemoli, where our house is. This is my favourite view along the way.

Our lavender has grown this year. I would have loved to have seen it at its best in July, but I can image what it looked like.

The straw bed has not yet been eaten by the wild goats, but they have eaten all the roses, the oak leaf hydrangeas and nibbled at our new cherry trees.

I picked the last of our tomatoes, and ate the last figs on the trees. I can report that both were delicious.

Autumn mists change the view from Casa Debbio constantly.

Tonight I sat outside on the terrace and watched the gentle evening sky.

It is good to be back. Thank you Filippo for taking wonderful care of our garden over the summer. This autumn we will plant some more fruit trees and put some more peonies in the ground for spring.

If you look on my Instagram page (Debra Kolkka) you can see sme short videos of Ponte a Serraglio and Casa Debbio.

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