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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Colors of Italy

[Piazza, Agliano Terme, Piedmont]

Italy continues to fascinate us and each time I return I find the pull to visit the bel paese only getting stronger. Whenever we are fortunate enough to travel across the border, I spend a lot of time thinking about just what it is that makes Italy so special. Surely we have the food, wine, and history to draw us in and keep us coming back.  And there's always a new mystery to unravel in each unexplored region. The opportunity to look deeper, for example, at those dazzling Romans with their amphitheaters, grand monuments, and grander ambitions. And what of Tuscany with it's few hundred years that changed the face of art & architecture?  Then we'd be forgetting Umbria, with its beautiful hilltop towns, incredible vistas & equally formidable cuisine. In Italy, there always seems to be a "more".

[Festival announcements, Agliano Terme]

And then there's Piedmonte.  More to learn, more to discover, and more world-class gastronomy packed into this relatively small corner of the world than seems humanly possible.  Throughout our one-week tour of the region, I felt thoroughly (albeit happily) overwhelmed. Of course there were the wines. Too many to list and too many to really get more than a heady overview of.  We sampled Barberas from Asti, Monferrato, Agliano Terme and from a sprinkling of villages in between. Meals found us opening with spumantes and finishing with desserts served with splashs of Moscato (which almost made me overlook how good the homemade peach gelato was...almost).

There was the half-day trip to Barolo where we managed to get in a little tasting but still really only scratched the surface of this great wine. We ate way beyond our budget, happened upon tours of local sheep-cheese producers and hazelnut farmers, and, after tasting the difference between a cheese aged for two, four, or eight days, I felt a bit depressed that I had ever shopped at a supermarket.  

[The hills & grapes of Piedmont]   
All this to say that, like it's chic cousin France, Italy is an absolute feast for the senses.  The first thing that always hits me upon arrival are the colors. We've got our fair share of beauty in the south of France mind you, but everything here is a touch more subdued.  This is Provence after all.  We all expect a bit of quiet and relaxation from the land of Cezanne & Van Gogh. Traveling to Italy is like have the volume turned up on your day. Everything is a bit louder, brighter, more vivid. I notice it the minute I see those multicolored palazzos, red Vespas, and rolling green hills.  Even in the relatively reserved Piedmont, Italy is life in technicolor.

[Street scene & Vespa in Asti, Italy]

So while I'm dreaming of my next trip, I've got over 900 photos snapped in Piedmont to remind me of why we keep coming back to this enigmatic, complex, but forever beautiful country. That, and the ten bottles of wine we hauled over the border, might just help me get through the waiting until the next rendezvous with fair Italia.

[Barolos in waiting, Piedmont]


  1. Such gorgeous colors! The Piedmont is greener than Provence, right? It looks so lush, esp. in summer.
    Thanks for your note: and yes, can't wait to actually BE in Paris again!

  2. Fantastic photos! The sights must have been amazing (hence the 900 photos!). I'm suffering from a serious case of Barolo jealousy at the moment :-)

  3. I love this so much. :-) I've been so good paying off bills and not traveling this year, so I live for beautiful posts like this to inspire and cheer me. :-)

  4. Tuula, Thanks for the most recent post about your trip to Piedmont.

    After reading it, I feel tipsy from the wine, full from the food, and tired from my trip to Piedmont- The problem is that I have never been there!

    Thanks for taking me with you through the Blog!

  5. Somehow I missed reading this post. Perhaps it was the craziness I've been living the past few weeks.

    Lovely photos, so colourful. Yeah, Provence is subdued compared to Piedmont's vibrant colours.

    And all I can say is "mmm, Barolo". Thanks for the treat!

  6. Thanks for the great comments..really appreciated! Especially since I'm experiencing a bit of the post-Italy trip blues. Expect that's probably quite common...daydreaming already of next trip.
    Tanya, Hanging on to our 1 Barolo for dear life, that one calls for a really special occasion (or just next Sat. night :) xx

  7. LOL! We did that all the time before moving to France. Wine isn't cheap in Toronto and every time we made a trip to France we'd bring back some faves. Enjoy!!!

  8. Lovely post - I am sorry I missed it when you first wrote it. However, I am bummed - you were in Agliano? We should have definitely had coffee at least! :) Alla prossima cara!

  9. Gorgeous photos! This makes me want to be in Italy right now!