Ahh, bella Italia. I may be having a long-term affair with a certain (particularly attractive) landmass known as greater France, but I'll always be faithful to my first love, Italy. If you're not Eat, Pray, or Lovin' your way across the bel paese, then there's a good chance you're dreaming of it. As I was way back in 2006 when I picked up the September copy of Travel + Leisure & discovered that not only did "the boot" contain such culinary wonderlands as Tuscany & Umbria, but that there was an "unexplored" region known as Piedmont. Well, right now someone, somewhere is probably crying in their pasta bowl at the thought of calling the area producing "some of the best wines in the world" (and with gastro-powerhouses like Alba & Bra) "unexplored". But if you're an American hitting some of the Italian tourist-biggies like Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast, Piedmont can be quite a trek North, and remains decidedly mysterious for us folks on the other side of the Atlantic.
Which helps explain the four-year "gap" between my pouring over those glossy T+L photos of at our local Barnes & Noble (with my gi-normous Starbuck's cappuccino), and our 4.5 hour drive to Piedmont tomorrow. There's a bit of history in those years (including something called a cross-country move & nominal success with lemon tarts), but I haven't lost my fascination for the region and my dreams of mornings spent in those misty hills with an Italian-sized cappuccio.
I've re-read the Taste the Flavors of Piedmont article and dug into the Lonely Planet for details on the region, but some of the best travel information I've found is from the Slow Travel web site and from B&B owner Diana Strininati Baur's write-ups on the area. I also stumbled across the Langhe Roero site, which provides up-to-date tourist information for Alba, Bra, Langhe, Roero & towns in between. Thanks to their downloadable August events calendar, we've got our sights set on attending the 56th Sagra della Nocciola at Cortemilia. Hmm, what's that all about you ask? Well, it's just a nine-day festival dedicated to the undeniably fabulous hazelnut - tasting, presentations, concerts, & a fireworks spectacular. Yep, fantastique. Look for me hedging past the crowds in a big I LOVE NUTELLA t-shirt.
Honestly, we've been doing more traveling in the last month than in the last six, so Nutella is probably the only thing I'll be eating when we come back, but we are doing our best to economize by staying at...drumroll...a campsite outside of Asti. They'll be a trip report to come on that one for sure (Tents, Trailers, & Tagliatelle) plus an update on the outcome of my 4-year Piemontese crush. Until then, arrivederci from bella Francia...