It is always a treat when friends come to visit, and particularly now that we are no longer in lock down but continue to live in a world where social distancing and masks have become the new normal. I think I appreciate my friends even more than before. During a normal year of guiding, organizing time with friends is difficult because I am on the road when friends from North America want to visit, and my guide friends are on the road at the same time I am. There is never enough time even with the best of intentions. This year we have more than enough time on our hands and none of my friends or family who were planning to visit can travel. This obviously makes me sad for many different reasons. The upside of all my guiding friends being out of work is that we all have too much time on our hands and seriously itchy feet from a lack of adventure. Most of us are not really looking for exotic escapes but miss connecting with people and sharing experiences. Last week after years of trying to get together, couple of guide friends came to visit so I got to play tour guide at home for a change. Wandering around together we realized just how much we all miss traveling and I remembered how much I like exploring the place I call home with fresh eyes. It has inspired me to start creating a one-week tour in my neck of the woods in anticipation of our world reopening again in the hopefully, not too distant future. Stay tuned for that and in the meantime, I will share the fun Daniela, Stephanie and I got up to during our visit.
One of the things we always do when people are visiting is a day trip into the Langhe, to roam around the castle topped hills and taste wine. With Stephanie and Daniela, two of my favorite fellow nomads, this was no exception. Food, wine, good company, and spectacular scenery, make for a great day so here’s what we did.
Our objective for the day was lunch in Barolo (a noble cause for a noble wine) but on the way we stopped for some sweet treats and crunchy breadsticks in the town of Carrù to accompany dinner at home that evening. The town of Carrù is one of the portals to the Langhe and on the way so we took a quick stroll around and stopped at a “Big Bench” to take in the world. Finding “Big Benches” while wandering about is one of my favorite diversions. They are simple and make me happy which is what they are intended to do.
Working our way towards Barolo, the clay cliffs and rolling hills covered with vineyards and hazelnut trees, invited us to stop and take pictures. On a roadside pull-out above the town of Barolo, we took pictures of the fairytale like castle we would be seeing up close later. As we started our day relatively late, it was basically time for lunch once we landed in Barolo, so after a quick stroll around town we went to the Borgogno tasting room. The rooftop terrace is a magnificent place to taste wine accompanied by cheese and local salami. This is a time of year when Barolo would normally have at least a few tourists floating around, although I have never found it to be too crowded. This year their presence is sorely missed, and the annual Collisioni Music Festival, that draws around 100,000 people with a series of concerts over the summer months has been cancelled. Many restaurants and bars are still only open from Thursday through Sunday right now. On the rooftop terrace that would normally seat around 15 people while respecting the social distancing rules, we were all alone. I must say it was rather spectacular with the castle in the foreground and vineyards all around us.
After our wine tasting we made our way into the valley to visit a small chapel, La Capella delle Brunate. The chapel was built for vineyard workers as a refuge from storms in 1914 and beautifully decorated with bright colors in 1999 by artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett for the Ceretto Winery. It is a wonderful testament to how contemporary art can blend into a more historic setting. Its bright tones dance in the sunlight underneath the town of La Morra.
From there, we then made our way to the medieval Castello di Grinzane Cavour that boasts a fantastic Michelin starred restaurant run by my friends Marc Lanteri and Ami Bellotti, but on a hot Tuesday afternoon, they too were closed. I got to say hi to Amy as she was heading out of the parking lot on her way home. That alone was a nice surprise. Marc and Amy’s restaurant was where I celebrated my 50th birthday in March, one day before our lock-down began. The Castle is also home to a regional Enoteca for wine tasting and an interesting ethnographic museum that generally enjoys a constant flow of people. Taking in the view and having a quick shot of coffee we fueled up for the drive home.
Deciding on a new road home we ended up stopping at the winery of Domenico Clerico, whose founder and namesake is now deceased but they continue to make fantastic wine. We stopped by without an appointment and will not make that mistake again since we were not able to do a tasting or buy wine. What we did end up with was a short, impromptu tour of the cellar (thank you Francesco) which was a perfect end to our afternoon. I hope you too have enjoyed this little jaunt, and fun with friends.