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Monaco Weekend Visit to Piedmont

Members brave torrential rain in Italy

The Monegasques have done it again! On the first weekend in November, 16 members of the Bailliage went on a tour to explore the Piedmont, especially the "Regione di Monferrato e delle Langhe".

When we saw the weather forecast in the morning we were about to cancel the whole trip - the area of Genoa had just seen its worst flash floods and the forecast was not promising, announcing further rain, rain, rain for northern Italy.

Armed with umbrellas, rain coats and boots we nevertheless decided to proceed. First stop was the Castello Tagliolo, one of many medieval fortresses in the Monferrato area. It was our good fortune that another group of visitors had just cancelled due to the bad weather, so the Marchese Oberto Pinelli Gentile spontaneously invited us for a tour of his family heritage including a wine tasting.

With this excellent start to our excursion we went on to Alessandria, the provincial capital of the Piedmont. The Restaurant Alli Due Buoi Rossi greeted us with a mouth-watering aperitivo buffet followed by a beautifully set lunch around a big table in a bright salon. Special thanks go here to Chef Domingo Schingaro for his attention to detail, as the Millefeuille de pain d'Altamura avec Brandade de Merluche et Poireau croquant was not only delicious but a work of art. Re-energised, a very talented tour guide awaited us after lunch to show us ancient Alessandria. She even had managed to have the St. Peter Cathedral opened for us!

Again through heavy rain, we arrived at about 6 pm in Casale Monferrato at the Hotel Candiani. This hotel is part of an early twentieth century industrial Liberty building where one of the most traditional restaurants of Piedmont is found. Chef Patrizia Grossi selects and prepares her characteristic cuisine from high quality products and has a cellar offering a consistent collection of wines with special care to the smaller and emerging producers.

In the nobly-furnished dining salon with a beautiful fireplace we were greeted by the Bailli of Langhe, Signore Allessandro Predieri, and his charming wife as well as two members from the Bailliage of Milano who came especially to join us. Chef Patrizia had selected the most beautiful truffles, big like potatoes, filling the room already with their distinctive aroma, which then accompanied each dish perfectly.

The selection of wines went from a fruity Nebbiolo 2009 via a powerful Barbaresco 2006 to an exquisite Barolo 2000. As if we weren’t already spoilt enough by the menu, Bailli Predieri had prepared a booklet full of details and information about truffles as well as offering each of us a book about a culinary insight through the Monferrato. In addition to that were presented with delicious local biscuits for the ladies and a 1995 Armagnac for the gentlemen who were very delighted and shared it right away.

The next morning greeted us again with rain and wind but the actual highlight of the trip still lay ahead of us. Unfortunately we had to skip seeing some major sights like the Serralunga d'Alba and the ample panorama of La Morra, overlooking the Barolo vineyards, as the windy picturesque roads were just too dangerous and even sometimes impassable due to the torrential rivers. We did stop though in Barbaresco and discovered a former church that had been transformed into the Enoteca Regionale, which is today devoted to selling and promoting Barbaresco wines.

Finally we arrived in Alba, capital of the hilly area of Langhe, famous for its white truffle, peach and wine production. Also the confectionery group Ferrero is based in Alba. Walking by the Romanesque Alba Cathedral and then through narrow streets lined with salumerias, pasticcerias and boutiques we reached the "Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d'Alba", one of the most famous truffle markets in the world. Again the smell at the entrance was more than enticing. The vendors of truffles, wines and cheeses are so passionate about their products, the atmosphere is just fascinating.

                 

                  

              

Of course we came out with bags filled up with Italian specialities, happy and hungry to head off to our last venue - lunch in Canale d'Alba at the Leon d'Oro secolare. Welcomed at the door by Chef Ilaria and her elderly Mamma was just the beginning of a very delightful lunch, in a cosy and family-run atmosphere, around a big table next to yet another big party celebrating a birthday. Again beautiful truffles accompanied the carefully-prepared menu including their traditional dishes like the Brasato al Barbaresco, local cheeses and the delicate Semifreddo al Torrone d'Alba.

                                       

Sadly our trip had to come to an end after this sumptuous luncheon that finished at 5pm. Alain, our coach driver, managed to drive through the pretty yellow, orange and red autumn landscape until he finally brought us back home to Monaco safely on Sunday evening.

         

Very last but not least I must stress that this beautiful trip was only possible due to the wonderful help and organisation of Roberto Zanghi, Member of the Conseil Magistral, Bailli Délégué of Italy. All his recommendations and reservations were superb and highly appreciated and I take this opportunity to personally thank him for supporting me in making this trip an unforgettable and enjoyable weekend for all members of the Bailliage of Monaco. 

Grazie mille, Signor Zanghi!

Heike Cottray
Bailli Délégué

 

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