Finding our Bliss in Piedmont, Italy
Italy… there is a reason it’s one of the most visited countries in the world; it's fabulous. Iain and I took our very first vacation together 27 years ago. We were young, freshly in love and giddy to be visiting Venice, Florence and Rome for the first time.
We've returned on many occasions since, exploring Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Bologna, Modena, Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. But we had never been to the Italian Lakes. Given that our trajectory was mostly north from Monaco this seemed like the perfect time to remedy that. I started researching routes up to the lakes and found that one of the best was through the Piedmont region. Thinking I knew nothing about this area at all I realized that in fact I recognized a lot of the town names (Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti) because they are all famous wines! Never ones to pass up the chance to travel through wine country our route up to the lakes was set.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the area knocked our socks off. From our very first stop we knew that we were going to like it here. Not only is the vineyard landscape of the first region we visited a UNESCO world heritage site but we were also blessed with clear skies allowing the Alps to provide an amazing backdrop. All of this topped off with lovely villages and towns to explore. What a place!
Our first stop was the peaceful village of Castiglione Falletto. From the free aire in town we took a wander around the tiny village to a lovely bar and restaurant were we enjoyed a glass of local wine. This might be what bliss is; gazing over seemingly endless vineyards while sipping on the fruits that have been lovingly turned into wine by people who are good at these kinds of things. Me, I think I am pretty good at enjoying wine but still feel the need to practice.
From here we visited the larger (but no less lovely) town of Neive. Again, we parked on the edge of town in an inexpensive aire and spent the afternoon strolling through the picturesque streets. From here it is not far to the headline location of Barbaresco. Famous for it's namesake beverage, even if you don't want to taste the wine, it is another beautiful village to linger a while.
I chose our final stop in the Piedmont region based on rave reviews of a camping spot on a winery near the town of Moncalvo. The Olivetta winery is run by a young couple Elisabetta & Marco who like people and so decided to welcome more by adding a couple of motorhome spots on their property. Once we were settled in Elisabetta opened some of their wine for us to taste. We really loved the Cortese, a white characteristic of this area but their Barberea del Monferrato Superiore was the best. We gladly took the remains of the tasting bottles home to enjoy with dinner. It's such a peaceful spot parked among the vines and this time we were drinking wine produced from the grapes grown literally outside our window; more bliss ensued.
The next day we took the short but steep bike ride into Moncalvo for market day. A fantastic city. Yes, despite it's diminutive size with only 3,000 inhabitants, it is a city. Apparently the smallest one in Italy. It's not a typical tourist area here so trying to navigate the stalls that are catering mostly to locals can be a little intimidating. Our Italian skills aren't up to much although we have found trying Spanish sometimes works. Still, the friendly market stall vendors were very accommodating and didn't seem to mind us butchering their language. This combined with smiling, pointing and nodding scored us some cheese, veggies and meat for grilling later.
Our week in Piedmont came to an end and once again we are reminded why we love motorhome life so much. A region that was really just on the way to somewhere else we wanted to get to turned out to be a new favorite and a place that we will definitely revisit. Our next stop is the Italian Lakes but we won't forget Piedmont too quickly; we’re carrying a half a dozen bottles of Olivetta wine with us to help the bliss continue a little longer :-)
Recommendations & Tips
Where we stayed: We visited during the second week of May 2019
44. Free Aire at the edge of Castiglione Falletto with full motorhome service point. GPS: 44.62282, 7.97393
45. Aire at the local sports club, Neive 10€ a night with elec GPS: 44.72757, 8.11373
46. Vini Olivetta, near Moncalvo, two motorhome parking spots in the vineyard. Included is use of the private bathroom, such luxury! 15€ a night with elec. GPS. 45.07246, 8.25367
You can always find details of where we stay on our overnight stays map.
The Moncalvo market is considered one of the best in the region and is held every Thursday morning in the center of the town.