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Honeymoon in North Italy


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#1 IanT

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 11:50 AM

We are planning our honeymoon in Northern Italy this July.

Our current plan is:

Lake Como - 4 nights
Bergamo - 2 nights (dinner at Da Vittorio)
Verona - 3 nights (Aida at the opera festival, wine trip to Valpolicella and a meal at Le Calandre)
Piedmont - 4 nights near Alba (Lots of food, Barolo and Barbaresco - thanks Daniel for the incredible wedding thread!)

We've got some great recommendations for Bergamo, Verona and Piedmont (though more tips always welcome) but I'm struggling to find recommendaitons for good restaurants on Lake Como. We are staying in Tremezzo on the western shore of the lake. Any tips?

(And, to pre-empt a response from LML, no need to mention Lake Como being ruined by traffic, noise, sh1t food and fat middle-aged Americans slurping their ice creams and rubber necking to get a glimpse of Clooney).

#2 Eatmywords

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:04 PM

What guides are you using? We found Frommers N.Italy and 25 Great Drives to be useful.

We read about and really wanted to get to Lake Como but didnít have time. After spending just under a week in Piedmont for Danielís wedding we drove down through Cuneo and into France to visit family in Nice and Cannes. That drive through small towns and mountains is one of the most beautiful. Coming back we drove along the Riviera stopping in Monte Carlo, San Remo, Genoa (baby loved the aquarium) and back to Milan. Next time, Lake Como.

In Piedmont try to get to Bra. Lovely town to stroll through, historic sites and the slow food restaurant, Boccondivino which is simply fantastic. Reserve ahead.

Dogliani, where we stayed is wonderful but maybe too far south for you? The small town, basilica and adjoining underground wine store/cave are charming.

One of several rooms:
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South of Alba, If you are looking for castles, the one in Seralunga DíAlba was our favorite. Barolo too but a bit touristy.

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How into wine are you? Plan on visiting vineyards?

#3 IanT

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 03:33 PM

In Piedmont try to get to Bra. Lovely town to stroll through, historic sites and the slow food restaurant, Boccondivino which is simply fantastic. Reserve ahead.


Thanks for the response. We are definitely going to visit Bra and Boccondivino is already on my must-visit list.

I'm also keen to get to Dogliani, it sounds lovely and Il Verso del Ghiottone looks great.

How into wine are you? Plan on visiting vineyards?


Quite into wine and yes, we are definitely going to spend a few days visiting vineyards. We are currently aiming to spend one day visiting Allegrini and a couple others in Valpolicella and two days at vineyards in Piedmont. Our hotel is in between Barolo and Barbaresco and they have been helpful with recommendations. Any vineyard tips? It seems a reasonably number are visitor friendly now.

#4 Eatmywords

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 08:12 PM


In Piedmont try to get to Bra. Lovely town to stroll through, historic sites and the slow food restaurant, Boccondivino which is simply fantastic. Reserve ahead.


Thanks for the response. We are definitely going to visit Bra and Boccondivino is already on my must-visit list.

I'm also keen to get to Dogliani, it sounds lovely and Il Verso del Ghiottone looks great.

How into wine are you? Plan on visiting vineyards?


Quite into wine and yes, we are definitely going to spend a few days visiting vineyards. We are currently aiming to spend one day visiting Allegrini and a couple others in Valpolicella and two days at vineyards in Piedmont. Our hotel is in between Barolo and Barbaresco and they have been helpful with recommendations. Any vineyard tips? It seems a reasonably number are visitor friendly now.


Definitely go to Il Verso. (The church and wine cave in the piazza are a minute away). Keep in mind itís a nice little ride from your hotel and roads/hills can be very challenging esp after several quartinos. (GPS on the rental is an absolute must btw).

At Boccondivino, try for the gnocchi (al Raschera if offered), tortino de verdure and the tarjarin. They offered 2 prix fix menus. We shared both which was a great way to sample 10 dishes.

Yes, most vineyards are visitor friendly but many esp the smaller require appointments as you are probably finding out. A couple people here arranged nice itineraries. Not sure if they had hookups or just made calls. Hopefully, theyíll chime in.

We tasted Dolcettos, Nebiololos, Barberas and Barolos from two small vineyards, Elio Altare and Mauro Veglio in La Morra. They gave us tours and treated us like family. Not to mention the tastings were divine. And the entrances are within 50 yards of each other so you can walk to one after the other. We had a hookup but the others seemed to have only made a call. The views from both are spectacular.

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#5 IanT

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 04:03 PM

Lake Como

Beautiful place, perfect to relax after the wedding but, as expected, not a foodie highlight. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo was lovely and to be fair the food wasn't bad. Its Escale wine bar does Alpine style food, nothing wrong with its cheese fondue, salumi selection (great lardo) with a huge Zenato Amarone. Its fine dining Terazza restaurant was what you'd expect. We generally drank some nice wine, best value was probably a Ä75 euro 2004 Tignanello over a Ä8 lunchtime pizza in Bellagio :D.

Bergamo

The Citta Alta is a beautiful old hill town connected to the Citta Bassa by a cool old funicular railway with the most amazing train station bar you've ever seen. Lovely place with great churches and museums but maybe more a day trip rather than a place for a leg of a journey. We stayed at the Gombit Hotel in the Citta Alta, modern design hotel in a Medieval tower, quite cool and great location.

Nothing too exciting on the casual food front. Donizetti has a very good wine list and did a nice lunch. Valtellinese came highly recommended but was stodgy and a bit dull (if cheap). Il Fornaio does some interesting foccaccia style pizzas just off Piazza Vecchia, expect to queue at lunchtime.

Da Vittorio was the reason we had decided to work Bergamo into our itinerary. Stunning place, 15 minutes out of town. If I had my time back I would have stayed here and just done a day trip in to the Citta Alta. A very different 3* experience, dining on a beautiful garden terrace on a warm night. They specialise in seafood which I found odd given the location but apparently Milan has the best seafood market in Italy and they source fish from all over Italy (and Europe). Highlights were some amazing Sicillian langoustine, incredibly tender baby octopus with black olive vinaigrette and, in particular, the seafood linguine. Not much to look at but the flavours... Huge amount of food including some missteps (borderline overcooked John Dory with squid spaghetti, does fried pineapple really belong in a 3* fritto misto?, dessert bar was fun and gluttonous but not sure it's right for a 3* meal). Maybe 2* food but definitely a 3* experience. Drank a great Franciacorta (the quality of Franciacorta sparkling was one of the finds of the trip for me) and an oaky but enjoyable bottle of Ca'Bosco Chardonnay.

#6 IanT

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 04:24 PM

Verona

Some great casual eating particularly Bottega del Vino. Absolutely off the charts wine list and the food exceeded expectations. A huge burrata to share followed by a big Le Creuset of intensely flavoured amarone risotto. Ate all of that with a bottle of Bertani Amarone 2003 and rolled down the street to Aida in the Arena. Il Pompiere was also very good (amazing selection of homemade charcuterie, over 35 types, good wine list also). La Greppia was also good for lunch (fresh uncured soppressata with polenta being the highlight).

The Valpolicella wine region is less than 30 minutes north of Piedmont. We did a day trip which included visits to Bertani (in the stunning Villa Novare), Allegrini and Fratelli Vogadori. Excellent lunch in L'Enoteca del Piazza in Negrar (very delicate fried zucchini flower starter, gorgeous potato gnocchi with butter). I had to lay off the Amarone after overdosing on this day-trip, a nice light 2003 Mascarello Monprivato Barolo for dinner at Il Pompiere that night...

Le Calandre was the meal of our trip. It's in a slightly grotty suburb of Padova, about an hour's drive east of Verona. Easily in the top tier of international 3*, modern but firmly rooted in North Italy. Earning 3* at 28 years old is pretty incredible but you can certainly see why. His interpretation of tomato and mozzarella salad will stay with me for a while. The signature liquorice and saffron risotto lived up to its billing. This trip has completely changed how I make risotto. Angelo the sommelier was amazing too, so enthusiastic and proud to show off his list. Great custom recommendations by the glass and one of the wines of the trip in 2007 Giorgio Primo from La Massa. I hadn't heard of it before and it was probably too young but...wow. Great restaurant, modern in exactly the right way (though you could argue using dry ice at the table to chill my chartreuse glass was theatricality for the sake of it!)

#7 IanT

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 04:25 PM

Piedmont

The highlight of our trip, such a beautiful part of the world. And absolutely obsessed with food and drink. We stayed in the (American owned) very lovely Castello in Sinio one of the many hill towns scattered around Barolo and Barbaresco. Day by day the nebbiolo grape worked its magic on us. The quality of the casual dining was absolutely amazing. To give you an idea, Boccadivino in Bra had been much recommended, both on here and elsewhere and we had a lovely lunch there the day we arrived (tripe and tajarin salsiccia). It was probably the weakest meal we ate in Piedmont. And Bra is a nice town but compared to La Morra, Serralunga, Barolo, Barbaresco and all the other hill-towns well... Everywhere was amazing but one casual place to mention in particular is La Cantinella in Barolo. Honestly, these places charge €30 for three course and are better than the 1* Italian restaurants in London. The local Sinio pizzeria had a 10 page wine list with Barolos from the 70s and 80s for under €100.

We had some great winery visits including a very special morning with Chiara Boschis at E.Pira. Notwithstanding her status as international wine star and maker of 97 RP point wines she spent hours with us showing us her place, debating barriques v. barrels, sharing her wine and cheese (castelmagno, un-frickin-beliveable, "smells like sex" - she had just bought a herd of mountain cows to make her own). I should also mention Azelia where Lorenzo, the winemaker's son, was very generous with his time, lovely wines. We met up with him last month in London for a Piedmont focussed tasting, again the generosity was incredible. Bottles and bottles of the best Barolos and Barbarescos (including Gaja Sori Tildin, Rinaldi, La Spinetta etc.)

Piazza Duomo was a late addition for dinner on our last night. Very modern 2* in Alba. Not all that original (I had seen many of the ideas/techniques before), a few good courses but generally gimmicky, I disliked the room and service (sommelier apart) wasn't good (partly due to the awkward room).

Incredible trip, hopefully it won't be too long before we return to Piedmont.

#8 Sneakeater

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 07:45 PM

I want to go back to Piedmont.

I want to go back right now.

(I also want to open some of my 2000 or 2001 Giorgio Primo. Maybe next year.)
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#9 Sneakeater

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 07:48 PM

"smells like sex" - she had just bought a herd of mountain cows to make her own


Must be quite a gal.
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#10 IanT

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:23 PM

"smells like sex" - she had just bought a herd of mountain cows to make her own


Must be quite a gal.


:lol: Yes she was. Very accommodating.

#11 IanT

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:31 PM

I want to go back to Piedmont.

I want to go back right now.

(I also want to open some of my 2000 or 2001 Giorgio Primo. Maybe next year.)


I'm sure it will be great. Angelo the somellier gave us some awesome chat on the wine. I think 2007 was the first year he stopped using Sangiovese altogether in the blend, it went down a storm with the critics, got 97 from Parker etc. I can't speak higly enough of Angelo, up there with Sergio at Michel Bras for the best I've ever come across.

#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 10:13 PM

Yeah. In theory I was pissed off at his abandonment of Sangiovese. But I haven't heard one single negative comment about the wine.
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#13 balex

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 08:35 AM

Actually I have been vaguely thinking of going to Piedmont next month to eat truffles etc, --- this post has tipped me over the edge into actually doing something about it.

I hadn't heard of Giorgio Primo beforehand; but I tend to avoid Italian wines made from French grapes, for reasons I don't really understand. Though I quite like Tenuta di Trinoro.

#14 IanT

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 10:33 AM

Actually I have been vaguely thinking of going to Piedmont next month to eat truffles etc, --- this post has tipped me over the edge into actually doing something about it.

I hadn't heard of Giorgio Primo beforehand; but I tend to avoid Italian wines made from French grapes, for reasons I don't really understand. Though I quite like Tenuta di Trinoro.


Cool, let me know if you need any intros to the winemakers we met etc. Don't tell Chiara what Sneakeater said about her and the cows.