Tag Archives: piemonte

Gratefully Grateful *20*

17 Jun

It has been a while since I published a Gratefully Grateful post.  I’ve sat down several times to do it but for some reason just couldn’t.  And it’s not because I haven’t had anything to be grateful for lately.  It’s actually quite the opposite.

I’ve spent time with wonderful people (Mom!), visited beautiful places, eaten delicious meals, read interesting books, taken lots of memorable photos and planned exciting future trips.

But I’m happy to be back here today and share some of my favourite images of the last few weeks.  I really do love looking back on these posts and remembering the little moments and details behind them.

So…

Here’s to the end of the school year which is (slowly) coming to an end.
Here’s to sultry hot summer days and melted gelato dripping down my kid’s arms.
Here’s to the copious amounts of fresh local seasonal fruit that has taken over my entire fridge.
Here’s to upcoming rock concerts that we’ve been waiting for ages to attend.
Here’s to soon being able to spend lots of homework-free days and nights with my three favourite little (big) people.

IMG_7880The perfect combination of bright yellow farm equipment and vibrant red poppies.  With the addition of the world famous Barolo vineyards in the background.  IMG_7981A dapper young lad on his way to lunch at the famous Slow Food restaurant Boccondivino in the small city of Bra (Piemonte).  He loved it by the way.IMG_7816Another gorgeous rose arrangement in the beautiful Villa Porta Bozzolo. IMG_7810I give her less than a year before she’s taller than me.

IMG_7904Now this is my kind of chapel.

Have a great week folks.

Gratefully Grateful
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Varallo, Piemonte

26 Jun

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This past week-end we decided to continue our exploration of the neighbouring region of Piemonte.  Over the last months we’ve visited the surrounding vineyards of  Gattinara, the small city of Vercelli and the quaint little town of Moleto.   We are always so surprised at how many lovely little spots we come across within an hour of our home.  And we wonder why in the world we haven’t been visiting these places over the last decade.  Then we promptly remember that with 3 small kids there were actually whole week-ends that we didn’t even manage to get all of dressed and out the door let alone to go visit a nearby town.  In any case, we are really enjoying these week-end trips and have a growing list of places we eventually want to visit.

On Sunday morning we woke up to a gorgeous, clear day and headed out towards the small town of Varallo (pop.7400) which is situated on the Sesia River and at the foothills of the Alps.  IMG_9255

We had a short 1 hour drive to arrive from Lago Maggiore and the kids were so excited to hike up the famous Sacro Monte di Varallo which is known to be the oldest in Italy.  Founded in 1491 the Sacro Monte houses 45 chapels, the basilica and over 800 painted statues.

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We were expecting a long 3 hour hike up a mountain but in the end it was a short 20 minute stroll up to the small plateau where you could visit all the little chapels, the basilica and enjoy the panoramic views over the town of Varallo below.

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I’m always so surprised at how interested my kids are in the history and stories behind these places.  They spend ages studying the frescos, reading the information signs and asking questions of every kind (thank goodness Papa is there to answer most of them).
IMG_9291After a very warm walk in the full noon sun we decided to head down into the town for some lunch and a little more exploring.

IMG_9329After a short search for a good typical restaurant we arrived at La Sfinge which ended up having a really lovely outdoor terrace looking over the Sesia River.  My daughter was in heaven when they brought her a wooden platter with various local cheeses and jams and my husband enjoyed his (wintery) meal of Polenta with Porcini.

After lunch we strolled around the very quaint (and quiet) little town and looked in all the antique shops which sold everything from clothing from the 1800s to every tool needed for working wool (which this area is famous for).  Slowly, large black clouds started to cover the skies and we just made it back to our car in time to avoid a downfall.

On our way back home we were driving through a small village and the kids started noticing people dressed in medieval costumes everywhere.  We stopped and quickly asked what was going on and someone told us that the yearly palio was about to start.  A palio is a sort of town event where all the different neighbourhoods compete against each other.  Sometimes it’s a horse race (Siena), sometimes it’s various physical competitions and sometimes, as in this case, it was a parade where all the different neighbourhoods dressed up in their special colours and period costumes.

IMG_9404As you can imagine my son was super excited to see all the armoured guards, knights and soldiers.

My daughters on the other hand admired all the beautifully dressed princesses, queens and maidens.IMG_9390And the rain stopped just as the parade started and started up again as we were slowly driving away.

It was one of those days where luck was on our side.

If you’re ever visiting Piemonte I would strongly recommend the Valsesia area.  There are many lovely little towns and castles to visit and world class hiking trails and rafting available.

Gattinara, Piemonte

8 Mar

One of the things I love about the place I live is the fact that we’re so close to so many beautiful areas.  We can hop in the car and be in the centre of Milan in less than an hour (depending on traffic of course).  We can arrive at the Swiss border within 45 minutes and to the beautiful city of Lugano in a little over an hour.  The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful relaxing drive of less than two hours as well.  It’s wonderful to be able to wake up on a Saturday morning, look  out the window and decide what kind of landscape we’re in the mood to visit that day.

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As I mentioned here  a few months ago, this year we’ve decided to explore and discover as many new and lovely places as we can in the region of Piemonte.  We are actually only minutes to the border of Lombardia and Piemonte (I do my grocery shopping there) and have actually seen very little of it over the 12 years that we’ve lived here.

Last Saturday morning we decided we wanted to do a nice little hike but weren’t in the mood to be in the car for very long.  We looked at a map and decided on the town of Gattinara which is a mere 30 minutes from our doorstep.

We all packed into the car and off we went to find some beautiful spot to take a stroll.  We arrived in the town and noticed there were signs that led up to a famous antique tower.  We followed the steep road up into the hills and vineyards and found just what we were looking for.

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We parked the car, visited around the tower for a few minutes then headed off on foot among the rolling hills covered in vineyards (which apparently are some of the best around).  Along one of the dirt roads we decided to follow a sign for the abandoned castle of San Lorenzo.  The weather was still a bit foggy (which it often is in Piemonte) and we slowly made our way up through the woods.

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The castle of San Lorenzo (XII-XIII) is in ruins but well kept and great fun for the kids to explore and climb around.  The sun broke through the clouds just in time for our picnic and we sat at a lovely old stone table in a little clearing in a wooded area.  The view we had on the abandoned castle was just perfect.

1-IMG_6749After lunch we strolled around the castle grounds and enjoyed the first sun we had seen in days.  In the middle of the ruins the kids found the ultimate climbing tree.  So while they climbed we sat back and enjoyed the views over the region and the Sesia River.

1-IMG_6735As usual, we had the place to ourselves.  I always find it amazing that you can find these gorgeous little deserted spots in the middle of nowhere.

1-IMG_6752Although it’s always a bit difficult to get the kids motivated to leave the house on week-end mornings they are always so happy when we are visiting these places.  They love the walks through the woods, vineyards, hills and towns and they adore hearing about the history behind all these places.

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Yet another great day out discovering Piemonte.

Vercelli

17 Jan

A few week-ends ago we decided to make a day trip to the Piemonte region here in Northern Italy.  We are currently living in Lombardia but are literally 5 minutes from the border to Piemonte.

Piemonte offers so many beautiful areas to visit: the famous vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco (to name a few), the vast risotto fields, small medieval towns and villages with castles, monasteries and beautiful villas and famous cities such as Torino.

So we decided that this will be our year to really explore Piemonte and all it has to offer.  Luckily we can reach many beautiful spots within an hour or so by car so it’s really perfect for a week-end day-trip.  Last year we visited the gorgeous town of Moleto and we plan to return there for a lazy Sunday lunch and walk in the rolling fields.

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So for our first Saturday outing we decided to visit the small city of Vercelli.  Vercelli is one of the oldest urban sites in Northern Italy (founded around 600BC).  The town is full of historic buildings from all periods and styles.  Every time you turn a corner you stumble upon another amazing piece of architecture.

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My husband spent the day teaching the kids about different styles of architecture (Roman, Gothic, Liberty etc) and by the end of the day they could identify all the styles of the different buildings and churches.  Who would have thought little kids would find it so exciting to learn about antique architectural styles!  I love that.

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I fell in love with this house above.  How lovely would it be to have an upstairs hallway with those windows!

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After a morning of wandering aimlessly through the town (which was empty for some reason) we found a little restaurant that offered delicious local specialties.  We tried the Bagna Cauda (warm dip of garlic and anchovies served with fresh vegetables), a local cheese plate (something my daughter always orders),  Panissa (a risotto with beans and sausage) and a hearty bowl of Pasta e Fagioli (beans and pasta).

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We also browsed through the monthly Organic/Biological market in the main square. Lots of local honeys, jams, baked goods and vegetables on offer to buy.

1-IMG_5236All in all a lovely and sunny winter outing.  I hope there will be many more of these in the coming months.  Stay tuned!

Moleto

4 Mar

This week-end we discovered an amazingly beautiful place that is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from our house.  Some good friends invited us to join them for a day of walks in the vineyards and lunch in the small antique town of Moleto (near Monferrato in Piemonte).  This area is referred to as the Tuscany of Piedmont due to it’s rolling hills, old farmhouses and wonderful landscapes.

After driving through fog as thick as pea soup for about an hour (on the autostrada) we made our way up the hill on narrow curvy roads.  As we approached the little borgo the sun broke through the haze and clouds and we enjoyed a day in the warm sun.

Moleto has a population of 18 and is in the process of being renovated and restored to it’s previous glory.  We visited some of the old houses and the stone floors and ceiling frescoes are absolutey stunning.  All of the houses have a maze of underground caves and grotte which were (and still are) used to age and store the wine produced in the area.

They have opened a great restaurant in Moleto which serves delicious local fare.  We lunched in their outdoor courtyard under a surprisingly hot sun for the 3rd of March (sun umbrellas were needed).  My mother, who is visiting from Canada, kept saying she felt like she was in the middle of a film set because everything was just so idealic.  The food, the weather, the surroundings – the perfect Italian dream image.

The kids loved running around exploring the area on their own.  The grownups loved the 3 hour lunch with delicious food and wine and great company.

Ghiacciato

22 Jan

The other day I was driving on my way to do some errands and came across this scenery in Piemonte.  The whole countryside was white, frosty and covered in a thin layer of ice.  I felt like I could have been on a back country road in Quebec in the middle of winter.  These photos were taken 15 minutes from my house where it was sunny and no ice or snow was to be seen.

As you can see, the risotto fields are covered in frost and ice.  I don’t know if this will affect the crops this spring but in any case it was a beautiful sight to see.

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