Piedmonte – Barolo country – Italy

Piedmonte is in Italy’s far north west and believes it is the wine and food capital of Italy.  More English was spoken than in other parts of Italy and far more northern European languages could be heard, particularly German as it is so close to Switzerland and Germany.  The architecture and cities we visited were also markedly different to Toscana and other parts of Italy.

Piedmonte is the second largest of Italy’s 20 administrative areas (after Sicily). It borders France and Switzerland with over 40% of the land covered by mountains.

It is a fertile agricultural area producing a substantial amount of Italy’s grains. In addition it is an acknowledged wine producer – primarily it is well known for its Barolo vino rosso.

And home to some wonderful white tartufo (truffles) particularly around Alba.

This is the hilltop town of La Morra which is centrally placed in the wine growing district.

Piedmonte has two wines which it calls the king and queen of Piedmonte wines. These are both made totally from Nebbiolo grapes with the king being Barolo and the queen Barbaresco. The only difference between the two is the area where the grapes are grown. Both are grown under strict DOCG guidelines. The Barolo must not be released for four years and the Barbaresco for three years. Most plot holdings are relatively small with the exception of a few major growers such as Gaja. Below are just a few pics of the various vineyards.

Some grape pickers.

It looks like another great vintage!

Well someone has to do the work!

French barriques.

More bariques…..what an amazing cantina (cellar).

Piedmonte is also known for its food including the famous white truffle from Alba.

Street markets are prominent with local and national produce from around Italy.

Street market in Asti.

Sundried tomatoes

Garlic

fava beans

Restaurants in general were very good with excellent food outcomes.  Below are some examples of the food produced in Peidmonte restaurants.  Specialities of the area include Risottos, Taglionini pasta, truffles (black but especially white), raw sausages from Bra, veal, pork and more pork and of course all washed down with a spumante from Asti to start and then magnificent Piedmontese vinos followed by our favourite Saracco dessert vino.

mmmmnnn…tartufo bianco (white truffle) shaved over al dente taglionini pasta

asparagus risotto with raw egg stirred throughout

vitello(veal) stew

stuffed vegetables with ricotta mixture and a tomato coulis

local cheeses including ewes, cows and goats

Piedmonte is well worth a visit. Towns are not as “antica” as in other areas such as Toscana but they do have an appeal. Here are just a few snaps of some of the towns…

Alba Cathedral

A typical Alba street

Part of main Square in Alba

Barolo

La Morra Cathedral

Bra Townhall

Ostica Antica – Ancient Roman port city

One of the hidden treasures of ancient Rome…Ostica Antica

Ostia was the port city of Imperial Rome, situated about 25 km from Rome Central.

At its peak it housed about 50,000 citizens

The city was very important to Rome receiving all the produce coming from other parts of the world or indeed Italy. It became the most important seaport in the Meditteranean. The area was occupied from the fourth century BC but really came into its own around one century BC when the walled elements of the city were constructed

 It was well planned with a parallel and vertical road grid

The city was quite wealthy and stylish and was almost fully self contained. The word Ostia comes from the latin word Ostium which means river mouth. At the time it was at the mouth of the river but today with floods and river changes it sits some 3 km from the sea

Note the Neptune mosaics that are in amazing condition considering they were laid some 2000 years ago

This particular bath house had a cold pool, two imtermediate temperature pools and one hot pool and they were usually utilised in this order

Also in the bath houses were change rooms, massage rooms and entertainment areas. Most homes at that time had limited facilities so bath houses were particularly popular

Signage for the shops was by way of a mosaic on the footpath outside. This one was clearly a seafood providore

What is surprising with this fish shop is that the table, fish tank and oven are in original condition

Even bars and restaurants were prevalent. This one was well preserved with the bar and servery in tact. The bar was built some 2000 years ago and its condition today is remarkable. Even the barmaid is in good condition

The city was impeccably presented with open courtyards, fountains and piazzas

Here are examples of some

We love this photo of a young girl drawing amongst the antiquity of Ostia

Of course every city must have somewhere to place the deceased

Pre christian days people were cremated and their remains placed in wall urns. Here is a street named in accordance with its inhabitants and the place where the urns went

Well, enough of the city. It is well worth a visit. By train just one Euro and we were surprised by the lack of people there. It was so pleasant just meandering around the ruins.

Opera at the Spanish Steps in Rome

Every now and again you unexpectedly come across an event which excites. One such occassion was at the Spanish Steps.

Was it the atmosphere or was it a great performance? I suggest both.

The first performance was from a dance group. They were fantastico.

They were followed by four fabulous opera singers who sang wonderful renditions of some of our favourite songs.