At 08:30 we circled back to the town of Barolo (a Unesco cultural area), then on to some artisan food shops.Silvia was our guide for this quaint little village of 800 residents and just over two square miles in size. It is in the region of Piedmonte and the wine producing region of Langhe. Here is a photo of the village--castle and school upper left-ish, and winery to right with round roof and surrounding buildings (we dined first night here). Under that is the winery as seen from the town. Oh, and their big fest is the Tripe Festival!!
The whole town is hilly, but walkable, even up a steeper incline to the Marchesi di Barolo Winery. Besides the winery, its main attraction is the Castello Falletti, originally built in the 10th century, later sacked by several enemies, given to the Falletti family in the 13th century as a summer home, and finally rebuilt in the 16th century.
The last Marchesa (winery named after her) was Juliette Colbert (known as Giulia di Barolo) who died in 1864. Her wish was to use the family fortune for the good of her people.
Monies and castle became Barolo College, an institution that schooled the majority of Barolo and surrounding area inhabitants from 1875 to 1958. For years, it was the only educational opportunity that the town's youth had, particularly poorer families. (Click here to read more about Juliette and husband Marquis Carlo Falletti's good works.)
In order to accommodate the school, the castle was transformed to a more modern facility in which students also lived during their education and training. Later the Professional School of Hoteliers opened in the classrooms. The castle proper, a museum now, is quite impressive with high walls, parapets, towers, fancy brickwork, and wine shop in the basement.
From there we walked the streets of the village stopping here and there for a bit of history. One place of interest was a store and corkscrew museum. Unfortunately is was not open for us to browse the 600+ corkscrews. (Click here to read more.)
And we saw our first Italian kitty, a friendly, calico beauty. Wish I had kibbles on hand.
Our last stop in this town was the Dal Forno Cravero bread bakery.
(Click here to read more,) The head baker, Steve Cravero, showed us the process from bread dough to the slim bread sticks known as Grissini, unique to this area. This bakery makes 100 kilos of dough a day. Don't know how many breadsticks that translates into, but a LOT.
We also met a fellow "stag-ing" here. His actual profession is trainer for the US Olympic skeleton (like a one-man bob sled) team. I can't imagine those interests going together, but he was very enthusiast and smiley about his duties.
Some tried our hand at stretching the dough into the 2-foot long sticks. Then we saw the dough sticks go into the oven and come out a rich golden brown. We got a bag of warm sticks to eat as we continued on our way.
Next stop was Pasticceria Marco Barbero's confectioner's shop (click here to read more), about 30 minutes away in the town of Cherasco. The original business was founded in 1881 and is considered a "Historical Italian Premises." Current owner, Giancarlo Torta, restored the shop and revived old recipes.
He treated us to a tasting of numerous hand-made chocolate products served on a little gold tray. There was chocolate of different cocoa percentages, chocolate with hazelnuts, chocolate with coffee, chocolate truffle, fruit dipped in chocolate, and chocolate on chili pepper.
Then a taste of their version of Amaro, that Alpine herbal liquor we discovered in Torino. And topped off with a chocolate-coffee espresso. All delicious. We bought a few take-me-homes; not sure if they will make it all the way home to the family though.
We continued on to the town of Bra, origin of the Slow Food Movement in the '80s. This life style is a way of saying "no" to fast food and the fast pace of life. And "yes" to taking time to enjoy simple pleasures, starting at the table. While we were in Italy, Slow Food Expo 2015 was happening in Milano, but we saw many signs for local slow food festivities in towns along our route. (Click here to read more on slow food movement.)
Our stop here was the Fiorenzo Giolito Formaggi cheese cellars (click here to read more). Our tour hostess was Lucia. Dashing shop owner Fiorenzo (3rd generation to make and market cheese) greeted us and treated us to a fine cheese tasting after the tour.
We briefly learned the process of making cheeses and saw the cellars where many exclusive cheeses are aged. We learned the differences in look and taste during the aging process, when it okay to eat the rind, and good and bad mold. There was also a display of old cheese-making tools. The shop handles many varieties of cheese from local cheese-makers--cow, sheep and goat. Their selection is vast.
We tasted 13 cheeses. I loved all but one and that was a bit "smelly" for me, but I think that was Mike's favorite. A variety of crackers and breads and wonderful wines backed up the cheese as well.
We got our first taste of grappa here also. This is an Italian alcoholic, grape-based beverage (70-120 U.S. proof). I hate to say this, but like it is kind of like an Italian version of tequila. All the ones I've tried were biting, and a bit hard to get down. It kind of takes your breath away, but once down it sure heats you up and mellows you out.
We had some extra fun here. Fiorenzo started to make a joke about a "thrifty" Scotsman who had stopped by. Lynn put on his hat and interrupted with a little "be careful, Laddie," as he is a true Scot through and through. They verbally bantered back and forth jokingly and immediately became best friends. Fiorenzo even had a Scottish hat of his own that he produced and we all got a big laugh. They even had to have their photo taken together (see above).
Stomachs full once again, but it was a good base for the next two winery stops.