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Day 8: Best Enjoyed Together

ITALY | Sunday, 8 June 2014 | Views [2014]

Nothing quite induces simultaneous appreciation and dejectedness like the last day of a holiday. I was just getting the hang of sleeping in when – for the first time since arriving in Alba – my alarm woke me up. Monforte was waiting. Pietro picked us up and we drove through the hamlet of Perno, which exemplifies the typical Langhe view I so adore. Elisa Fantino was at Conterno-Fantino Winery to greet us; her father, Guido, owns the winery with his brother-in-law, Caludio Conterno. Pietro had pointed up at the winery from Monforte’s outdoor amphitheatre earlier in the week, explaining that it was surrounded by water. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but sure enough, a modern moat encircled the property. It was only natural that I should take off my shoes and walk in it on such a hot day. We sipped some wine and admired the view from the glass viewing deck on top of the building, before leaving Elisa to nurse her hangover (she had experienced a busy day working at the Barolo Boys event the day before, followed by a busy night celebrating). 

We escaped the heat and ate lunch surrounded by locals at In Piazza, perched in Monforte’s lower square. Only too aware that my stay was coming to a close, I ordered tajarin. Sophia Loren might have said "Everything you see I owe to pasta," but it was me who said, “Everything you see, I owe to tajarin”. Our final excursion took us to Montà, where we met honey producer Fratelli Cauda. Inside the warehouse were stacks of green boxes containing wooden frames filled with honeycomb. The room smelled of beeswax, and if you listened carefully you could hear faint buzzing from the bees on the floor that didn’t fly off in time before the honey was collected. On the first day, Pietro had told us a story about how he narrowly escaped death-by-bee-sting after a bee had decided to nest inside his gardening overalls. Just as well, he had said, he suffers from anaphylactic shock. Irony is a funny thing. When we went outside so Carl could get a shot of the bees, one became stuck in Pietro’s hair and stung him on the ear. A lot of swearing and a few pills later, all was good in the world once more. After that, Pietro and I waited inside while Carl dressed in full protective gear to get his footage.

On our way back to Alba we stopped at a shopping centre so Carl could pick up some presents for his family and I could buy some bikini bottoms – after the hammam incident I wasn’t about to be poolside and unprepared. Five of us spent our last evening in Barbaresco’s Tre Stelle fraction, near Pietro’s home, at Casa Nicolini. The incredible property includes accommodation, a restaurant, and swimming pool and is also perfectly positioned for admiring the gentle slopes of the Barbaresco hills. We started aperitivo early, lazing about on the grass, chatting and eating salumi while Carl wandered through the vineyards to find the perfect spot to set up his camera for a sunset time lapse. Relaxing by the pool was made more difficult thanks to the likely prospect of Pietro throwing me in the water when I least expected it.

We ate outside and corked champagne to celebrate Pietro’s 44th birthday. We were celebrating early, but his birthday was a couple of days later, the same day I was due back in Melbourne at 5.30am. I had to order carne cruda – I didn’t know when I would eat it again. The owner, who had enjoyed a bit to drink that day, emerged from inside with a truffle and slicer, proceeding to shave it over our primi until there was no truffle left. I interrupted the conversation to point out the sun, which disappeared behind the hill in a sphere of shimmering gold. Our attention soon turned to a tray of exquisite porcini risotto, earthy and warm with slippery mushroom slices, each mouthful a comforting hug that pushed the thought of leaving the following day to a more distant place. Wine and laughter flowed until somehow, we ended up back beside the pool playing music from our iPhones. Another round of drinks appeared and we lay on our backs comparing the difference in stars between hemispheres until it was finally time to leave.

 
Photo credit: Carl Pendle

 

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I’ve always believed that everything is better shared, and nothing validated this more for me than my nine days in Langhe e Roero. I adore food and adventure, but I find dining and travelling with others so much more fulfilling than going it alone. What good is a sunset, whether it turns the hills golden or disappears behind the sea, if you can’t clink glasses with someone and say, “salute” when it disappears? When I eat something extraordinary my first reaction is to lovingly jam it down the person’s throat next to me so that they can experience it too. That’s what it’s all about in Langhe e Roero. Generosity is innate in Langhe locals. They don’t keep their best vintages locked away in a cellar; they bring them to dinner and fill the cups of strangers. The rest of the world could learn a thing or two from this beautiful corner of the world. 


Photo credit: Carl Pendle

Tags: italy, langhe, passport & plate, piedmont, piemonte, roero, sharing, thoughts, travel, world nomads

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