Trip Notes: Milan, Turin, Piemonte, Langhe
Considering a trip to Milan, Turin, Piemonte or Portofino? Sharing notes of where we went, what we want to remember for next time.
Milan. Our hotel, Hotel Spadari al Duomo, is centrally located, not fancy and not too expensive. The rooms are small but more than adequate. Full breakfast included.
We ended up eating both nights in a very small restaurant called La Latteria on Via San Marco (no website). It doesn’t take reservations, has about 12 tables and is clearly a local favorite, though we understand that it is packed with glitterati during design and fashion week. Simple home style Italian cooking, and the lemon pasta is out of this world. Get there before 7:30 and you should be good. Later there’s a line. The locals at the next table will undoubtedly help you through the menu. Gelato at Amorino is a must.
We had a good time at a design store, Sawaya & Moroni. Beautiful things to see by the late Zaha Hadid. Couldn’t afford those, but did purchase a candelabra by Maua Huni. She makes amazing menorahs too. Nilufar Gallery, both the one in town and the larger space about 15 minutes out, is full of gorgeous collectible furniture. Two chairs covered with India Mahdavi fabric, and two Gio Ponti chairs from an old train, were worth the visit. Just to ogle.
Turin. I had never been to this grand town, capital of the Piemonte Region on the Po River, and fourth largest city in Italy--and it is absolutely worth a visit, even if it’s just to walk around in its surprisingly understandable grid. There’s also a lot to see: a cathedral, an automobile museum, a Saturday flea market (we went, not worth it), a castle. We liked our hotel, NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina, centrally located on a large open square.
Because Sande and I take design classes, we were excited to go to Carlo Mollino’s house, expecting to see his studio and beautiful furniture. Instead, we toured an apartment which he designed as his crypt. It wasn’t at all beautiful. It was a monument to his belief in the occult. Creeped us out. Made us laugh.
Barolo Langhe. Barolo, the town, has only wine stores and a couple of museums, one of wine and one of corkscrews (wine began to be bottled only in the mid 1800’s). Barolo wine, of course, is the king of Piemonte wines, has to be aged at least three years before release, and can only be grown in 11 towns of the region. (By the way, DOCG is the highest appellation for these wines.) We were told that 2012 is the only bad year.
We had a casual lunch at Bar DiVin Café on Via Roma in Barolo and it hit the spot with simple salads, pasta and cheese. Our compatriots who preferred more upscale fare liked Osteria La Cantinella. Neither has a website. Also heard Il Grecale in Novello is worth a visit.
Other towns to explore are: Monforte d’Alba (part of the Barolo region, and home of the fabulous restaurant, La Libera, where we had one of our best meals with an abundance of white truffles); La Morra (beautiful vineyards); the colorful Barolo Chapel that used to be repainted annually by the American artist Sol LeWitt in exchange for wine); and Castilione Falletto.
As for the wines of the Piemonte region, well, you can’t get enough. For the reds, our favorites beyond the Barolo’s, were the Barbarescos (said to be a more feminine version of the Barolo), and Barberas (dry with strong acidity). For the whites, Moscato d’Asti (same as the spumante with less bubbly) and Gavi were favorites.
La Riviera di Levante: Camogli and Portofino. Camogli is a town on a harbor surrounded by tall houses with green shutters painted with trompe d’oeil elements in all sorts of pastel colors. Sunbathers on the rocky beach and lots of cafes all around the harbor make it a magical place. We opted for a very informal but delicious lunch followed by gelato, but the Ristorante La Camogliese is glassed in and sets out over the water for more classic fare.
Portofino has beautiful scenery and views and houses painted in pastel tones with sometimes simple, and sometimes elaborate trompe d’oeil decorations. Since the 19th century, it has been a destination for the English and then the jet set, but when we were there it was less crowded and more serene than it likely is in season. (The Splendido hotel, which is truly splendid, is open from late March to late October.) For restaurants outside the hotel, we had a spectacular meal of pasta and fish at Ristorante Puny on the piazza in Portofino. La Gritta’s floating bar for an aperitivo also hits the spot. Spritz (Aperol and prosecco) or Hugo (prosecco, elderflower, mint, sparkling water) anyone?
Shopping in Portofino for things you can’t find everywhere else, we spent some time at Mingo and Emanuela Caruso for handmade shoes, the first for more classic varieties and the second for glittery sandals and handbags, as well as outdoor stalls that sell gorgeous linen shirts for both men and women. And then there is Nives for spectacular hand embroidered table and bed linens to die for.
Beyond hikes with amazing views of the water, San Fruttuoso, a restored abby set in a small cove accessible only by foot or water, the Portofino lighthouse and San Margherita are worth a trip. Or maybe just watching the yachts go in and out of the harbor is more than enough.
Seems like there are no bad parts of Italy. The scenery, the people, the food, the craftsmanship, everything is sensory heaven. Enjoy!