Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category


Today’s postcard is of Vernazza, long before the heavy rain and floods devasted the town.
Monterosso was also affected. The images of mud rivers flowing through the streets where we have all walked, were unbelievable.
Our thoughts are with everyone as the clean up begins.


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With summer fast approaching in Australia, my thoughts go back to our summer in Sicily and in particular, Favignana, where this photo was taken.
Favignana is the largest of the Egadi Islands and an easy day trip from Trapani. I’d love to return for longer and explore the island and its hidden bays. One day!

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It was to be our last dinner in Piedmont, so the choice of restaurant was very important!

There were still a few fabulous restaurants on our list that we had not been to but in the end we chose Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d’Asti, about a twenty minute drive from La Villa.

Chef Walter Ferreto and his brother Roberto, run this family restaurant and hotel. Roberto is the wine expert whilst Walter runs a very slick kitchen. He also loves to pop out for a chat and to check that everyone is enjoying their food

The restaurant is in a very ordinary hotel on the side of the main road that joins Asti and Alba but once inside, this is forgotten
This year, a new outside area was opened overlooking the garden and the pool. It also incorporates L’ Altro Cascinale, a casual bistro serving pasta, burgers, pizza and grills

Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti, Piedmont

Our table at Il Cascinalenuovo


 Now for dinner….and the wine list!

The wine list at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti, Piedmont

I love the cover of the wine list

We were presented with the wine list with it’s fabulous cover. With so many wines on offer, my husband enjoyed his chat to Robert about which one to choose. Whilst this was happening, a plate of appetisers appeared.

Appestisers at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti, Piedmont


The appetisers included a spoon of  raw salmon and herbs, melon and proscuitto and a zucchini roulade- all very tasty. These were followed by small individual egg, mushroom and zucchini frittatas in a pastry case.
Egg frittatas at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti

Individual frittatas

 The wine arrived..
Barbera d' Asti at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola D'Asti

Stunning Pescaja Barbera d' Asti

And still the appetisers kept coming!

Gelatin of tomato with mozzarello gelato at Il Cascinalenuovo

Gelatin of tomato with mozzarello gelato

We both ordered the homemade tajarin of pepperoncino, garlic and San Marzano tomato as a first course

Homemade tajarin at Il Cascinalenuovo in isola d'Asti

Tasty homemade tajarin

One of the main course choices was  ”Tataki di Ricciola del Mediterraneo, couscous e vedure al fruitto della passione’. Walter explained that  ‘tatki’ was a japanese cooking method he had picked up over the years from the japanese chefs that were working for him. He taught at a nearby culinary school where a lot of Japanese chefs trained and had been able to pick the best chefs to work for him.

The fish, in this case ricciola or amberjack, was seared very quickly on all sides and then finely sliced and seasoned with a sauce. It was very tasty and the flavours of the sauce mixed with the couscous and vegetables, was a treat.

Mediterranean amberjack tataki style,with couscous and vegetables

Mediterranean amberjack tataki style,with couscous and vegetables

My husband loves steak tartare so he ordered the piemontese version with raw veal, fresh vegetables and extra virgin olive oil from Maurizio Menichetti.

Veal Tartare at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti

Veal Tartare

A warm chocolate pudding with rasberries and goat’s milk gelato was tempting but after seven weeks on the road and all the divine appetisers we were offered, we reluctantly passed on dessert.  Of course we didn’t say no to the small pastries!!

Petit Fours at Il Cascinalenuovo in Isola d'Asti

Sweet treats to finish the meal


Ristorante Il Cascinalenuovo
Statale Asti-Alba 15
Isola d’Asti
Tel:+39 0141 958166
Il Cascinalenuovo





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It’s that time of the year again!
White truffles are back and Alba is the place to be.
The annual Alba Truffle Fair starts tomorrow and will continue until the 13th November.

Every weekend during this time, thousands of people will visit the market place in Cortile della Maddalena, just off Alba’s main street, Via Vittorio Emanuele, where truffles of all shapes and sizes are on display and available for sale. The aroma is intoxicating!

Truffles at the Alba Truffle Fair

Local products from this area, known as the Langhe and the neighbouring Roero district are also on display. Remember that this is the home of slow food movement and the local produce is superb. Look for cheese from Castelmagno, tasty salamis, local hazelnuts, tajarin pasta and of course, the famous wines of the area.

The first Sunday in October is also the day chosen for the Palio degli Asini, the famous race around Piazza Osvaldo Cagnasso between representatives of the nine boroughs of Alba. It is similar to Siena’s Palio except that instead of horses, donkeys are used.

There are many exhibitions and activities on during this time. The Alba Tourist Office is excellent and the staff are only too happy to help you with any information or you can check the fair’s website : www.fieradeltartufo.org



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“The Seige of Canelli is on the weekend you arrive” read the email from Chris at La Villa Hotel. It’s a lot of fun and worth seeing, he continued, so make sure you arrive in time for a visit.

Not being sure what the Seige of Canelli actually was, I did a quick search. The Seige of Canelli took place in 1613 when troops from Monferrato crossed the Belbo river and beseiged the town. The locals fought back and the enemy was forced to retreat. To show his gratitude, the Duke of Savoy exempted the people of Canelli from taxes for the next 30 years.

Every year, on the third weekend in June, Canelli celebrates by recreating life as it was then and reenacts the the battles that were fought during the seige. Canelli is changed back in time.

Everyone is dressed in the costume and the whole town becomes part of the 17th century again. The old town gate is re- erected, street signs are hidden, restaurants and taverns serve menus of the time and markets stalls help create the atmosphere.

The old gate

The old entrance gate

Even the money is changed back to the currency of the 17th century – the testone.

The exchange rate at the Seige of Canelli

The exchange rate


My tiletto allowing me entrance to the town

Part of the fun is to obtain a pass or tiletto which allows you to go into the town without being arrested and put into stocks!
In the stocks at the Seige of Canelli

Time in the stocks

Kids misbehaving at the Seige of Canelli

Kids misbehaving?

We arrived in time for the procession of the soldiers and villagers.

The parade at the Seige of Canelli

The parade

In costume at the Seige of Canelli

Everyone is in costume


Band members at the Seige of Canelli

Happy band members!

17th century musical instruments at the Seige of Canelli

17th century musical instruments were played

Flag throwers performed at the Seige of Canelli

Flag throwers performed

Seige of Canelli

Whilst the band marched on.....

The main square during the Seige of Canelli

The main square

Feeding the troops at the Seige of Canelli

Feeding the troops

Guns at rest at the Seige of Canelli

Guns at rest

We left before the night’s entertainment started but during the night and the next day, battles were staged, duels fought, the cavalry charged and the castle was bombarded. Fireworks marked the end of the festivities…..until next year!

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One of my favourite towns in Piedmont is Monforte d’Alba.
Every time we visit, I drive my husband mad by searching for properties for sale! I can just imagine living here in this beautiful town.

Whilst staying at La Villa in Mombaruzzo, we could not resist popping back on our way to lunch at Antica Corona Reale da Renzo in Cervere. Monforte is in a great position, not far from many of the hill top towns we love to visit. The countryside that surrounds it is beautiful- valleys covered in vines, church spires topping hill top towns whilst the mountains in the distance form a perfect backdrop.

Countryside around Monforte d'Alba

Vines surround Monforte

Across the rooftops of Monforte d'Alba

View across the rooftops of Monforte

We sat outside Caffe Enoteca Rocca in Piazza Umberto, the main square of Monforte, chatting to the locals. I’m sure this would be my morning ritual if I lived here!

Caffe' Enoteca Rocca in Monforte d'Alba

Caffe Enoteca Rocca

Across the piazza, you can see Ristorante La Collina and the ‘Madonna della Neve’ Church

'Madonna della Neve' Church with Ristorante Il Collina in the foreground

View across Piazza Umberto

To the left in Via Garibaldi, a new hotel has opened next to the Barola Bar , a great spot to taste the beautiful wines of the region

Via Garibaldi in Monforte d'Alba

Via Garibaldi

We wander up the steep, narrow streets behind the cafe. The village is as pretty as ever.

The colours of Monforte d'Alba

The colours of Monforte d'Alba

Entrance to Azienda Agricola Alessandro e Gian Fantino's Cantina in Monforte

Azienda Agricola Alessandro e Gian Fantino

Entrance to Osteria La Salita in Monforte d'Alba

Pretty entrance to Osteria La Salita

Painted wall at Osteria dei Catari in Monforte d'Alba

Painted wall at Osteria dei Catari

Keep walking up the hill as the road lead to the historical, upper part of the town.


The view from here is spectacular

View from the top of Monforte d'Alba

View from the top of Monforte

The older part of Monforte d'Alba

Beautiful houses in the older part of the village

At the top of the hill is the Bell Tower, the only remaining part of the Santa Maria Church and the St Elisabetta Oratory.

Bell Tower in Monforte d'Alba

What is behind the wall?

Behind the wall is this small open space with perfect acoustics which is used as an auditorium. Horszowski Auditorium is filled with music in July when Monforte holds it’s well known jazz festival.

Monforte d'Alba's outdoor auditorium

Imagine leading jazz bands playing here

Le Casa de Saracca in Monforte d'Alba

Entrance to Le Case della Saracca

This beautiful old building is home to Le Case della Saracca, a quirky little B&B of six rooms contrasting the old and the new, with a bar and restaurant. It is a perfect place to stay for the Jazz festival as it has its’ own entrance to the auditorium.

Further up the road is another fabulous place to stay. Villa Beccaris, with their beautiful rooms and stunning gardens and pool, it is a perfect retreat to return to after a day exploring.

Entrance to Villa Beccaris, Monforte d'Alba

Entrance to Villa Beccaris

Two years ago we were staying in Monforte in early October. One night, the weather changed dramatically for the worse but when we opened the windows in the morning, the view of the snow on the mountains was spectacular.

View of the snow on the mountains from Monforte d'Alba

View of the snow on the mountains from Monforte

Would you like to live here?



Villa Beccaris
Via Bava Beccaris,1
Monforte d’Alba
Tel: +39 0173 78158
Villa Beccaris

Le Case della Saracca
Via Cavour,5
Monforte d’Alba
Tel: +39 0173 789222
Le Case della Saracca

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It’s hard to believe that three months ago we were driving through the vineyards of Piedmont.
Everything was looking great for a wonderful vintage this year. The growing conditions were perfect and the vines were full of fruit. It’s harvest time in Piedmont soon. Only time will tell if this is to be a great year for the Barolo, Nebbiolo and Barberesco wines.






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