Exploring the Roero
The Roero is small but special. It’s not too far from Turin, has beautiful landscapes and hidden towns filled with great people. Let’s start with Canale.
It’s young (full of young people -not yobs!), vibrant and confident. The main street has beautiful arcades of stone and pleasant shops, bars and good places to eat. The Leon D'oro serves real Piedmont foods (no good if you’re a Veggie). The cafes are great and the people are always friendly.
There’s a market on Tuesdays. Buy fresh produce, cheeses, wines, meats and hand bags. Stay a day or two. I think you will enjoy it.
It's also about the only place in the whole of Piedmont that you can rent a Vespa. Go to Piazza San Bernadino in the middle of town and you'll find Ferrero. You can't miss it. Rosangela, the owner, is the most charming woman in the whole town.
Now, if you’re out for a drive head to Cisterna d’Asti. Drive up to the castle on the crazy road and then walk up to the castle garden. If you do this on a summer’s evening, carry a bottle of Dolcetto or Moscato or both and some bread sticks, salami, cheese or whatever you can fit into your pockets. Don’t forget glasses or the locals will get the wrong idea. Then enjoy this paradise in Piemonte. (By the way, if you look north over the valley you’ll see the edge of my house where I’m writing this now.. My view isn’t as good as the one you have now but it’s still better than Hackney Downs). In the winter the scenery is stunning. I can honestly say the best view I've ever seen is from our little town hall just below the castle.
If you’re travelling by motorcycle take the Ferrere road from Cisterna d'Asti, open the throttle and enter bike heaven. Please don’t do this after Dolcetto and Moscato!
Cisterna d'Asti has a museum of agriculture and great wine production. The views match anything in Tuscany and you wont feel like a fleeced tourist. It’s only you, me and the locals. AND it has one the best restaurants in the region - Ristorante Garibaldi. The food is fantastic and the staff are very friendly.
Other places to visit: Guarene, Vezza d’Alba and the rocks (La Rocche) of Monteu Roero.
Now you’re ready for Bra. Yes, it’s a silly name but a town worth seeing not least because The Slow Food Movement was born just outside in Pollenzo. If you are unsure what that is please do some research. It’s mad and wonderful. Only the Italians could be so passionate.. great! Be sure to visit Pollenzo as it has the most beautiful piazza and surrounding buildings. It's like nothing you'd have ever seen before. The town looks horrible from the road but don't be fooled.
Bra is nice. Every two years they have the Bra Cheese Festival. Someone told me all the cheese is dome shaped but it isn’t true. Dome, Bra? Ok, it wasn’t so funny. The narrow streets are lined with curious shops and the people are friendly. There’s a big weekly market and plenty of places to eat – just discover – you’ll get the idea. If you’re heading back to Canale take the road through Pocapaglia and Monteu Roero. Very nice scenery. Motorcyclists and pizza loving people, take the turn for Santo Stefano Roero – now they are hairpins! Head towards Monta’ d’Alba. There’s a great pizza place outside of Santo Stefano in Madonna di Grazie called ‘Terra e Mare’ – it’s on your right, very easy to miss. It looks rough but the food is really good and very cheap. It’s worth going in the summer just to see the owner in his Bermuda shorts cooking the pizzas. Weekends it's packed with locals up to midnight, it’s that good. They do a good lunch too – but no pizza before 7pm.
Filippo.. was a top chef in California. He was head chef in the restaurant that was used for the film ’Pretty Woman’. He cooked for Richard Gere and Julia Roberts but is happy to be back in the Roero.
On the road from Santo Stefano and Madonna di Grazie head for Montà d'Alba. Just before you get to Montà d'Alba there's a right turn for a spot called 'Pilone'. Go up the hill and the road ends in the car park. It has little chapels that are full of morbid and terrifying idols meant to depict Jesus and his followers - they really weren't that miserable.. It's all a bit dark and seems designed to turn people away from Christianty, certainly to keep them in mordid fear, but the view will convince you there is a God, even if the church doesn't. It's a really beautiful spot. Walk past the mordid little shrines and take a left around the hill on a rough road and you'll come to another chapel. There was a temple here built by the Romans and the view is stunning. There even the history of the place written in English on an information board.
Back above the car park there's a war memorial, full of names that are familiar to us as the same families still fill the towns around the Roero - Bodda, Casetta, Sandri, Delpero. Sorry, the place is a little sad but you will benefit from visiting, I'm sure.
Montà d’Alba is a very friendly town. There is a market Thursday and Sunday mornings. Look out for Filippo. Him and his wife, Graziella, sell cheeses and salami. He was a top chef in California. He was head chef in the restaurant that was used for the film ’Pretty Woman’. He cooked for Richard Gere and Julia Roberts but is happy to be back in the Roero and we’re happy they’re here – a very nice couple and they speak good English. There’s a very classy restaurant and a nice bar on the top of the main piazza. There’s an English/Italian dentist in the town, Michael, should you have an emergency and the Belvedere restaurant just on the edge of town that has great views over the Roero.
We love the Roero. Spend some time here and I promise you wont want to leave.
All photos by Richard A. Edwards. Copyright. Cannot be used without permission.