When I was working on the rough draft of my late summer Lake Como-Piemonte trip, I flipped through a favorite guide book, Hip Hotels of Italy, for inspiration. I can't remember when or where I bought it, but through the years I've drooled over gorgeous photographs of hip hotels, both grand and humble throughout Italy. One particular hotel always intrigued me for it's combination of antiquity and modern elegance--Hotel Pironi. And when I saw that it was on Lake Maggiori, I figured we could take a detour and stay there. After renting our car at the quiet train station in Como, it turned out to be an easy drive on the autostrada to Lake Maggiore through a small swatch of Switzerland. The hotel, housed in a 15th century Franciscan friary, is situated in the tiny, idyllic town of Cannobio, not far from the Swiss border.
Hotel Pironi lived up to all my expectations. It combined age-old frescoes, medieval stone columns, vaulted ceilings, contemporary lighting and charming rooms with terraces facing the lake
Looking out at Lake Maggiore from our terrace at Pironi
Here is the homey yet sophisticated sitting room on the second floor. I was reading here when a I heard thunder and a huge storm blew in. What better place to wait out the rain! We'd already enjoyed our terrace and eaten gelato while it was sunny.
It reminded me of the main floor at Hotel San Michele in Calabria. I'm a sucker for Italian style lounges.
So many picturesque details at Hotel Pironi
|lake trout covered in prosciutto at Trattoria Cannobio|
Because it was so wet outside, we chose Trattoria Cannobio, a short distance from the hotel, and canceled our reservation at the upscale Lo Scalo on the lake front. The trattoria crowd was happy and the food delicious and hearty.
Lemon semifreddo served in a lemon. Delish! Most of it was polished off when I remembered the camera. I wanted to order another, but resisted. Must have room for breakfast at our Hotel Pironi.
We left Cannobio after a beautiful breakfast. Among many tempting items on the buffet, they served a bowl of the famous local hazelnuts. I grabbed a few for the road as we headed south along the lake to Piemonte.
Soon we were in Alba. I can't remember getting there but I know we drove past Isola Bella in the middle of Lake Maggiore. After an hour on the autostrada, we entered a whole new landscape and then it felt like we were plunked down into the middle ages.
|Is this the the 21st century or the 14th? Couldn't tell except for the car on the left|
After strolling around Alba on this cloudy afternoon we headed to Osteria del Arco for dinner
The Osteria was a stylish yet casual restaurant full of tourists and locals. Many people come to the area to enjoy the famous red wines of Barbaresco, Barolo, Alba and Asti. We found the whites to be delicious as well. There was a large party that evening so I was glad I had reserved well ahead.
On Saturday in Barbaresco there was a sweet little market in front of the church.
This was no ordinary chapel! Instead of kneeling worshipers, we found eager oenophiles shopping for fine local wines. Clearly wine is Barbaresco's religion.
|A typical landscape in Piedmont. There's a village perched on many hilltops|
Tramping up the hill in Neive, we found Donna Selvatica, our lunch spot.
|This was the view from our outside table at Donna Selvatica on a beautiful Saturday afternoon|
From our table on the balcony, the helpful waiter pointed out the vineyard where our wine was produced. How local can you get?
We started with a painterly vegetable antipasto served with yummy homemade bread and breadsticks.
...and finished with oregano and ginger cordials. In many restaurants in Italy the staff leaves the bottle on the table when you order limoncello or grappa after a meal. At Donna Selvatica they just brought their house-made delicacies. We also sampled moscato grappa poured over gelato. We lingered for hours on that lovely afternoon, drinking espresso, enjoying the view and hoping the alcoholic haze would wear off before we had to drive back to Alba.
On our second night in Alba we stayed outside the town at the lovely Hotel Langhe (the name of the region). After a day of eating and drinking we enjoyed the sunny park-like setting and the chilly pool.
Barolo on a Sunday morning. There was a fair going on so we didn't stay long
La Morra was our next tiny town and again we walked up steep sidewalks to the paved piazza with modern statues and a spectacular view of the countryside.
On our way down the hill to the parking lot (cars aren't allowed in La Morra proper) we found a restaurant with outdoor seating and stopped for lunch. I insisted on trying the Aperol Spritz which we had seen all over Italy. It was as refreshing as it looked.
Our gnocchi and sliced chicken salad hit the spot. From La Morra we drove to Fossano ,which
was en route to Torino.
In Fossano we stayed at the elegant Palazzo Righini. We thought it a bit too sophisticated for the unremarkable town.
Instead of eating in the fancy hotel restaurant, we chose Il Faro, another local pizzeria packed with Italian families eating pizza on a Sunday evening. We loved it.
Restored frescoes in the breakfast room at Palazzo Righini
I snapped some pictures from the hotel before we left Fossano on a clear cold morning.
This map shows the highlights of our stay in Piemonte with Alba on the right, continuing to Fossano to the southwest and then to Torino in the north.
An old cobblestone street in Torino
We stayed in a charming B and B on Via Stampatore with other friendly Europeans. We ate breakfast with a Calligrapher and her husband from Brughes. She was teaching a lettering workshop and I checked out Joke Boudens' impressive website when I got home. One of the pleasures of B and Bs in Europe!
This adorable cat perched on our bedroom windowsill in the late afternoon sun.
Dinner at Consorzio, a small bustling institution in Torino. We started with mussel soup
...and continued with sardines cooked four ways. Great!
After only one day in Torino we took the train to Milano to fly back home the following day.