Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Of Wine-tasting and Brexit

On Thursday night I went to bed well after midnight and the Italian news were talking about a Remain vote as an almost certainty, so it was a bit of shock to be informed by my husband upon waking that the result was Leave. Friday was tough, as I had to be at work and all I could think was WHAT WILL BECOME OF US?! so it was almost impossible to get anything done. 

Today I am feeling a lot better as it seems the people responsible seem to have little interest in pulling out of Europe after all, or are at least in no hurry to, and the Leave campaigners are quickly backtracking on all their promises about immigration and ending the freedom of movement, so who knows maybe one day I will be able to move back to the UK, or what's left of it, with my husband. 

Although, increasingly the question is, will we want to?

As the pound sterling nose-dived, we headed back to the Monferrato region of Piedmont, where we got married two years ago to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

If ever there is a region that could make me feel like spending the rest of my days in Italy this is surely it. I love the hills, they remind me of home, and I love the food and wine. 

We stopped for lunch in Costigliole d'Asti and were pleased to see the comune had spent our 700 euro wedding fee well and repainted the interior of the castle. What's more they had opened a cookery school with a restaurant run by it's students so we even got to have lunch there. The service was slow, but we weren't in a hurry and everything was very tasty and beautifully presented. 

We went to the Marchesi Alfieri winemakers in San Martino Alfieri near Govone and tried their lovely Barberas and less well known but no less delightful Grignolino. 

In the cellars of Marchesi Alfieri
We had dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I was a bit dubious about the price to taste ratio, but actually the food was an original take on Piedmontese classics and really beautifully presented, so it was worth the experience. If only I had felt a little better, and been less worried about Brexit I might have enjoyed it properly.

The Vineyards of the Monferrato
 On the way back to the Bed and Breakfast we had the luck of seeing the fireflies dancing under the trees where I saw them the night before the wedding. It felt like a good omen then, and it was reassuring to see them again.

Millions of bottles of spumante in the 'cathedrals' of the Contratto winemakers in Canelli
On Sunday we headed to Canelli and the wine 'cathedrals' built into the rock where it is always a very pleasant 13c to escape the heat. I'm not a massive spumante fan but it was very interesting to learn about these ancient traditions and a lot of fun to taste the wine and bread sticks. Our guide was, of course British, so there was no avoiding Brexit even there, but all in all it was a lovely weekend and just what I needed.

Fingers crossed I passed my Italian CILS exam and let the citizenship bureaucracy begin!

Monday, 20 June 2016

High Above Lake Como at Rifugio Menaggio

The Brexit referendum looms on Thursday and I have given myself a media ban until Friday, as I have spent far too much time reading articles of all different newspapers and fretting over my future in Italy as an extra-communitaria. My emergency plan is applying for Italian citizenship, which gives me funny feelings. A. said after eating my pasta pomodoro of Monday night that I've already passed HIS Italian citizenship test. If only it was so easy!

Today I read two posts from expats who are giving up on life in Italy. I can't say it has never crossed my mind, but I'm trying to stay focussed on the positives, because moving back to Bristol seems a whole lot harder than we expected. 

My parents came over to visit me and my Dad was well enough to do the hike far faster than me up Monte Grona, which is one of the Alps running along Lake Como's Western shore. We may have disagreed on the EU but we certainly could all agree on the beauty of the views and the delights of eating polenta in a mountain refuge. 

Details of the walk below if anyone is interested.

It looked like it might rain.

But the clouds kept swirling around us and giving glimpses into Switzerland.

Destination: Pizzo Coppa (very funny to google image) and WHAT A VIEW
 Drive to Breglia and take the small steep road signposted for Rifugio Menaggio and Plesio. The road is mostly asphalt so don't let the unasphalted bits put you off. At the end of the road there is a car park.  (When visiting the alps in the summer it is generally a good idea to arrive before 10.30 if you want to find parking).

Starting point:  The car park above Plesio at about 996m. Follow the trail for Rifugio Menaggio. It climbs through the woods and then levels off, offering stunning views of the lake and Refuge. 

When you get up to the Refuge (1383m) about 45 mins later you have several options. We did the short version which is going along the fairly narrow path to view point Pizzo Coppa (1420m), admiring the view and then heading back for lunch at the Refuge

From Pizzo Coppa you can take the Direttissima (difficulty: Experienced Excursionist) up to the top of the mountain, or you can go up to the top of Monte Grona (1736m) a slightly less alarming way - if like me you are afraid of heights - via the Via Normale which takes about 90 minutes.

The views from the top are EPIC, but you need to be physically up to it because the second part of the walk is strenuous.

More info from the Walking Englishman HERE.