Christmas in Bolzano, Italy

Bolzano (1)

Kind words from down under

A recent costumer, Liz, who along with her friend Debra, publish a travel blog Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. They wrote about Liz’s recent tour with us.
"It is fun to visit places that have been in movies. A recent film starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, called
The Trip to Italy,  began in the Langhe region of Piedmont in the North West of Italy.  There was a particular restaurant that they went to called Trattoria della Posta.  The food looked amazing and we knew a visit was needed."
"We enlisted the help of local experts Robert and Leslie Alexander who run
Travel Langhe specialising in Wine and Food Tours.  Before we tempt you with our fabulous lunch, take a look at Robert’s gorgeous photos of this spectacular part of Italy"
(To read full post)
Thanks Liz for the nice post!

Traveling Before The Rush

This may be the slow season for visitors here in the Langhe but it's a busy time for winemakers to travel and show there wines. Leslie is off to Krakow, Poland working with Ornella of Pasquale Pelissero.
Milano (3)
Meanwhile Robert is in Milano working with Alberto Voerzio at GoWine
Milano (2)
Last but not least a trip to Istanbul Turkey to check out the Italian wines in Turkey

Cold Snap Brrrrrr

day10 1921
After 40 years in Minnesota this is no big deal for us, after all the coldest morning was Tuesday February 7 at 10 degess F. That would be a warm day in a Minnesota winter, but around here things sure do slow down. We haven't needed our car for over a week so why bother shoveling it out, besides we don't even own a snow shovel ( a requirement for Robert to live anywhere).
cold snap 1922
The talk all over town was of these new "things" hanging off of roofs and balconies. We were asked at market this morning if we had seen them before!
cold snap 1924
By the end of the weekend the snow should be gone from the palm tree across the street from our house and all will be back to normal again.

Snowstorm in Barbaresco!

Snow blog 1757
Sunday we got 16 inches of heavy wet snow. Up until now it has been an unusually mild winter. Monday school was closed and most people stayed home from work. Now it's Tuesday and snowing again.
Snow blog 1758
Our neighbor trying to get his car out on Monday.
Snow blog 1753
We will never get used to seeing umbrellas used for snow, though it's the norm here.
Snow blog 1754
View of Neive from Bricco San Giuliano. The snow is very good for the vines as the water melts slowly into the ground compared to rain which runs off too quickly to be absorbed deeply into the soil.
Snow blog 1755


Puglia 1224
This January we finally made it to Puglia in the south of Italy. It was a completely different Italy than we have known to date. Puglia has a big Greek influence and many different landscapes to choose from. The photo above is the village of Peschici on the Promontorio Gargano in Northern Puglia. To see more photos of our trip check this out.
Puglia 1226Puglia 1225Puglia 1224 (1)
While we were there we had to check out some wineries. This is the Alberto Longo winery in Lucera, just north of Foggia.Puglia 1227Puglia 1226 (1)Puglia 1225 (1)

The Sky is Falling

Hazel nut hrvest
Or maybe it's just Hazelnuts, they are "easy" to harvest because they simply fall to the ground when ready to be picked up by hand or vacuumed up with giant tractor mounted machines, this small family farm is taking advantage of the hot and dry weather to dry and pre roast there on the drive way
The second and last green harvest is almost finished. Wen a person firsts sees this it's very shocking looks like wine vandals,this is done to concentrate the vines energy into the remaining grape bunches and is always a sign of a quality producer.
In about 30 days the remaining fruit on these nebbiolo vines will start there 2 ½ year journey to become Barbaresco.
We are nearing the end of our "closed" season, this sign was on the local convenience store however this year more shops are open than last year, which is good because we are having a busy Aug with travel customers.

Calm before the Storm

family photo 008
This time of year can seem very calm and quite for visitors here in Langhe, but behind the cellar doors, wine makers are getting ready for harvest. We are taking advantage of this short lull to catch up on our "to do list" such as a new family photo in our new home in Neive (only a year late).
getting ready
These cages are waiting outside the Fontanabianca winery, soon to be filled with just bottled wine, freeing up yet another vasca (stainless steel tank), for the wine looming on the vines in the background.
pre verasion 006
This Dolcetto vine has already started veraison and is only 3 to 4 weeks until harvest.tower-pre verasion 005
However, this Franco Rocca Nebbiolo vineyard, with the tower of Barbaresco in the background, still has a long way to go, 6 to 8 weeks until harvest .

Green Harvest

Green Harvest
Green harvest is under way here in the Langhe. This is the process of thinning the fruit on the vines
which in turn forces the plants energy into the remaining grape bunches, thereby increasing the concentration
of flavor and color. As one can see it get's its name from all the pre-ripened fruit laying on the ground
no beer
There is not much english written or spoken here in the Langhe, However once in awhile we come across
something funny such as this sign on a bar in the middle of wine country.

What a Party!

Last night was the annual summer party at Dante Rivetti, a winery in Neive, Barbaresco. Lots of wine, food, live music and fun fo those lucky enough to be on the invite list. The Rivetti family put on a great party.
Leslie and our friend Primo of First's Filet, speciality cured pork filets and salame.
As usual at Piedmont parties, the people watching is great.

Party wouldn't be complete without live music, the local band played both kinds of music, country and western.
First stop wine, then we grabbed a plate of mixed cheese and salumi.

Then we found the appetizer table, which later in the night turned into risotto and gnocchi, everything was delicious.

Dante Rivetti greeting friends.

Colored lights were the last thing we saw while leaving, no idea how long the party went on.

Residenza del Lago

Residenza del Lago, we were recommended this restaurant while recently visiting the Cieck winery in Canavese. Our lunch was excellent!

It doesn't look like much from the street, but as you enter you walk into paradise through a lovely flower garden that takes you to the restaurant and hotel.

Frederico, the owner, greeted us and showed us to our table.  He is a sommelier and very passionate about food and wine.  This was confirmed by the over 400 bottle, well chosen, fair priced, winelist.

We started with a gift from the chef of little crostini topped with a tuna patè, followed by 3 types of delicious homemade bread; nut, sun-dried tomato and olive.  

We chose the smaller tasting menu of
Tajarin con Coniglio e Sugo di Pepperoni Pasta with a Red Bell Pepper and Rabbit sauce followed by Cosciotto di Maile con Senape e Miele con Spinaci e Patate al Forno Ham with a Mustard and Honey sauce with Braised Spinach and Roasted Potatoes.

Don't forget to save room for their desserts!

Everything we tasted was fresh, seasonal and made in house.

Just a half hour north of Torino in the Canavese wine region, this is a perfect place for a few quiet, relaxing days near
Lago di Candia Lake Candia, which is a few minutes drive from the hotel.

The rooms are beautiful with arched red brick ceilings, nicely restored while keeping the style and feeling of an ancient Canavese farm house.

Tajarin with Rabbit and Pepper Sauce

Perfect Pork

Even the bread was homemade

Huge wine list

Never a Dull Moment

Our little village of Neive is getting ready to be overrun/taken by the Alpini of Langa. Our local chapter
is busy stringing banners and hanging flags up all over town. Neive was chosen to host the annual reunion for chapters from all over the Langhe.

No festival, here in the Langhe, would be complete without the local chapter of 10th Alpini Regiment “Alpini Veci”. These are former members of the elite mountain corps.

Main street was closed for a parade, each town was represented in the parade wearing their
retirement uniforms.

Even the current active local unit showed up to remind folks what these old guys were capable in
their hay-day.

As you can see the weather was perfect, warm and sunny.

Birrificio Trunasse

Ok, it's not wine, but we found a really cool brewery between Fossano and Cuneo in Piedmont. We were driving to Cuneo to pick up our new "Permesso di Soggiorni" and saw the brewery. On the way home we stopped to check it out. What we found was two brothers, one in the bar/dining room and one in the kitchen and great artisanal beer and food!

After spying on the food coming out of the kitchen (which everything looked yummy) we decided to order a hamburger. To date, we haven't found too many good burgers here and we were very skeptical. What we found was one of the best burgers we have eaten in Italy or America. We started chatting with the owners and found out all the meat is very high end "Piemontese" beef from La Granda in Savigliano CN. The other items on the menu include antipasti of artisanal cheese and salumi, salads, steaks and french fries.

On the chalkboard was advertising for a single malt scotch tasting in April. If you live nearby or traveling through the neighborhood, we definitely recommend this place. Open Weekdays 6pm to 2am and Weekends 5pm to 1am.
Reg. Pedaggio Sottano, 194
Centallo (Frazione San Biagio) CN

Signs of Spring

The vines like sunshine, therefore every spring the trees and brush that grow between the vineyard and the street are cut
down. What is not saved for wood heating is burned off next to the road (almost on the road). Chiaro, the firebug, loves
lighting fires, this year she taught our friend Lorenzo what girl scout water is, benzina (diesel).

Roberts first ride of 2011 was only 6 weeks since his last ride, almost makes winter bearable. Snow on north facing
vineyards is almost gone.

First BBQ on the balcony, not bad weather for feb. 10

And the strongest sign is that the vineyards are full of growers working there vines.

The streets of Neive alto are clean and dry, waiting for the much needed crush of tourists.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Robert, Leslie and Cotta”

will it ever stop raining?

Was a little tough getting out of the house Monday morning because the piazza
we live on was getting new asphalt. It has been raining for most of November,
this is unusual for the area and we are even getting some small landslides
which usually only happen in the spring.

When not raining the weather has been non-stop cloudy/foggy, great weather for racking and
cleaning barrels. The view behind Robert is normally spectacular. See photo below.

This is the same veiw on a clear day, big difference.

But the crappy weather won’t keep the locals from going to the weekly market.

Sundays at the Socio "Drinking Club"

Every Sunday at around 11am, we meet our friends at the Socio in
Castagnole delle Lanze. It is especially fun in summer when we can sit
outside and enjoy the view of the surrounding hillsides. Danielle, in photo
above, runs the bar with his family. This is his special cocktail called
“Barbarella” It is dangerous to drink more than one even though you want to.

Normally we drink a local Arneis and in Italy it is illegal to drink without food
so of course, when you order wine one always gets little plates of snacks
to nibble on. What do you do on Sunday mornings?


This spring we’ve seen a few good reasons for using a tour guide.
This car went off the road in La Morra and crashed into some vines.

This car was a few weeks earlier and they trusted their GPS while coming
home from dinner in the dark. It had been raining for 3 weeks and very muddy.
The GPS took them down a vineyard road, not a real road and they got stock
in the mud at midnight. The rental car was stuck in the mud for 3 weeks until
it dried out enough for a tractor to pull the car out.

Had they spent the night in the car they would have woken up to a great view!

Track (Road) Trip to Varenna

Last week we took Cotta on her first family vacation and train ride to
Lake Como to visit friends from Minnesota. Cotta made about 1,000 new
friends including every train conductor along the way. ( Click for slide show)

We rode the ferry from Varenna to Bellagio to check out the town
and grab dinner, arriving in Bellagio, by ferry in 20 min. (by car 2 hours)

Bellagio is a great town for sightseeing. Hidden down every
side street and ally are neat little shops like this very cool
wine bar, the owner Norberto is both charming and very
knowledgeable about his wines.

Visiting a new area also means checking out the local wine region
Valtellina known for it’s very steep terracing of the vines.

Along with a few winery tours, Here Fabiana from Nino Negri explaining the
giant cask (Botte) behind us which holds 13,000 bottles of wine she gave
a great tour followed by a tasting of their wines. The wines showed very well
a must try if you can find a bottle.

Nino Negri winery has a beautiful barrel room with a ton of wine in it.

Back to our wonderful accommodations to enjoy the sunset with a glass of

Thanks Chris and Ray for sharing your town and wines with us. We learned
a lot and had a ton of fun.

Spring has finally sprung

The sap has started to run bud break is not far behind for this
pruned nebbiolo vine.

Vineyard work is starting to gear up to full speed. That means every
day the weather is nice they work even on sunday.

A sure sign of spring the weekly markets are bustling with town folk
buying fresh fruit and veggies.

Where is spring ?

Woke up to 22” of snow wed morning, the locals are going crazy
they have not seen snow like this in over 40/50 years.

Just a few days pryer to the snow storm of the century spring was
almost in full swing, green vineyards and clear skies

We were lucky for our first visitors this year it was sunny and dry for a
vineyard walk given by Tiziana (on right) from cantina Aurelio Settimo.

Followed by a tasting in the cantina (winery). The wines showed
very well especially the 1999 Barolo Tiziana opened as a treat.
It was a text book perfect Barolo, thank you Tiziana, the nose stayed
with me for a few days.

Robert returns to spring

After a little de-icing in Mpls. 3 plane rides, 2 trains
and 1 bus Robert is back from the frozen tundra of Minnesota

The main reason for his short visit, besides catching
up with friends and family was 2 or 3 or ..... trips to
W.C Lounge for sliders.

And a great filet at Murray’s (Thanks Eric and Jonio)

My send off dinner at Miesters with hand cut fries was perfect
(thank’s Angie and Larry)

A visit to Minnesota is not complete with out a drive across a lake to check out the
ice fishing. (no Carlo, the fish don’t come out as frozen fish sticks)

Winter is back

After our green and warm Christmas we awoke to 10” of snow last thursday
(jan. 7th) but it's melting fast a good thing because robert left a load of wood
for the stuffa in the lift over night oops.

At dinner last night with a group of friends who are all very wine savvy,
We ordered Barbera for the table by the carafe something unheard
of in the states especially for a bunch of wine geeks. The wine
was great and cheap its good to live in wine country

Two down One to go

With Christmas and New Years over, next up La Befana on Jan 6th the big day
for kids. On New Years eve we stopped into our favorite aperitivo spot and we were
reminded of one of many cultural differences, just like the states, every restaurant
is full but here a small table is 15 and it is not uncommon to see 30 or more at one table.

One of the joy’s of living in a famous wine region surrounded by wineries,
fun surprises show up at your door when you’re out shopping.

Now that January is upon us the growers are buying rootstock for
planting in feb/mar, the ground never freezes solid here
( a very good thing)

Warm & Green Christmas

No white Christmas for us, with mid 50’s cotta was very glad to be on her sun deck

Took this photo from our kitchen balcony Christmas morning. What a difference a
year makes check out the photo below taken one year ago.

We much prefer the “regular” weather were experiencing this winter last year was
almost minnesota like.

Is he coming or going ?


No, it’s not santa doing pull-ups to drop a few pounds. The Christmas decoration
of choice in Italy is Santa climbing a ladder usually hanging over a balcony.

Another sign of Christmas approaching is the ever popular panettone in shop

This is our new foodie friend Dilip, who moved here to Piemonte from India to mary a
local girl. He and his wife Maria opened an Indian restaurant in Alba a few years
ago. Dilip offered to give Chiaro some lessons, so we threw a party.

It was a hit! The British, Peruvians, Indians, Americans and the local Piemontese
loved it.

Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoying some aperitivo bubbles before the big feast.

An expat dinner (sorry about the bad photo) alcohol may have been an
contributing factor.

American with a scottish touch. Cameron (the Scot) did a great job, he
introduced us to Bread Sauce, Fried Bread Crumbs and Yorkshire Puddings,
along with a perfectly cooked turkey, sausage stuffing and roasted potatoes and
root vegetables.Our other English friends brought sides of Cheesy broccoli and
Sauteed Red Cabbage.

What a difference a year makes looking at our house through vines with no
snow on the ground, very glad to be heading into dec. snow-free!

French fries on pizza?

A very popular pizza topping in Italy is french fries, very strange to us but the locals
love it. We haven’t tried this yet, we are very afraid. Funny thing is some call this “American

Chiaro is very happy that we found “single field/free range” potatoes at the Alba market,
even better than Idaho

Hard to believe but Robert has become the local go to tech guy (mac only)
“ A hacked iphone is a happy iphone “

Last of our fall colors, now we start the rainy/foggy season.

Yet another festival

Just when we thought we've seen every festival we came across the "CUGNA"
Festival in the small town of Coazzolo near Neive. We bought 3 cungnas and 2
Salsa di peperoncino that should hold us till spring.

Wow not many people for such a warm/sunny day then we realized lunch
was not over yet so all the Italians were at home eating sunday lunch. We were
able to taste all the different home made cugnas in only 45 min. a record for
Italy. cugna is a breakfast preserve for toast made from grapes and hazelnuts.

Even Cotta got in on the action meeting some of the town characters.

Next up, The total stomach festival in Barolo of course yummy !!!

Birthdays and Tastings

Chiaro celebrating her 40th at her friend Chiara's 50th surprise birthday party at
La Ciau del Tornavento (way to go Bob). Yes that is a freshly sciabolaed
bottle of Cristal however we still prefer Bille.

birthday(week): wine at the Piacere Barbaresco tasting with our friend and
Treiso neighbor, Andrea. The tasting was a hit, they decorated the elementary
school gym like a vineyard.

A new event this year at the tasting was a hit. The 9 glasses in the background
had extracts of veris wine smells for to to try identifying, if you got all 9 correct
you win a bottle of Barbarecso

Zero tolerance in ITALY (NOT) you have to love a country that has a huge
wine tasting in their elementary school caffeteria along with a temp wine shop
in the front office. The tasting lasted through monday so, no school !!

BBQ Langhe style

Chiaro teaching some newbies how to properly sciabola a bottle of bubbles
during a BBQ at our friend Stefano's home. Behind her is his outdoor kitchen
and dinning room, common here in Langhe because of the hot and long summers.

Stefano cooked a giant salmon in 15 pounds of salt in his wood-fired pizza oven
it was so good chiaro even ate some !!!!

The local cafe banter is all talking about the first lady wearing
short pants, they all want our opion hmmmm. well.......

Hazelnuts everywhere

The hazelnut harvest is almost over pictured is a sweeper style harvester
dumping its load into a tractor trailer.

Lucky for us (not ) a vacuum style harvester is used in our back yard.

The dust is incredible good thing harvest lasts only 2 or 3 days.

Another load.

Coming soon to a jar of nutella near you.

living in Italy

Sometimes Robert can't wait for the wine to be bottled. So he grabs a
glass and helps himself to some nebbiolo.

Our local "convenience " store just expanded there hours now we only have
to remember the 3 days we can't get stuff after 12:30. This is great, open 51 hours
per week, only 117 more hours and we will have our fist 24/7 store in Piemonte.

The only thing 24 hour in Italy is the cigarette vending

This is the closest thing to coffee "to go" in Italy and is only done when
working the bottling line.

When they say wood fired pizza they mean it !

No Gas &^%#$#@

All the gas station's went on strike and we didn't get the memo.
Our car was on empty so we biked to our friend's house in Neive
for a pool day.
(above: Robert trying to get rid of his biker tan).

Our friend Richard cooks us a pool side bbq dinner.

Look's just like a midwest BBQ(bbq chicken with Chiaro's homemade
sauce, sausage from our favorite butcher, and veggie kebabs).

New word of the week sciopero (strike)

The fist hardware store Robert biked to for a gas can was closed for
fiera (family holiday). Finally found a gas can but the gas stations didn't
open again for another 2 days! We didn't know about the strike and were
stuck for 3 days(a mini summer vacation).

JAZZ & La Morra Barolo

Jazz is very popular here in Alba it's as if we've moved to Chicago except the
shows here are usually free, always outdoors and wine is everywhere.

If we don't show up at a tasting with puppy cotta we are not let in.

Cotta greeting her friend Nicola who organized today's tasting of barolo's
(2005) from the sub region La Morra. Below are a few standouts from todays
tasting (no special order)




There was only 720 bottles of IL LAURO made. Very strong
eucalyptus in the nose was catnip for Robert.

SAN BIAGIO also makes a Cru Barbaresco from Montersino
the vineyard our home is in, we're exited to try this wine soon.

Word of the week

Our vocabulary is one word stronger. After a snowy winter and spring
rains there has been many FRANA (land slide) this spring.

Some are small

Others are not so small

Books and Rain

Lots and Lots of rain the last few weeks. Inside the house it still feels
winter. BRRRRR!
The vines are growing like crazy, we hope we don't have 6 weeks of
rain like last spring.
We found a cool new book to keep us busy while we're
stuck in the house. It's an Italian-English dictionary
only for wine and vineyards words. More than 2,000 words
in the specialized dictionary. We love it.
"From Vine to Wine" by Kenneth Crofutt & Belinda Ellender.

We treated ourselves to Robert's favorite kebabs in Alba a few days ago.
They also have good pizza.

Market Day

Thanks to a tip from our friends at Hotel Castello di Sinio we found this great little
imported food shop in the back of a large supermarket well hidden on a side
street in the town of Bra. Tonight we had our first pot stickers in over 2 years
and they also have black beans, cilantro, real pickles, rice wine vinegar and hot chile sauce.
Our list of what we miss from the US keeps getting shorter.

Cotta meets new boyfriend " Otto " at the Bra market, he's two, Cotta just
turned 1

At our regular espresso stop La Cantinetta on the Piazza Caduti in Bra we
spotted this wifi sign. Technology is arriving very slowly to Piemonte
(which is part of the charm of living here)

Robert's First Bike Ride of the Year

Robert just made February for his first ride of the year. Last
year it was January 27, one month earlier. This has been an unusually
cold, long and snowy winter for the Langhe. Nobody can remember
a winter like this. Still mild for Minnesota standards but cold for here.
Today was 60 degrees F and sunny. Lots of people out and about.

Treats from America
The longer you live as an expat, more and more "things" drop off your
gotta get from the USA list(Robert barely thinks about White Castle
anymore). However, the items that remain on the list become an even
bigger obsession. Our friend Cameron just returned from the States
with many treats for us!

Treats from France

While Robert enjoys some great bubbles (and working very hard to compose
great photos) Chiaro along with our friends Weston and Elisa are cooking
vegi curry. They just returned from Burgundy with great treats to share: cheese,
mustard, and of course, wine. It was all fabulous, especially the wine.

The REAL thing !! another foodie moment

Our fist time trying this producer Michel Lafarge this wine was a reminder
that wines like this only come from a very small piece of real estate in the

Who say's you can't get ethnic food in Italy? You just have to cook it yourself!

Internet .......Finally

After 1 year, 3 months and 13 days....we finally have internet at home,
but who's counting.

Like the rest of the world, it's been a strange winter here too.
Lots of snow and colder than usual. We've noticed that the locals
deal with snow differently than Minnesotans. They treat it more like
rain and use umbrellas!

We found another new great wine at pizza night(didn't we just hear
somewhere that Italians don't drink wine with pizzas? that's totally untrue!)
Anyway, the wine was great and it was refreshing to drink outside of
Piedmont(not that we don't love the wines).
Here's a link to the wine's website:

Pizza night wouldn't be complete without Chiaro showing off the finer
art of sciabolaing to an eager new student, this time, our friend Richard.

Christmas eve

A new Christmas tradition, wine bar hopping(very different from bar
hopping) in Alba. What started out to be a easy going short evening
because most of Alba closes at 9:00 on Christmas Eve changed after
we saw a flyer for an outdoor concert...

Gospel in Alba ??? we decide to wait and see if it's good

Looks ok so we give it a try, but first we need to find an open bar of any
kind to kill 45 min. till show time.

Complete success, the show was great! Live Gospel in Alba, Italy,
a little strange, however very cool and a cold 40 degrees we are losing our
Minnesota blood: 40 is the new 5 below.

Very Big Day !!

After trying for 14 months chiaro get's her Carta d'Identita'!
Robert is next but his will be much easier being married
to one who already has one.

Very cool

Puppy cotta inspecting her namesake wine, she thinks 2008 is
going to be a great vintage!

Mont Viso looking good from the kitchen window, however our
"pizza hut " looks cold and wants to be used.

We have had lots of snow so far this year. But the temp's never
drop's below frezzing so no ice fishing . looking north towards barbaresco
and the swiss alps from treiso