Written by Wildcat Dianne on 14 Apr, 2012
I left Italy for the Netherlands on 28 April 2011, two days before my 44th birthday. The best way for me to get to Milano Malpensa airport was to take the train from Biella to Novara, a small city in Piedmonte that is second…Read More
I left Italy for the Netherlands on 28 April 2011, two days before my 44th birthday. The best way for me to get to Milano Malpensa airport was to take the train from Biella to Novara, a small city in Piedmonte that is second in population to the Piedmontese capital of Torino. Then I would take the bus from Novara to Milano Malpensa and from there fly to Amsterdam. WHEW!
The train trip from Biella to Novara was crowded even though it was 6 in the morning but it was uneventful. I could see a church cupola as we pulled into the train station and I learned that was the main sight of Novara, The Basilica of San Gaudenzio, a church whose cupola reaches 121 meters and is a younger constructed church compared to other churches in Italy being that it was only completed in 1888.
The city of Novara (Nuara in local Piedmontese dialect) itself dates from ancient Roman times when the Romans conquered the Piedmonte region and settled down calling the town Novaria after the area it is located. The Romans put down many insurrections by locals in the area until the 5th century and in 452, Attila the Hun conquered Novaria. For hundreds of years, Novara was the site of many historical events and battles and was occupied by the House of Savoy from 1706 and became part of the Savoy Empire in 1734. The Hapsburg Empire also had their hands in ruling Novara and from 1821-1849 Novara was the sight of several battles between the Piedmontese and Sardinians with the Sardinians winning many of the battles until 23 March 1849 when the Austrians defeated the Sardinians in the Battle of Novara. Today The Battle of Novara is comemorated by the residents of Novara and many believe this battle was the beginning of Italian unification that occurred in 1861.
The population of Novara in 1861 was only about 25,000 but Novara became a center of Italian industrialization and the population increased to 105,000 where it stands today.
After taking a picture of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, I started to look for the bus station. I went inside the train station and asked the guy at the desk and he kindly sent me in the right direction. When I arrived there, I asked to make sure I was there two African gentlemen. They said I was there and showed me where to get my bus ticket. After I got my ticket, the African gentlemen and I started to chat in a mix of French, Italian and English before one of them and I got on the bus to Milano Malpensa.
After I got on the bus, the African gentleman sat a little bit away from me, so we couldn't talk for the time being. I thought I wouldn't see him again after I got to the airport but when I stopped at a restaurant after going through security, low and behold, my friend from the Novara bus station came to my table with a bottle of beer and asked if he could sit with me. Turns out his name was Moufassa and he was from Senegal along with his friend who, unfortunately, I cannot remember his name but I remember his kindness. Moufassa was on his way to Paris to see friends there, and he told me that Senegal was a beautiful place and asked me what I knew of it. I told him I knew Senegal was a French colony until the 1960's and he was curious to know about my life in Florida. He knew about Florida but not the northwestern area or Panhandle.
We exchanged names to find each other on Facebook after we parted ways. I put the slip of paper in my book to get later thinking it would be safe. Unfortunately, when I got home, the piece of paper with Moufassa's name was lost, and there were so many Moufassas from Senegal in Facebook, I couldn't find my kind friend there. So if Moufassa from Novara, Italy with friend in France sees this entry, please get in touch with me on Facebook.
I didn't spend a lot of time in Novara, but I have fond memories of meeting a couple of nice gentlemen there and won't forget them.
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 13 Jul, 2011
After our trip to Forte di Bard, we jumped back in the car for our next destination, a picnic lunch in the mountaintop village of Champorcher. After a short ride up the mountain and more ear blockage, we arrived at Champorcher, which is a…Read More
After our trip to Forte di Bard, we jumped back in the car for our next destination, a picnic lunch in the mountaintop village of Champorcher. After a short ride up the mountain and more ear blockage, we arrived at Champorcher, which is a little village dominated by a little castle, an inn for tourists wanting to ski or hike in the Alps, and two parks for picnicking and other lazy fun, the Parc Abbe Pierre Chanoux and Parc Diane Chardonney. We chose to have lunch in Parc Abbe Pierre Chanoux, and we unloaded our stuff out of Monica's car.
After hiking around Forte di Bard and the village of Bard, I was a little hungry and dug into Monica's homemade fried chicken (Italian fried chicken has a lighter batter and less oil is used), salad, and cookies for dessert. It was a good meal for a day of fun in the park and old forts. Alberto wouldn't eat and Monica decided that he was going to the doctor's the next day for a check-up because of his lack of appetite and lethargy. But Alberto played with his ball within sight of our picnic table while Luca, Monica and I ate.
After eating, we needed to use the restroom which led to the funniest moment of the trip. There were public bathrooms in both parks but they were locked. It's a bloody holiday and the parks are crowded with people and you lock the public restrooms. We looked across the road at the inn and made our way over there. The rule is at the inn if you use the restroom, you need to buy a drink, but Monica and I didn't have to get a drink this time, and we made our way to the restroom in the back of the inn's restaurant. There was a line to both men's and women's rooms, but the men's room was not as crowded (go figure, men in Italy pee fast too), and a nice man let us go in there instead of waiting for the women's room to free up. I got into the stall and UGH! It was the bathroom from hell. It was clean but the toilet was all the way to the ground, and it would take a Chinese acrobat to squat down and do one's business. But I managed to do my business without any problems and took a picture of the toilet for s@#%!s and giggles, pardon the pun before leaving the stall vowing I would not drink a lot of water to merit another trip to this bathroom for the rest of the trip!
After the bathroom debacle, Monica and I met up with Luca and Alberto and made the short run across the street to Parc Diane Chardonney to meet up with her sister Sonia and her boyfriend Marco, who were also enjoying an Easter Monday at the park. Marco passed out for a nap with his feet on the park's fence, and I got the blackmail shot of him snoozing away. "Blackmail shot!", I exclaimed, and Monica wanted to know what I meant. So I told her when we take pictures of someone in a compromising position, good or bad, we say "There's the blackmail shot!" She laughed about it and registered it as a new term to her vocabulary to show to her English teacher the next time she saw her.
Monica, Alberto, Luca, Sonia and I spent a few minutes kicking Alberto's soccer ball around, and I realized my legs were still strong and I was kicking the ball like Adam Vinateiri during the Super Bowl. Marco eventually woke up and we all took a walk further down the road where there was a group of young men and women having a circus for the young kids visiting the park that afternoon. There were games and circus things for the kids to try out. Alberto passed on balancing on the big ball and asked to have a wrist watch painted on his hand by the girl at the face painting booth. While that was happening, I noticed three dogs roughhousing across the way at another inn and got pangs of homesickness missing my three dogs Amanda, Marty and Eagi and her babies Petey, Dustin, Jake, Remy, Youki, and Dewey.
Sonia and Marco left before we did, and eventually we made our way back down the mountain where my ears started popping making the trip back to Mongrando a joy for me! Homesickness and ears popping are not a good combination. But the day ended nicely for us when we went to Luca's mother's house for a nice Easter Monday dinner. I had another piece of Columbi, the Easter cake, and Monica thought I really enjoyed it because the day before I left for The Netherlands, she and Luca gave me a Columbi in a box to take home with me! It was a chuckle going through the airport in Milano and checking in. The girl at the check-in desk said to her friend, "look she has a Columbi!"
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 01 Jul, 2011
When one goes to northern Italy for vacation, they go to the tourist traps or big cities like Milano or Torino, which was the sight of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Not me, I took the train from Munich, Germany to Verona to Milano to…Read More
When one goes to northern Italy for vacation, they go to the tourist traps or big cities like Milano or Torino, which was the sight of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Not me, I took the train from Munich, Germany to Verona to Milano to Santhia where my friend Monica picked me up with her young son Alberto and had no desire to see any of Milano or Torino. After years of living in the woods of Idaho and the Florida countryside, I admit I am a bit bushwhacked and get nervous in big cities fearing getting lost and not being able to find my way back home. I also feel that if you stay in the small towns and cities, you experience the culture of the region a lot better and more inimately than you do in a big city and it also doesn't have the tourist traps and cheesy souvenir shops that come with the big cities. So I spent my five days in Northwestern Italy touring several small towns and sights with Monica and sometimes with her son or husband.
On Easter Sunday morning, Monica, Alberto and I went to Biella to let me check it out. Biella is a province or commune in the northern Italian province of Piedmonte. The county seat is also named Biella and that is where Monica, Alberto and I spent the morning before going to dinner with Luca at Ristorante Ioris that afternoon. Usually when I travel, I have no problems getting used to the area and can get around by seeing familiar sights along the way but five days in Piedmonte and I was just as lost as when I got there on 23 April. But Monica and Luca were great hosts and guides during my visit and I was able to tour around several towns near Biella and Biella itself without any trouble.
Monica parked her car in the main square of Biella that was decked out in the red, white and green Italian flags in honor of the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification as one nation in 1860 instead of being several city states or separate comunes. Biella is a hidden gem of small town beauty with cobblestone roads, old houses and apartment buildings, churches and a castle on the hilltop of the city along with a hilltop district at Piazza di Cisterna that will have you walking aimlessly for a long time soaking in its ambiance and culture.
Monica, Alberto on his scooter, and I went into downtown Biella which was crowded with residents going to church or enjoying an Easter Sunday stroll along its cobblestone streets. After a few minutes we arrived in Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square) and enjoyed viewing Biella's small Duomo or Cathedral that was crowded with people at Easter Sunday Mass. After more walking and seeing St. Phillp's Church, Monica, Alberto and I got into the car for the ride to Piazza di Cisterna on the hilltop and hoping for a funicular ride up to the castle further up the hill. When we got to Piazza di Cisterna, we were disappointed to find out that the funicular to the castle was closed because it was Easter Sunday, but we made the best of our time walking around Piazza di Cisterna looking at the old buildings and enjoying the views of the Italian Alps whose foothills Biella is located at. Monica pointed out a building that used to be a prison but now is a technical school run by nuns. Interesting! A lot of battles were fought in the Piedmonte region during World War I and II and there were a few war memorials including a statue to a young man named Cucco who was only 28 when he died in battle in 1915 in Northern Italy.
Over an hour later, we were ready to head back to Mongrando where Alberto was waiting for us in their apartment so we could go to dinner at Ristorante Ioris. The day before I left Italy for The Netherlands, Monica gave me some bus passes from her Tabbacheria for me to take a trip to Biella once again. I went there on the bus (after entertaining the folks on the bus by stumbling and falling down the steps in a most graceful manner), and I stayed near the bus station since the weather was not good and I didn't want to miss my bus and was happy checking out the old buildings near the bus station that now host several law offices. I enjoyed that and then in the park near the bus station, I was stopped by two nice men who turned out they were Jehovah's Witnesses (that was one phrase I could understand in Italian clearly). After giving me their spiel, I kindly told them I was an American (they switched to broken English after that) and that I was a Catholic and they left me alone. As I was walking away to get a gelato at the gelateria near the bus station, I asked myself, "How do you say 'I'm cleaning my gun in Italian!?'" My second trip to Biella was cut short due to pouring rain and I took the bus back to Camburzano and Monica's shop happy to have enjoyed my final day in Italy and Piedmonte.
Written by NiceGinna on 28 Oct, 2009
The wine with Sunday dinner was too good to pass up. We had to find that wine. While the bottle said, "Santo Stefano di Perno", they told us to go to Castiglione Falletto and the winery was near there. We found that…Read More
The wine with Sunday dinner was too good to pass up. We had to find that wine. While the bottle said, "Santo Stefano di Perno", they told us to go to Castiglione Falletto and the winery was near there. We found that village, but no one knew where we could buy the wines. It turned out that some of their vines were right below us while we sat and had a drink of the 'local'. Our bar-tender said he thought we should go back to Monforte and then find the way to Monchiero, where he thought the winery was. Although difficult to locate, everyone we talked to said the wines were so good, done in the traditional way. But perhaps Mauro Mascarello was a bit difficult to work with - we might get in or we might not. We took a chance and wandered back over the hills to Monforte and took the right turn to Monchiero. We stopped in the town and asked again and were directed to it. We were expecting a romantic winery outside of town; instead we came to a factory-like building in town. But since we knew the wine, we were not put off. We knocked and rang the bell, and finally Mauro answered; he was too busy working but his wife would be back in a half hour. We had a simple but wonderful lunch in town and came back after the half hour. We were welcomed in to their simple tasting room and tried a Barolo, a Barbera similar to the one at lunch, and a Nebbiolo. The Barolo was a bit out of our reach, but we bought several bottles of the Barbera and the Nebbiolo. And finally we were on our way home. Close
Barolo is one of the most famous and lively of the wine-villages of the Piedmont area. When we arrived they were having an antique VW show, which was quite fun, and also a street market. We were there to see the Castle and…Read More
Barolo is one of the most famous and lively of the wine-villages of the Piedmont area. When we arrived they were having an antique VW show, which was quite fun, and also a street market. We were there to see the Castle and the churches and the town itself but the things going on were fun too. We bought quite a few things at the market - pears, hazelnuts, cheese, and so on. We didn't sample any of the tripe that they were stirring so actively! Close
Our main reason for going to the Piedmont was to go truffle hunting. We went in October, which is the height of the season which goes on through November. We set up a meeting through our hotel with Beppe, firstname.lastname@example.org. He originally…Read More
Our main reason for going to the Piedmont was to go truffle hunting. We went in October, which is the height of the season which goes on through November. We set up a meeting through our hotel with Beppe, email@example.com. He originally set it up for 4 PM on Sunday but then moved it up to 3 PM so that he could accommodate other 'hunters'. We set up a Sunday 'dinner' for 12:30 but when we got to the restaurant they told us they didn't really start serving until 1 PM. Well, this was not going to work. We couldn't rush through a fabulous Piemontese meal in an hour and a half! It would be an insult to the chef, the staff, and the food. We had to cancel.But that's no reason you shouldn't try to go! The hunter uses a dog with a 'nose of gold' to find these funghi in the forest. Then they pick them up with a special implement called a picozza. There are black truffles and the even more rare white truffle, usually eaten raw, thinly sliced in slivers over an omelet or other savory or even sweet dishes. It's a very earthy taste.If you want to learn more about the truffles, there is "La Casa del Trifulau" in Costigliole d'Asti, where you will learn the history and traditions of the truffle. And there is a National Fair of the White Alba Truffle from mid-September to mid-November with street fairs and markets.Sadly the only truffles we found were on the streets of Alba! Close
As I said, the Piedmont is off the beaten track and still quite undiscovered by Americans. But the rolling hills, the castles on each hilltop, the quaint churches, the snow-capped mountains in the distance will surely lure many people here as they hear about…Read More
As I said, the Piedmont is off the beaten track and still quite undiscovered by Americans. But the rolling hills, the castles on each hilltop, the quaint churches, the snow-capped mountains in the distance will surely lure many people here as they hear about it. And if the scenery doesn't do it, the wines will. These are some of the best wines in the world. And there is food to match.It's a farming region, an area of vineyards. But these are people with much sophistication and pride in their taste. We had heard that they could be stand-offish but we didn't experience that at all. Instead we found them to be welcoming and pleased that we were interested in their products and their country.There are many famous towns - Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Asti, and the big city of Turin (Torino) with its beautiful architecture and highly touted Egyptian Museum that is well worth a visit. But it is the smaller towns and wandering the back roads that will really charm you.The shops in Alba will offer you pastas, truffles, sauces of meats and vegetables. We even spent time at a honey-tasting bar, with honeys ranging from pale yellow to deep brown and from sweet to quite bitter.But we loved Monforte d'Alba, a town we'd never heard of, but quaint with its own Old Town rising up the hillside. And we loved sitting on the terrace in Castiglione Falletto, enjoying the sun, the view, and the beautiful air.So go slowly around this area. Take your time. There is no reason to rush. Nearby will always be a wonderful meal and great wine. Enjoy. Close