Friday, May 17, 2013

Barolo and The Dolomites

I can’t believe how much happened since I wrote about Venice! Friday we decided to go into Milan by ourselves, which was an adventure in and of itself. We managed the subway, and we found the café on the sixth floor of La Renascente (a big Macy’s-type store). The café sits directly across the alley from the roofline of the Doumo. A spectacular view of the rooftop statues.

Saturday, Gianluca took us back into town to a big dog park which was having a flower market. We wandered, drank espresso, beer, wine, wandered, and ate more pizza. He took us into Chinatown to a wine bar called Cantine Isola, which has been open since 1896. I think the old guy running it has probably been there since they opened J We ordered a glass of wine and stood out on the sidewalk like locals.
Sunday we went wine tasting to the famous Barolo region. Egle planned it perfectly. We went to an excellent wine museum, called WiMu, in the castle. Then we went below to do some tasting. Afterward she led us through the ancient streets to a sidewalk café where we had the best restaurant meal so far. This was followed by a tour of the Cagliero winery and another tasting. The Cagliero vineyard has been owned by his family for over 500 years. The house itself is 400 years old! Sadly, thus far his children aren’t showing any interest in keeping the winery in the family.
Monday morning we took off for the Dolomites (in the northern Italian Alps bordering the Austrian Alps). We circled around Lake Garda and shot up the valley to the next small lake with its own castle on a little island. We sat and enjoyed the view of the massive mountains, and soaked up the sunshine like lazy cats. Back in the car to reach our final destination . . . Tione!

Tione is the village Egle was raised in. Her father welcomed Joe and I like we were his long-lost children. He immediately asked us to come to a friend’s house up the mountain. They were super excited about meeting “the Americanies”. We arrived at their home and felt like we’d stepped into the book about Heidi. When we were introduced to the household they thought my name was odd for a Californian. Marchela asked if Joe’s name was Peter. They teased in Italian about the irony of my being in the Alps. I was accepted into their lives when I yodeled for them.

We were pushed into the house and sat at a table for 12. Wine from the barrel was poured and everyone talked at the same time. Bruno was quiet and looked like he’d been carved from a tree trunk with his barrel chest and massive arms and thighs. Their 18 year-old daughter Mekayla showed up (I’m spelling the names how they sound to an American). She was an absolute spitfire. She sat between Joe and I, and spoke rapid-fire Italian/English/Spanish/and Tione dialect, hands flying everywhere. Then she dragged Joe off to see the view. I followed at a more leisurely pace with the ladies. No photo does it justice. Marchela suddenly presented me with a bouquet of Daisies and Joe with Forget-Me-Nots. Priceless.

We stopped for pizza on the way back to Saviero’s house (Egle’s father). Each with our own pizza, of course. Mine is the one with a salad on top. See my flowers in the vase :)

The next morning, Tuesday, we piled back into the cars and went up to the vista point for the jagged Dolomite Alps. Once again, photos don’t do it justice. Back down the mountain to the glacier fed waterfalls. Back in the cars and down the mountain to an ancient church. The whole time was spent talking, talking, talking. It didn’t matter what language you spoke, they just talked as though you understood. After awhile you do begin to understand. Hugs and kisses all the way around and the four of us climbed back into the car to head back to Milan.

One last stop . . . Let’s stop in to say hello to Gianluca’s folks . . . around dinner-time. Of course we were invited to stay and eat. We’re not stupid enough to pass up an offer like that. I don’t care how tired and dirty I was, not to mention the fact that all four of us are sick with colds. Giuseppe and Ana fired up the barbeque, pulled out the coke bottles full of Sardinian wine from back home where they came from, and raced up to the store for fresh ribs and sausage.
I asked Egle about at tower visible from the back yard, and she said “Oh, that’s a castle.” Of course it is, what was I thinking. Off for a walk . . . we went to see the castle. The church next door beckoned, so we went inside for an impromptu concert as the choir practiced. Back to the house. A mountain of ribs, a platter of sausage, thick cucumbers peeled and quartered, salad with Sardinian olive oil. I don’t know how these Italian women stay so thin! As we left at 10:30 I was presented with a handmade beaded rose from Ana.
Gianluca thanked us and apologized for having to stay for dinner. Joe and I wouldn’t have passed it up for the world. This is the kind of stuff money can’t buy. You can’t go to the travel agency and book an evening with Sardinian parents or an overnight stay with a Sicilian dad. It’s priceless.
Finally home and wiped out. Egle and I began the exhausted giggling as we each took our different cold medicines. She made me a cup of hot milk with honey . . . this is a must try.
I may not be able to blog again until I get home, so we’ll visit then okay?

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