Today was my new favorite day. If lunch on the patio chatting with Marco in Bellagio was what we envisioned for Italian dining, today was what we envisioned for the Italian countryside.The Emila Romagna region of Italy, which contains both Parma and Bologna, is known for parmesan cheese and Parma ham (in the States, prosciutto) and really is the gastronomic center of Italy. We planned 5 days in Bologna with day trips from there, so look out for Bologna in maybe 4 days.
Today’s trip was mapped for about 240 miles from Parma to Alba, in the Piedmont region. What we figured out is that while the SP roads (Strada Provinciale) are scenic, they take longer to travel. We’re not in a hurry, but the road conditions just don’t allow for 300 mile days in this area. Kevin spent a lot of effort picking the good parts of the road, but even then, from waist up, I felt like I was on a pogo stick. Not complaining, but realizing that some future routes will need to be updated because we can’t do that many miles on those types of roads. We ended up with about 200 miles for the day.
The countryside is all you can imagine and more, including a fantastic field of red poppies. In Emila Romagna, we saw field after field of tomatoes. Like flipping a switch, in the southern tip of Lombardy, immediately there were grape vines. In the Piedmont, groves of trees (haven’t figured out what they are yet) and more grapes.
Lunch was a random pick without checking any review sites, but was full of workers on their lunch break. If you are familiar with Italian dining, you’ll find that they have multiple courses and most people pick one from each course. We have thrown that expectation out the window and just pick which dish suites our taste. There were no menus and the sweet lady who helped us was able to tell us their offerings in darn good English. We each picked a pasta dish and as she explained the meat course, our minds said no, but her sweetness made us order Parma ham with mozzarella to share. When a full serving for each of us hit the table, we knew we were in trouble. The Parma ham is thinly sliced, layered on a plate with a peach sized ball of fresh mozzarella on the side – for each of us! After a cereal bowl sized dish of pasta, this was just too much. We ate what we could, but knew that eating it all would not make for a good afternoon of riding in the heat on twisty roads. I could have never imagined that I would leave behind the beautifully salty Parma ham and any amount of fresh cheese. It broke my heart.
We’re staying for 2 nights in a great apartment in Alba, via AirBnB. Supper was spectacular! Trattoria Del Bollito attracts mainly locals, and features a one man show – Massimo, describes the fresh pasta and meat options for the day, pours wine, and prepares and serves the meals. While his English is as limited as our Italian, he was very welcoming, enlisting other guests to help us through through the menu options. After 2 perfectly-sized pasta dishes (ie: smaller than the lunch portions) – pappardella with sausage for me, tajarin with sausage and porcini mushrooms for Kevin – we moved on to dolce. I ordered tiramisu, while Kevin had panna cotta with a mixed berry sauce. Massimo also provided fresh brandy-soaked cherries and milk chocolate with hazelnuts, gratis! Kevin said Toberlone has nothing on this hunk of goodness!
Seriously, if you’re ever in Alba, stop in at Trattoria Del Bollito. Tomorrow, a bit of rest and perhaps a winery tour. We’ll post some videos tomorrow as well. Buone notte!