It was a revelation. We have never been here before... many times to Italy, but never here.
We knew about the great wines of these hills, which can also be found in our wine shops and are a must on any occasion. We also knew about the excellent local cuisine, thanks to the TV programmes which focus on Italian excellence.
One day, last spring, while talking to the parents of a classmate of our twin daughters, we got onto the subject of holidays and they told me about their regular visits to these hills.
They were so thrilled and excited that they encouraged me to do some research. A cosy flat in a farmhouse for a fortnight, with a swimming pool, plenty of open but safe space, and opportunities to engage in activities with our children - I have four kids. A teenage girl, a ten-year-old boy and six-year-old twins. Ingeborg, our precious nanny, is also travelling with us.
So, we need a big house: there are seven of us! Once we have found our accommodation, halfway between the towns of Asti and Alba, in the UNESCO landscape area, the bulk of the work is over. From our home we can see the Alps and enjoy postcard-perfect sunsets every evening. It is surrounded by vineyards, woods and nature reserves where we can take some lovely walks. There are family-friendly trails here, easy treks, not too long and not too tiring, especially designed for young walkers and there are also equipped areas, water points and a few attractions to brighten up your journey.
Occasionally the kids go for a bike ride and then off to pick flowers and roll down the meadows. Everything is under the watchful eye of Ingeborg: they are happy and free, they have new friends and a nice tan which enhances their bright blue eyes.
Nearby, we also discovered an extraordinary educational park where our little girls had a chance to play with wooden toys, cook with mud and build leafy huts in complete freedom, while we adults were busy preparing lunch in one of the equipped areas.
Now my wife can finally relax: she reads a lot and she does not worry too much about meals. There are plenty of solutions for this: small restaurants, trattorias, taverns and, to our delight, they offer all the traditional local menus adapted to suit the tastes of young kids: with a variety of fresh, light starters based on seasonal, zero-mile vegetables. That is fantastic! Not far from our home lives an elderly couple. We cannot understand each other very much, but they are very kind and have given us a basket full of vegetables from their garden: juicy tomatoes, emerald green courgettes, crisp lettuces and some apricots which, believe me, we could not even imagine their taste could be so intense and delicious!
Needless to say, the kids soon fall asleep after so much activity during the day, and we can enjoy candlelit evenings reading and tasting the excellent wines we discovered in one of the many local wineries where, in between playing games and treasure hunts, our children have also learned something about the culture and art of wine production.
The strategic position also helped us to spice up our stay with cultural moments: there are many places to see and some interesting museums where a visit becomes a moment of entertainment, but also of discovery for the whole family. Unfortunately two weeks are not enough to do everything, so we chose to visit a castle which houses a museum dedicated to the crafts of the past. This was a highly educational experience for our children: to them, some of the ancient artefacts seemed to have come straight out of a fantasy book.
We spent the last day on a farm, picking fruit from the trees and vegetables from the garden and then we cooked them all together under the expert eye of the landlady. And finally, a nice trekking on the back of a donkey: the twin sisters wanted to take one home, they were crying inconsolably at the idea of leaving the donkey Alfredo.
The hardest moment, as you may have guessed, was when we had to tell our kids that the holiday was about to end: we were all quite sad and the little girls, now with a beautiful golden tan, just did not want to leave our neighbours who were like “new” grandparents to them, the so-called grandparents of the apricots.
We will certainly come back and I will thank the person who recommended these hills to me. During our wanderings I also came across a lovely farmhouse with a breathtaking view and it was for sale. So, who knows? A second home for us and our friends might well be on the cards.
We will certainly come back and I will thank the person who recommended these hills to me.
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