Carrick a Rede rope bridge Steve

Spotlight on Northern Italy: From villas to violins

I recently returned to the States from a rewarding research trip to Northern Italy with a local friend. What a lovely place!

Lake Como was the starting point for our trip, and it was simply spectacular. The lake reflects the surrounding Alps and stunning villas. Some villas are small and some are so huge that they’re more like palaces. Some of them look like they are unoccupied (with shutters drawn and no visible signs of life), but they all are impeccably maintained. And they all ooze hundreds of years of history, stories and aristocracy. It is a wonder to see them and imagine the centuries of history they have seen.

After a brief period in Como, we drove to the nearby Piedmont region — home of the Slow Food movement, which is so important that it even has its own university in Pollenzo, near the town of Bra. The focus is “zero kilometer” food, which is the local way of saying the least amount of distance possible between farm and table. Visit the University of Gastronomic Sciences to learn more about this and visit the wine library there. It has a marvelous collection of wines from all over Italy.

Of course, it was important for us to actually experience Slow Food, which we did in the town of Morozzo at the cheese farm of La Bottera. One of the family members showed us the whole process of making cheese and then served us a meal comprised of products made in this farm. It was the best meal ever. There with so many courses that I lost count; it seemed the more we said “no more” the more came. What a delight. She is happy to welcome more of our groups that want to learn more about Slow Food. 

We spent the evening in Cuneo, which is the biggest town in the area. We happened to be there on Illuminati Day — an annual festival that includes had a fabulous festival of lights on the Main Street in the evening (photo above). This is what I call a genuine town — far from the mass tourism you see in other towns and cities throughout Italy. It was so wonderful that I would recommend Cuneo as a town to visit if you want to immerse yourself with the locals.

On our way to Venice the next day, we stopped in Cremona. We did not know much about it, but a musician/client asked us about it so we went to visit. And what a delight it is! Cremona is the "city of violins” with a centuries-old legacy of violin makers, the most famous being Stradivari. The museum is lovely, but the highlight was a solo violin recital played on one of the instruments on display in the museum — a 350-year-old Stradivarius violin, which was absolutely beautiful. After listening to the violin recital, it was blissful strolling around the “city of violins” with its squares, alleyways, churches and, of course, food.

We traveled onto Venice later, but that is a subject for another travel tale.

I would strongly recommend adding the Piedmont region to your next itinerary in Italy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call me now to start planning your own trip.


Steve Hart
Hart Travel Partners