Today I'll tell you another of my weekend around Italy, but this time we speak of very special days. For three days I lived another life, or rather I have lived the life of others: I was a guest of two different families of the Alta Langa, in Piedmont. Families of ' langhetti ', of farmers and small producers of hazelnuts, living by what the Earth, cultivated with long work, and animals, taken care of with affection, offer them. I met ordinary people, rich in values and humanity, living each day with gratitude in spite of great fatigue. With them I strolled to the hazelnut trees, Fed rabbits and chickens, edited a small vineyard of Dolcetto, made the bread, tajarin and the ravioli del plin. With them I shared lunch, prepared all together, and most importantly I talked and listened. A special experience, lived in preview for the Consorzio turistico Langhe Monferrato Roero-, who wanted to test a new concept of hospitality in Alta Langa, ground hazelnuts. A vacation that is actually real life in a place known, First of all,, Why is the production of district PGI Piedmont hazelnut. This vast territory in the province of Cuneo, to the South of Alba, is profoundly different from the area much more note of the Langhe wine. Here the vineyard disappear to give way to Hazel, the hills between 600 and 800 metres of altitude, a succession about 40 small villages with a few hundred inhabitants each, from Bossolasco in Levice, from Rocchetta Belbo to Camerana, the border with Liguria.
Tourists are offered the opportunity to experience an alternative to the usual ones, experiencing one or two days with a local family, Supported by the figure of cultural mediator (usually a young locals, who speaks the dialect and foreign languages), sharing its rhythms, the daily life and work, so do mention the Alta Langa precisely those who know perfectly, all my life. So the area is revealed, the gaze of tourists, through the words and gestures of its inhabitants. I have already been so many times in Piedmont, and also to Alba, Barolo, Dogliani, international wine tourism destinations, but I had never been in Alta Langa. That this territory is a place less glossy and more wild you can tell already from the route to the small town of Cerretto Langhe. The road that climbs the hills changes appearance, passing by vineyards and hazelnut trees in the woods, as you climb to altitude.
Here nature is master. And this concept has inspired the owners of the historical and romantic home The Sun and the Moon, Cerretto Langhe, a stone and wood building, once the seat of the Hotel Italy, structured following the guidelines of bio-architecture. Rooms with antique furniture, ceilings with wooden beams, warm colors and the most beautiful part of the world: stunning view over the hills of the Langa. The breakfast is no exception: all organic, homemade or from small handicraft production: from cheeses to jams, from eggs to meats, the hazelnut cream.
Is’ in the face and always moving hands Elio Fiorenza and I actually met the Alta Langa: a working life split in two (with the help of Hector, brother of Elio, and the Poldi company, a wonderful little dog that sings when he climbed on the tractor), in a daily life so different from that I know. Ad Arguello, which has 201 inhabitants, I accompanied them and observed in doing what they do every day on the land around their home: feed the rabbits, big and small, so fearful and timid, the hens and geese, querulous and agitatissime for the presence of strangers. Gather fresh eggs, they have a different taste than those who are used to eating in Rome. Taking care of two pigs that Elio was already fond of. Every move is precise, dry, the result of a perfect mechanism, because they also work in the fields is the routine, in the office, but with that something of love more. In the garden, you collect strawberries, which it is obviously not made any pesticide treatment: They are sweet and juicy and red and there will be offered in the form of salad, drizzle Moscato d'Asti DOCG. The cherries are eaten straight from the tree: not all are mature, but also those still pale are tasty and sweet. You have to know how to choose. The omelette, obviously with edible herbs such as nettles and borage, prepares Elio: and does not miss even the amount of salt. At the pasta instead think Fiorenza: He taught us how to make ravioli del plin (from so called 'pinch’ It does to close them, with two fingers), a typical Piedmontese dish. I tried to prepare myself and I have a little’ abounded in the filling but, as you know, Sicilians always abound.
Lunch is just as I expected: rustic but good wine (dolcetto), homemade sausage, ravioli del plin, stews and bonet, for sweet (together with the mocha coffee), It quickly won the first place in the special ranking of Bonet I ate so far. I'll try to do it at home, perhaps it might be able to emulate this perfection. It seems an idyllic picture, but of course we are behind so much effort and hard work. Elio and Fiorenza live in a self-sufficient economy: suffice to themselves, subject to the production of hazelnuts IGP, which it accounts for a small family income. To be reported, visiting the beautiful medieval church of San Frontiniano, on the ancient salt road, which still has the original flooring.
On the second day, spent Cravanzana, capital of IGP hazelnuts, with a territory of 90% covered by hazel, I met the family Fresia. To welcome Ms. Rose, Gianluca (young mayor of the town) and dad ... ... Surrounded by hazel amid a quiet countryside, we have prepared tajarin, noodles and bread. Rosa has a genuine passion for the dough and, under his hands, the ingredients are transformed into thin strands of pasta, soft loaves. Everything is homemade: salami, mushrooms in Oil, omelette with herbs, jams to pair with cheeses of Langa, like tome and robiole, cookies and cake with hazelnuts, pride of the local confectionery production, that if it is done at home it is definitely more good. And when Rosa needs to make the dough, find the eggs in the nearby family farm of chickens and hens neighbors. A small husbandry of habitats for animals so they can give genuine products. For hazelnuts, Just take a walk through the trees around the house, or tackle one of the climbs in the hills surrounding the town. The hazel (employing at least five years to become productive) They are thick and imposing. In recent years there has been a boom in new facilities. The trees are more like large bushes for their conformation to suckers, and are good trees with residents: few diseases, few interventions with chemicals and a fruit that is dried and toasted and is considered the best quality in the world. Because nuts are produced not only in Italy, but also in Turkey and in other continents. And the competition is very strong. Most of those Alta Langa is processed in factories Ferrero of Alba, for the production of Nutella. But they are different cooperatives of local producers. And here it is easy to buy creams and hazelnut paste, and even cosmetics based on the nutrient rich hazelnut oil, high quality craftsmanship.
But to eat in these places? There are two restaurants that I could try. The first is high Langhe, in Bossolasco: a reliable old-style trattoria with an infinite sequence of traditional Piedmontese appetizers like asparagus soufflé with cream cheese raschera, the joke of Piedmont meat, poi tajarin, ravioli del plin, Vitello tonnato, roasts and, for sweet, the “Bunet” Grandma and hazelnut cake. The other address is the Trattoria del Bivio, Cerretto Langhe. Here the maximum Torrengo chef prepares inventive and traditional menus. Among the starters the joke thigh to the knife, veal with tuna sauce and pepper roulade, then I recommend tajarin with ragu of sausage Bra, among the latter the “Resources”, a plate inevitable in the tables of Piedmont, and guinea fowl baked with mushrooms; tra i dessert: a variation of the IGP hazelnuts. All this combined with local wines, Nebbiolo from the High Langa Brut Metodo Classico, until the sweet Moscato.