Day 1, June 10, Saturday
We arrived in Milan, picked up our rental car, drove about 1.5 hours to Acqui Terme and arrived at Baur B&B (www.baurbb.com) about 3pm. It was incredibly beautiful, just as the pictures on the website show. It was up a hill with a fantastic view below and a beautiful terrace. Before I continue, a few words about Baur B&B. This is now our favorite place in Europe. It is run by Diana (an American), and Michael (a German) Baur. This is a small B&B with only two rooms (since we were there they have added a third room). We rented both rooms as there were four of us so we had the whole B&B to ourselves. The rooms are very large and beautifully decorated with local treasures and some of Diana’s own pottery. The bathrooms are large tiled bathrooms with all the amenities you would need including a real hair dryer (not those things stuck to the walls in many Italian hotels). There is a great pool and beautiful area around the pool with plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas. The terrace in front is where breakfast is served every morning (in the winter it is served inside). As I mentioned earlier the views are spectacular. Diana and Michael B.are wonderful hosts. They have not missed a beat with incredible breakfasts, wonderful beds (the best we have slept on in Europe) and just a willingness to do anything required to make your stay enjoyable. They provided us with excellent dinner recommendations, as well as recommendations for our daytrips, always making sure we had good directions. Michael B. always made sure our Michael knew when the next World Cup game was! The B&B is located just down the hill from the town of Acqui Terme. While we never did, it was possible to walk into town as we saw many locals doing.
We met our hosts Diana & Michael Baur and their Labrador, Max.
Diana had prepared a wonderful lunch of meats, cheeses, bread, fruit, potato salad and delicious grilled zucchini. However, the most exceptional item was a hazelnut cake specially made by a friend of theirs. It was incredibly moist with a wonderful flavor. Michael embarrassed us by eating tons of proscuitto and three pieces of hazelnut cake. That evening Diana and Michael B. were invited to a friend’s wine festival, and as their guests we were invited as well. I actually do not drink wine, but Stephen thoroughly enjoyed tasting the wines and the kids tried some sweet wine. Everyone else at the festival was Italian.
Later we enjoyed dinner in Acqui Terme at Il Nuovo Ciarlocco (Via Don Bosco, 1 ). Michael B. had told us to order carne cruda, it is Piedmonte’s style of carpaccio or beef tartare. So we ordered it and it was actually raw ground veal – looks just like raw hamburger meat, but it was actually very good. (Since then beef tartare served like this has become more commonplace in the US, and we really enjoy it, but this was our first encounter..).
After dinner we walked around the town. It was 10:00pm and the town was really hopping. Each piazza had a different type of entertainment going on. A rock band, a little circus, dance music….Everyone was out enjoying the evening – babies in strollers, young kids, teens, parents and grandparents. We had a gelato at Visconti, then headed back to our wonderful beds and slept like rocks.
Day 2, June 11, Sunday
Diana will serve breakfast between 8:30am and 10:00am, you just have to let her know what time you would like it the night before. We said 9:00am. It was a bit difficult to wake up as we were tired from the travel day before and did not want to get out of our comfy beds, but boy was it worth it. Our breakfast was the best we have had in Europe. A stunning spread of fruit, museli, yogurt, meats, cheeses, tomatoes, fresh baked goods and two of our favorites – grilled peaches with pinenuts and made to order frittatas (omelettes). Michael B. goes to the markets early in the morning to get fresh pastries, cheese, fruit, etc.
Lingering over our breakfast we got a later start but headed to Torino for the afternoon.
We arrived about 2:00pm on a Sunday so it was fairly quiet, but we were quickly enamored by the city. We parked in an underground parking garage in Piazza San Carlo Felice. We walked to the Mole and went up the elevator to see the beautiful views from the top.
Next, we went through the Cinema Museum which was very interesting and stylishly done. Most displays are in Italian, but it was easy to get the gist of things.
We walked to the main square, Palazzo Castello, to find a bite to eat. We had nice paninis at Costa Verde off of Via Garibaldi. It was after 4pm now and the city was filling up with people going on their passagieta (afternoon stroll). It was truly amazing how many people were out, yet no stores were open as it was a Sunday. We went looking for Pepino Geletaria and had wonderful gelato there. We found a small food market on going around the corner and bought fresh pear and fresh grape juice.
We went back to the car and drove around a bit to some of the Olympic sites and across the Po River. We really enjoyed our time in Torino. We found it very pedestrian friendly, charming and frankly, highly underrated.
We got back to Baur B&B, rested and freshened up. Diana had made us a reservation at Da Fausto, a restaurant just beyond Acqui Terme in the hills in a small town called Cavatore. We had one of our best meals of the trip. Wonderful raviolis, incredible roast beef and duck salad. The desserts were fantastic – semi-freddoes, meringues and an apple tart, plus Fausto the owner, was quite charming with his limited English.
Day 3, June 12, Monday
One of the reasons for our trip was to visit the small towns Stephen’s family came from. One set of great-grandfather and -grandmother came from Vignole Barbera. It was less than an hour from Acqui Terme and right next to Serravalle where there is a large outlet mall. So, first we went to the outlet mall. The outlets are very nice and there are a lot of designers (D&G, Prada, Versace, etc.) but personally I preferred shopping in the smaller boutiques in the city centers.
We drove to Vignole Barbera, only about 10 minutes from Serravalle. It was not a large town, and much of the construction in the city is post WWII. There was a church in the Centro Storico that Stephen suspected was where his great grandparents were married.
There is a monument in front of the church to people who fought in the wars. Several Figinis (his grandmother’s maiden name) were listed. Unfortunately, the Communale Principio was closed at 1:00pm and would not reopen later in the afternoon. We walked around a bit and stopped for gelato.
We arrived back to Baur B&B in time for Michael to watch most of the US vs. Czech World Cup match. The rest of us lounged by the pool. We had another great dinner at Antica Osteria (14040 Castel Rocchero). The food was great but we ordered too much and were stuffed.
Day 4, June 13, Tues.
The next day was Tuesday which is market day in Acqui Terme so we went to explore the town. It was full of stalls – food, clothing, shoes and people came from all the nearby towns.
By 12:30 the stalls were closing down and everyone was going home for their afternoon nap. After a quick gelato stop we decided to do like everyone else, so we headed back to Baur B&B and spent a wonderful afternoon relaxing by the pool.
That evening, Diana prepared a wonderful dinner and we had a glorious evening relaxing on the terrace and visiting with Diana and Michael B.
Day 5, June 14, Wed.
The next morning we woke up to another incredible breakfast. This morning included a spectacular apricot tart. Today we were headed to Alba. Our small city of Medford, Oregon is a “sister city” with Alba, Italy. We have a student foreign exchange program with them as well as other programs. A friend’s daughter who had done the student exchange program about four years ago told us there is a book in the Communale Municipale that only visitors of Medford can sign. We decided this was something we should do. We went to the Communale Municipale to ask, but no one seemed to speak English. Someone kindly called another person who did speak some English. She told us she didn’t know anything about a book, but they did have a “Twin City” room where they had a display from Medford as well as two to three other twin(sister) cities they have throughout the world. There is a whole wall dedicated to Medford with many pictures of local dignitaries and pictures of Medford. Then another woman came in (spoke no English) but explained that yes there was a book you can sign, and pulled it out from a drawer in a credenza. We all signed the Alba – Medford Twin City book and thanked our two helpful patrons.
We walked through the Piazza Duomo and down the main street of Vittorio Emmanuel. It was a very nice street with lots of shopping. We had lunch at LaLiberia (Via Elvio Pertinace, 24), a very modern sleek restaurant with good food. Despite the fact that now everything was closed we decided to walk around the city a bit more. Unfortunately, my shoe broke – (bummer!) it was impossible to walk and of course, all the shops were closed. Stephen brought the car to us and we decided to do the scenic drive back that Diana and Michael recommended. We drove through Barolo, Monteforte d’Alba and many other beautiful parts of Piedmont.
When we returned, Michael stayed with Michael B. to watch a World Cup game while Stephen took Lauren and me to Acqui to do some shopping. Dinner later was at La Curia in Acqui Terme (Via Alla Bollente, 72 ). For appetizers we had asparagus con funghi porcini and millefiore melezane which were both excellent. Michael and I shared vitelleto (veal) and Stephen and Lauren both had ravioli. We all enjoyed another wonderful dinner.
Day 6, June 15, Thursday
The next day was our last morning at Baur B&B and the delicious breakfast. Hugs & kisses all around as we said goodbye to our new friends Diana, Michael and Max. Our next stop was Lerici on the Ligurian coast. However, on our way was our second “family heritage” stop. Stephen’s grandfather was from Favale di Malvaro, just east of Genoa. It was a small village up in the mountains with old terraced gardens.
We tried to find a place for lunch but nobody had sandwiches (there are only two places) so we settled for some snacks. There was a statue in one of the small squares (okay it’s actually a parking lot) that commemorates those who left Favale to emigrate to America.
Apparently, they also have a festival honoring this in late June. We walked up a hill to the church and found the cemetery. There were many Boitanos (Stephen’s mother’s maiden name) on the headstones. Despite the early hour at home (5:45am), Stephen called his Mom to ask what her grandfather’s first name was and confirm roughly when he died. We found his gravestone – Boitano G. Batistta. This was pretty neat, and really amazing as the cemetery sat on the edge of one of the terraces and many of the tombstones had fallen over the cliff.
Just want to say we absolutely loved Piedmont. Of course, our stay at Baur B&B was a big part of that, but in addition, Piedmont is very quiet and relaxing and not filled with tourists. We saw some German tourists but never saw another American tourist our whole time in Piedmont (except once at lunch in Alba). Very few Italians there speak English, most menus do not have English translations. We thoroughly enjoyed this authentic Italian experience and can not wait to return to this beautiful region.
Next up Lerici & Cinque Terr on the Ligurian coast – Read about it here: