After all of the Liam-drama waking up in the morning, it was decidedly uphill after that!

Breakfast at the B&B was AWESOME! Easily one of the best (if not the best) I’ve ever had. Coffee (of course), fresh breads & yogurts & juices — and here’s the best bits — amazing variety of homemade jams (tomato vanilla, pear & cinnamon, and a wild berry), fresh local cheeses and saucisson, and a plate of assorted hazelnut goodies (hazelnuts are big in the area). And they were kind enough to make Liam a warm glass of milk too.

So a big thumbs up to Casa Branzele — lovely location in the hills, very warm reception, amazing breakfast… and the owners, Alberto and Franca, we extraordinarily helpful in providing local recommendations and helping us secure table reservations for lunch & dinner. We’ll be giving them a 5-star review on tripadvisor!!

Anyway…. after breakfast we just had a chilled out morning in the garden, waiting for Dan, Elaine and the kids to organize themselves and check out of their hotel (they’ll be heading home later in the day).

The plan was to meet in the larger town of Alba, which is supposed to have a good market.

We arrived first, found a cafe in the shade, and enjoyed milkshakes for late breakfast 🙂 Until Dan and family made their way in and joined us for a second round!!

Alba was a bit disappointing… the town was fine enough (a fairly typical mid-size town with a lovely historic center). But the market was a pretty standard ‘crap goods’ market, and the kids were all promised they could choose a small toy, and there were none to be found!! So we actually spend the remainder of our time together wandering around in the overwhelming heat just trying to find something that resembled a toy store. It wasn’t fun. The kids were all whining. And hot. And disappointed. In the end, no toy store was found, and shops were all closed up for lunch. We found a clothing shop still open and Scarlett and Isobel both were given new children’s jewelry, and Liam was happy enough with cheap and cheerful motorcycles form the newspaper vendor.

At 13:30, they had to head back to the car and on towards Torino (Turin) to catch their flight home, so we all said our ‘Arrivadercis’ and ‘see you soons’ before parting ways. So glad to have had this brief time with them!!

After they left, we decided to head out ourselves, as Alba wasn’t interesting, and the heat was overwhelming and really taking it’s toll on Liam. We stopped and bought some delicious foccaccia sandwiches to bring back to our B&B, and then hopped in the car back to Casa Branzele.

Well, despite Liam’s requests for a nap, he had no intention of doing so. But he did have a great time just chilling in the garden, listening to the donkeys grazing nearby (they have bells on their necks) and pretending he was ‘Alberto’ the owner of the B&B. He would say ‘Hello, I am Alberto, let me show you your rooms’ and then he would proceed to bring us up to the bedroom, then down to the kitchen, and then the reception area, as if we were guests still arriving. He insisted on being called Alberto. Franca (Alberto’s wife) was amused!!

That was a great thing about this B&B… the stairs were easily managed and we could let Liam just run around on his own without fear of him hurting himself, and it was so remote, that there were no cars of other places for him to get to. We just knew he would poke his head through one of the doors back into the garden, and he really enjoyed having the freedom to run about on his own!!

For dinner we headed into a nearby town called Neive, which Franca told us was one of the nicest villages in the area, and she had secured us a table on a terrace at a local restaurant for dinner. We were initially a bit disappoint, as on our arrival to the village (through the lower commercial and suburban area) it wasn’t much to look at. But at the top, in the historic center, it was indeed gorgeous. The restaurant had a lovely terrace overlooking one of the churches on the hilltop, and the food, service and company was great. There was a large italian family with a small boy… a young honeymooning american couple, and an elderly couple from Marseille (who have a son who works in Monaco). So all around it was relaxed and chatty with the other patrons.

The next morning we took our time getting ready and checking out (after a fabulous breakfast)… and then headed back to Neive for a proper wander around now that we’d all had a good nights’ sleep. Sleepy and charming. But then pretty much all of the villages there are equally charming! And it was far more beautiful approaching it from the other direction. We found a shaded playground for Liam to have a bit of ‘kid time’ on the swings and slide… and then a little wander around the very tiny but picturesque town.

Afterwards we drove to the nearby town of Barbaresco, where our friends Chrissie and Keith had highly recommended a particular restaurant. We couldn’t get dinner reservations the night before, but we could get lunch reservations!

The restaurant was worthy of the recommendation (Ristorante Rabaya). The food was good… but more importantly the terrace, shaded by the overhanging grape vines, was exceptional!! The views were amazing, and Liam made his first Italian girlfriend… Isabella. It wasn’t love at first sight. Liam had to work for an hour to finally charm her into playing with him… but then they were inseparable, and both quite sad when it was time to say “Arrivaderci”. At one point, while she took a break for some cool water, he asked ‘Wheres my girlfriend’? 🙂

After lunch we had a slightly bumpy journey home… it turns out that all of the small gas stations in the valleys were ‘out of gas’… !!!!! And we had less than a quarter tank, and a lot of road to cover before we got to the autoroute. So we ended up driving from village to village looking for a gas station that actually had fuel to sell, and ended up in a big loop back to where we started from. And so we ended up home at least an hour and a half later than we intended (although we did end up seeing a lot of charming countryside in our search for a gas station). Liam was getting quite testy about the length of time in the car, but luckly he dozed off once we hit the autoroute, and woke up an hour and a half later, when we were 5 minutes from home.

It’s good to be home. But it was great to get away. We’re so lucky to have so many interesting places that are such an easy drive from us… and we’ll definitely be back to this part of Piedmont. The landscape is very tuscan, except that it doesn’t have the towering cypress trees… and it’s dotted with hazelnut forests instead of olive groves. And the food and wine are great. And it’s half the drive. Who needs more than that??

Arrivaderci Italia!! A presto! See you soon!