We began this four day adventure by taking the bus to San Remo and renting a car...an adventure in itself! Heading north into the Piedmontese region, we actually had to travel through part of France along the western border of Italy. If you are following on your maps, we left Ventimiglia and traveled north through Cuneo to the city of Bra. We planned to meet friends and experience a famous slow food cheese fesival. The state road we traveled on climbed higher and higher into the Alpi Maritime. The roads were unbelievable as was the view back down the valley....switchbacks and steep ravines. We had a wonderful time with our friends in Bra. Imagine streets lined with booths full of different kinds of cheeses and salamis from all over the region. Buono profumo! ...and the place was packed with people. Too many in fact to enjoy the cheeses. Our dear friend and his wife took us on a walk to various churches and buildings. This man knows his architecture and history and so we learned quite a lot. The churches were beautifully ornate inside and out. We spent the next two days with them, staying at country homes of their friends. How lucky we feel to have stayed with Italian families...lovely and gracious hosts..and wonderful conversations in a combination of our primitive italian and their primitive english. The Piedmonte region of Italy in a large region in the northwest, bordered on the west by the Alps and on the east by mountains called Mon Ferrato. In the middle lies the valley of the Po River where the land is flat and productive. All kinds of grains, fruit and vegetables grow here and so, there are many farms. We saw an amazing variety of fruit such as peaches,pears, apples, figs and kiwi. The Mon Ferrato area is similar to Tuscany with rolling hills like Vermont and it seems a castle,church and small village at the top of every steep hill. For many hundreds of years, Italy consisted of many small fiefdoms each controlled by a ruling family. And so these castles and villages were quite well fortified.
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On the third night we stayed at a wonderful little agriturista B&B...actually a working organic lavender farm in the little town of Ponti which is southwest of Alba. The state highway from Alba to Acqui Terme is a fabulous motorcycle road, curvey and full of switchbacks, descending steeply into a river valley. We stopped in the city of Acqui Terme which is famous for its hot springs. This was a popular place for Romans to come to enjoy the mineral baths. We discovered that there are several grand hotels dating from the 1800s where anyone can stop in to have a spa experience. In the middle of town there is a piazza where the hot..and I mean hot, water comes bubbling up into a fountain. Our stay at the lavender farm was a delightful experience. The woman who runs the farm grew up in Milan and bought this place about 9 years ago. It is way up on a hillside with beautiful vistas all around. Can you see the lavender in the pic below? Imagine the hillside in bloom!
Paola and her husband produce all kinds of lavender products from medicinal to cosmetic and some just for beauty. When we were there she was busy feeding her small menagerie of several sheep, 3 donkeys,a horse, 4 dogs and 5 cats. The buildings had a beautiful country feel to them and our room was filled with the scent of what else ? ...lavender. We'll return for sure !