Monday, May 19, 2014

Italy 2014: Day 18: Monday: May 19: Barge

Rain....first time since our first day in Milan.  Guess that it is a pretty good streak....

After breakfast, we brave the wet weather and get in the car to drive to Saluzzo.  On the road, we pass by several small stone cutting operations--basically big piles of stones in various sizes and cutting tools set up under large umbrellas with one or two Chinese workers in the yard.

We easily find parking in Saluzzo on this Monday morning....many of the stores are closed on Monday mornings.  Our first stop is the duomo....a handsome brick building with typical stone facing over the main portal.  

It sits at the top of the pedestrian-only main street--Corso Piemonte--which is wide and handsome with nice shops and restaurants on either side.  

If it hadn't been raining and overcast, this is what we would have seen as we approached Saluzzo.

We take a quick walk around the inside of the duomo

and down the Corso Piemonte but the rain is too steady for comfortable walking around so we retreat to the car and drive around a bit--up to the castle and out of town on a (very) narrow street on a ridge that overlooks the town.   But we will come back to explore this lovely town when the weather improves.

We drive along the flat valley floor to Cuneo, the provincial capital while the rain relents a bit.  The city is set on wide level plateau between two valleys and, on sunnier days, is framed by the peaks of the Alps.

There is a long viaduct that crosses the river valley

which leaves you right in the middle of town in an exceptionally grand piazza surrounded by attractive colonnaded buildings

We stop at one of the grand cafes on the Piazza Galimberti for coffee and tea and then continue our stroll under the colonnades.  We drive down some of the attractive main streets that seem to go on forever.  Another very pleasant town to return to and experience in fair weather...

Since it is almost time for lunch, I consult my restaurant listings and find that one of the Osterie d'Italia's recommendations--Osteria della Chiocciola--is not far from the main piazza. (Our friend Maureen Fant had reviewed the restaurant for the NY Times in 2002).  We are able to drive there without difficulty, find it in one of the narrow streets of the old part of town and park the car.  We are seated in a lovely room 

and enjoy a terrific lunch--among the best meals of the trip to date.  Diana has flan with basil and a fresh tomato sauce followed by plate of silky tajarin--rich egg noodles--with butter and sage.  I have the Piemontese specialty--carne crudo (the local version of steak tartare) and an exceptionally tasty chickpea soup (zuppa dei ceci).  We split an excellent panna cotta for dessert and each have a glass of wine.  A great way to spend a rainy afternoon...

We take a roundabout route back to Barge and rest a bit at the hotel.  I go out for another exploratory walk but the town is still closed up--most shops here don't open at all on Mondays.  I walk some of the back streets along the river 

and past the ruins of a small castle 

but the town is not that appealing when the weather is overcast and the town is closed up.

We have a light dinner in the small hotel dining room, not wishing anything elaborate, and are able to drink the bottle of red wine that the hotel had given us as a welcome present.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to improve and we plan to return to Saluzzo, visit the 15th century castle at Manta and find a laundromat. 

Jim and Di