October 16, 2012. The final of seven full days in Italy. The next day, we would be off on an early morning flight home from Malpensa Airport, back to the joys of parenthood, the travails of work, the slow and creeping descent into winter. Back to reality.
And yet both of us woke up extra sick. Sore throat, congestion … the antithesis of romance in one of the most romantic landscapes we’ve ever visited. Oh well. We couldn’t complain, because the overnight rain had done something quite remarkable: it killed the fog.
For the first time, we had all set an alarm for sunrise. Our plan for the day was ambitious and we had a lot of terrain to cover.
- Drive around the Langhe Hills and sightsee in early morning light.
- Drive 2.5 hours north to our hotel at Malpensa Airport.
- Check in, drop bags.
- Continue on an hour and 15 minutes northeast to Menaggio on Lake Como and take an afternoon ferry across the lake to Varenna — the town that inspired our daughter’s name.
- Return to the airport hotel as late as humanly possible.
Adam and Tess were already at the breakfast table by the time we rolled up with our suitcases. A creamy, melon color filled the sky outside, and before I could spread Nutella on my roll, I was out on the patio of Ca del Lupo shooting the first light touching the distant Alps. The Matterhorn cut into the horizon like a sharks tooth. Mount Rosa, its less famous but taller neighbor, seemed to anchor the whole chain of mountains and prevent them from floating up on a blanket of fog hugging the Po River Valley. We’d waited all trip long for views like this. Here they were.
The breakfast at Ca del Lupo was exquisite. Really, everything I love about European breakfast buffets was present and accounted for. Like the uncouth American that I am, I ate three croissants including one for the road. We loaded up the car, and drove perhaps 50 feet before I insisted on stopping. The unobstructed views of Rodello (top of the post) and Montelupo Albese (below) were stunning. Again, Piedmont was making a compelling case for being the best destination in Italy.
We debated our next move as we descended toward Alba. Should we return to La Morra and photograph the great cedar tree that presides over the vineyards? Should we return to the beautiful vineyards surrounding Barbaresco? Maybe we ought to explore the little towns in this corner of the Langhe Hills a little more — Diano d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Sinio?
The debate was interrupted by several stops: vineyards rolling down from Diano d’Alba with the Alps in the distance. A farmhouse surrounded by cranberry-colored vineyards. A hilltop wine estate backlit and surrounded by cedars … with no exit off the tiny road to capture the image. Onward.
As we rounded yet another bend, we spotted La Morra on a distant hillside, it’s features now memorized by our stay at Villa Carita. Looming behind it, hidden the entire time we were there, was Monte Viso, a 12,600-foot chuck of mountain that stands alone over the western edge of Italy.
I’m not one for reruns, but my vote was to return to La Morra. Everyone else agreed.