Thursday, June 30, 2011


We finished our Italian tour in Austria because of flight schedules. We're glad we had the opportunity to visit Innsbruck. It's a beautiful city.

As part of our visit, we took the Hungerburgbahn from Innsbruck up a mountain.We traveled from Innsbruck (elevation 1,837 feet) to Hungerburg (elevation 2,680 feet), but not to the absolute top at elevation 7,402 feet. As you can imagine, the views are astonishing.

So were the stations, designed by architect Zaha Hadid. Quite a contrast to the architecture in Old Town Innsbruck.

Next post will be about the food we enjoyed in Innsbruck. White asparagus, anyone?

Monday, June 27, 2011

High Above Bolzano

While our husbands attended and gave presentations at the meeting of wine economists, Hinda and I decided to visit Renon/Ritten, a mountain and resort area above Bolzano. Getting there involves a cable car.

Facts about the cable car: It was built in 2007, replacing older versions. It is 4,541 meters (2.8 miles) long. It travels at 7 meters (22 feet) per second, and takes 12 minutes to go from bottom to top or top to bottom. It travels 951 meters (3,120 feet) in altitude.

Once at the cable car stop at Soprabolzano/Oberbozen, we took a small train to Collalbo/Klobenstein. We then walked to the Pyramids, rock formations formed by erosion. We were not alone. Many, many walkers and hikers were traipsing throughout the area, which has 350 kilometers (217 miles) of marked trails.

We were surrounded by fabulous scenery. Even the views from the cable car of Bolzano and surrounding orchards and vineyards was stunning.

We ended our Renon trip with lunch of homemade spinach ravioli. Our beverage was Aperol, a vivid orange aperitif that is surprisingly refreshing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trauttmansdorff Garden

We are in Bolzano for the American Association of Wine Economists meeting. Wine economists like to drink wine, especially in beautiful locations, which is what led the group to the gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle.

In addition to the terrific flowers , trees, water features, cactus garden, and views of the mountains, the garden also features a vineyard, where you can clearly see the pergola system of growing grapes.

The menu for the evening:
  • Appetizers: asparagus wine soup, cheese and vegetables on a skewer, tomato and mozzarella on a skewer
  • Vegetable lasagna
  • Chanterelle and rosemary risotto
  • Steak with Parmesan shavings, salad, potato pancakes
  • Panna cotta with fresh strawberries
Local wines, of course (Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon) plus locally produced apple juice.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Did we mention that this is a wine research trip? So, let's research!

We stopped at Valle Isarco in Chiusa/Klausen for a visit with Peter Baumgartner, the president of the Valle Isarco cooperative. We tasted through the top level of white wines. A cooperative is a non-profit. The members (about 140 of them for Valle Isarco) all bring their grapes to the cooperative to be turned into wine. The growers generally have small plantings, from less than a hectare (a hectare is about 2.5 acres) to several hectares.

Our favorites were the Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewurztraminer, and Kerner. Then Peter let us taste a Sylvaner and a Riesling from the vineyards around the Sabiona monastery in Chiusa. Amazing! Then he let us taste the Passita, a dessert wine, sweet but not at all cloying. A fabulous range of wines that, alas, are not easily available in the United States.

In Bolzano we visited Kellerei Kaltern, also a cooperative, a short walk from the city center. While Valle Isarco focuses on whites, Kellerei Kaltern is about red wines. We especially liked the Lagrein, another local grape. Here, also, we tasted a Passita, and, again, sweet but not syrup.

Research is hard work.

Villandro or Villanders

After Asti we drove, in our rented Fiat Panda, to an area called Alto Adige if you speak Italian and Südtirol if you speak German. The area used to be part of Austria; after World War I, it became part of Italy. It is now a semi-autonomous region. Everything has two names, one Italian and one German. Every city, every town, every street, every named building.

We spent one night in the small town of Villandro/Villanders, in the hills above Chiusa/Klausen.


Are you ready for another menu? The set-meal at the inn where we stayed included:

  • A melon foam (spremuta) with culatello (local prosciutto)
  • Lasagnette with fresh vegetables and pesto
  • Roast lamb, green beans with speck, celeriac puree, and bok choy
  • Millefoglie with raspberries and blueberries, yogurt cream, and house-made apple sorbet
  • A selection of local cheeses with dark honey and very intense mustard jam
The wine was a local Praepi Situs 2010 Kerner. Kerner is a nice white wine that only shows up in a few places, including this area.

In case you are wondering, our drive from Asti to Alto Adige took about five hours. The autostrada tolls amounted to about $40. Gasoline costs about $8 a gallon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


We spent our Sunday at a local festival in the small town of Moncalvo in the hills north of Asti.

Of course, after our drive, search for parking, and climb up the hill to the main piazza, we needed a morning pick-me-up. We paid about $8 for our drinks; the munchies are included. Perfectly civilized.

The festival included local crafts and 14 food vendors representing local communities. The entertainment included majorettes and flag choreography. Very entertaining.

Excellent food, as you would expect to find at a local food festival. For example, risotto made with Barolo wine and fried zucchini flowers:

Mike found a local wine, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, to be quite good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


We are spending a few days in Asti at an agriturismo that includes a bed-and-breakfast, winery, distillery, and farm. Il Milin is only a few miles from the city of Asti, but feels very far away in the countryside, surrounded by vineyards. Three brothers and the son of one of the brothers (Enrico) operate the Rovero winery and distillery. Enrico's wife, Michela, operates the bed-and-breakfast. All lovely people who show the best of Asti and their varied operations.

The rooms are large and comfortable. There's also a washing machine (much needed after 10 days of sink washing) and a ready supply of tea and coffee. And breakfast, fabulous breakfast.

Periodically, Il Milin and the family's Rovero winery offer a dinner featuring the family's wines and food. Michela's mother-in-law is the chef. Each course was fabulous. A favorite was the zucchini and basil flan with Parmesan cream sauce.

So you want to know what we ate, of course:
  • Two types of typical Piemontese salami crudo
  • Small puffed pastries stuffed with local cheese
  • Fried zucchini flowers
  • Soft herbed cheese
  • Salad of shredded chicken and radicchio in balsamic dressing
  • Zucchini and basil flan in an intensely rich Parmesan cream
  • Torta di fagiolini (green beans)
  • Tagliolini (thin, flat pasta) with peas and zucchini
  • Veal and roasted potatoes in a Barbera sauce
  • Panna cotta, bonet (chocolate panna cotta), and hazalnut cake
And the wines that complemented the meal so beautifully:
  • Rovero Baptista (Riesling Italico)
  • Rovero Villa Drago (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Rovero "La Casalina" (Grignolino D'Asti)
  • Rovero Spanase' (Barbera D'Asti)
  • Rovero Nebbiaia (Nebbiolo Monferrato)
  • Rovero "Gustin" (Barbera D'Asti Superiore)
  • Rovero Rouve (Barbera D'Asti Superiore aged in French oak)
  • Rovero Brachetto (frizzante red dessert wine)
  • Rovero Calasaya (fortified Barbera D'Asti)
  • Rovero Ampolo Reserva 1998 (grappa made from Barbera)
  • Rovero Brandy (aged in barrel for 10 years)
Then there are the donkeys, who often greet visitors. There are four donkeys, including five-day-old Gino. Gino is named for a neighbor. When Gino the neighbor died, his widow asked that the next donkey be named Gino. Gino is extremely cute.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Torino is known for its bicerin, a coffee, chocolate, and cream concoction. So, of course, we had to do research on it. It is pronounced bee-sher-EEN, in case you want to order one at Starbucks.

Bicerin at Caffè San Carlo, for example, is more on the coffee side, with whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top.

Coffee always tastes better under a chandelier, don't you think?

We also tried bicerin at the original, Caffè Al Bicerin. This one was more chocolate than coffee with cream floating on top.

Another treat from Piemonte is bonet, (pronounced bow-NAY), a panna cotta-like dessert with chocolate and amaretti cookies.

Eating in Torino

Torino has a lot to offer to the hungry traveler. Everything shown here is made with local, seasonal ingredients.

Prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala
Agnolotti with meat stuffing, butter, sage
Asparagus with Parmesan cheese and lots of butter
Pork shank with roasted potatoes
Nut pie
Rabbit braised in Arneis wine
Zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and mint

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Touring Turin

Turin (that is, Torino) is new for us. It is a beautiful city, with wide streets and porticos to protect from sun and rain.

We visited the museum of the Palazzo Madama for some of our favorite types of exhibits, specifically, lace, ceramics, and glass.

We are staying at a small, modest, one-star hotel in a four-star location, Piazza San Carlo. The piazza at night looks like this:

The next post will be about the food of Torino. Hope you are hungry.