Cherasco was the first stop on our travels today. It is a sleepy little town near Alba that has an old Pastisterria with the most delightful history. This particular shop had been in business in this town since 1881 and owned for many years by two spinster sisters until one day they decided to sell it.
The current owner, John Carlo Torta, owned a restaurant in a nearby town. He was originally from Cherasco and so the sisters asked him if he wanted to buy the Pastisterria with the condition that they teach him how to make the chocolates and that he continues the tradition of generations. He saw that as an opportunity to move back to his hometown. He learned how to make the chocolates from the sisters and has run the shop for the last 20 years.
John Carlo gave us a chocolate presentation and explained the importance of the balance of chocolate to other flavors blended into six different candies, although he sold many more in the shop. About halfway through the tasting, he brought out plain raw chocolate to cleanse our palette before moving on with the chocolate tasting. I was about to comment and chuckle – cleanse your palette with more chocolate – when he brought out a digestive liqueur to also cleanse our palette. Just to put this in perspective, it’s about 10:30 am and we’re eating chocolate and drinking liqueur. This is definitely the way to have fun!
Since it is close to Easter, an important holiday in Italy, the shop was filled with many special Easter candies, eggs, bunnies, and other chocolates that are purchased at special holidays. The shop was very festive and people were purchasing very large eggs and other specialty chocolate items. We bought a few pieces of course, but I don’t expect they will make it home, so don’t expect us to share them.
After the chocolate experience, we were walking around town and ran into a cute little ceramic shop. Little doesn’t quite describe the store, as four people in the shop are too many, and you have to turn around in unison. There is a combination of old and new ceramics, some the artist herself created and some retro pieces, such as these displayed on the table outside the shop. They were colorful.
Castello Visconteo is the last area we visited in this town. It is currently privately owned so we couldn’t go inside, however, they had posted some folklore on the gate outside of the castle for people to read. Apparently, the mad Queen caused her lover to fall through a trap door when he arrived late. Wow!
Three streets came together in front of the castle and they all were lined with these odd trees. I couldn’t find out the name of them in the short time I had to research. They were numbered so there is some historical significance to them.
Next, we’re off to Alba, the home of the white truffle. Today happened to be market day, so we stopped in to check it out before exploring the town. The vegetables this time of year are probably grown in southern Italy and amazing!
As we walked around we found out that Alba is the sister city of Medford, Oregon, so we had to take a picture under the sign. One of the main squares or piazzas is named for the town Medford. Who knew?
And of course, every town has a few churches. We entered this one and were amazed at how modern it was inside. It had been newly remodeled, freshly painted, new floors laid. There must have been major damage to this church as we saw another church we peeked into that was currently undergoing quite a bit of renovation. It is amazing that these buildings are still standing built so long ago.
The city was alive and busy today because it is a Saturday and families are out and about, it is market day, and the day before Palm Sunday. It was fun to window shop, pop into a few places (I checked out a kitchen shop – ha!), and generally, observe the vibe of the town. Alba was quite a bit bigger than we expected. Lunch was in a quaint ristorante down a side street. Antimo could only find 30-minute parking so he had to keep going back to the car to re-do the parking. He must have put at least 20,000 steps today running back and forth while we ate lunch and strolled through town.
A few countryside pictures as we were driving from town to town.
Another castle on the way back to our hotel finished our day. ll Castello di Grinzane Cavour. This one was open to the public and had a wine shop, restaurant, and tour (click for Virtual Tour). It also had 180-degree views of the valley below. I didn’t think to take pictures of the front of the castle, this is the rear view. Duh! Actually, there was a wedding couple in front taking pictures so didn’t know if that was a photo shoot going on or the wedding itself happening. Below is an aerial view from a website that shows how this castle sits on the mountain top.
What I want to point out is that this castle and the one earlier in this post look similar in the roof/cable area. They aren’t real castle looking like one might think with many tall fancy spirals and such. To me, they almost looked more like forts with protective type walls.
We finished the day back at the hotel with wine, cheese, salami, and fruit, along with a discussion of the day’s activities and very tired travelers retiring to their rooms to pack for the next day’s adventures.