From the coast we headed inland to the city of Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Off the radar of most foreign tourists, it was a gorgeous mix of baroque buildings lining beautiful boulevards and sumptuous squares.
We had a delicious wine-fuelled seafood lunch at a casual place in the centre:
As well as trying bicerin, the local specialty which was a tasty hot drink made of coffee, chocolate and cream:
We picked up a hire car for the last week of the trip so we could explore the mountains and more of rural Italy.
We headed a couple of hours out of the city towards the French border and the skiing area of Aosta. No snow at this time of year but the balcony of our apartment had some pretty special mountain views.
Like the Dolomites, the influence of Italy’s neighbours was present in the food and language. We enjoyed lots of cheese and wine.
The next day we drove to a village on the edge of Gran Paradiso National Park. After a nice lunch, we caught a cable car up to the top of a hill where we hiked for a few hours. It was really nice but we had been spoiled by the Dolomites and it didn’t quite live up to it.
A hilly and windy 350 km drive took us back towards the Mediterranean coast and the ancient hilltop village of Apricale (in the region of Liguria). We had been looking for somewhere rural to stay in the last week and had come across this place by chance as there was a nice boutique B&B with a pool and these views:
It was amazing. Not just the views but the setting of the village, precariously perched on a mountainside. Even better was that there were several brilliant restaurants in the village. We couldn’t believe a place like this still existed (and was not overrun with tourists), and as we wandered the cobblestone lanes it felt like we had gone back to medieval times.
We did not want to leave after two nights but they were fully booked so we sadly headed back into Piedmont (through a short section of France where we stopped quickly for chocolate eclairs and a baguette) for our final three days. We were excited to be spending them on an agriturismo (farm stay).
The setting was lovely, with a beautiful pool surrounded by hazelnuts trees and rolling hills dotted with ruins in the background. We spent a fair amount of time laying around the pool contemplating life back at home and reminiscing about the amazing 13 months we have had (mixed in with some job applications and interview preparation for Becki).
When we made it out and about, we whizzed around the rolling vineyard covered countryside (with the most beautiful vineyards we have ever seen), stopping in hilltop towns to sample the local vino and to make sure we had tried all the local specialities at a Michelin-starred place.
Our last day was spent driving back to the airport but we livened it up by stopping for a delicious seafood lunch in a stunning square where Becki proceeded to get drunk (Jack was the designated driver). A pretty good end to an incredible few weeks.
Italy – you have been even better than I ever imagined.
Next stop: back to reality in London – I can’t believe it is all over.