October 2016: : the Venice Marathon, Futurism and a weekend under Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hidden Italy in October:

Hidden Italy in October:

Due to demand, we have introduced a 6 day/5 night self-guided tour to the Dolomites, starting with a transfer from Bolzano, you’ll be based in one valley, speding five nights in a lovely 4-star family-run hotel, exploring some of the most beautiful mountains in the world with some of the finest walking in Europe (details:  www.hiddenitaly.com.au/self-guided-walks)

The bad news is that, after 5 years, Hidden Italy will be increasing (slightly) its prices next year.  The good news is that if you book a tour for next year before Xmas, we will be happy to invoice this at the current prices.

Macchiatone:  I was introduced to a new coffee in Trieste, when a macchiato isn’t enough and a cappuccino is too much, ask your barrista for a macchiatone (a big macchiatone, pronounced mack-ia-tonay) and watch them blanch.

Events in Italy:

Events in Italy:

MAM (Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere), www.maestrodartemestiere.it.  This fantastic (and very important initiative) celebrates the great masters (the ‘intelligent hands’) of contemporary Italian crafts, trades and artisan traditions creating a ‘Libro d’Oro’ (Golden Book) to recognise the work of these ‘living treasures’, the proud heirs of the Renaissance. 

Categories include jewellery; textiles; woodwork; illustrations (and comics); bell-founding; pastries; music, leatherwork; mosaics, hat-making; paper; fashion and wine.  Although in Italian, have look - the website is a wonderful journey through the world of pure Italian genius that is alive and thriving, despite everything.

Venice Marathon, Venice (www.venicemarathon.it) Sunday, 23 October.  As if there wasn’t enough going on in this marvellous city, this Sunday will see the running of the annual Venice Marathon, a regulation 42 km race that starts at Stra, a small town on the banks of the Brenta River and finishes on the Riva Sette Martiri, and includes an uncontested lap of St Mark’s Square at the end (high waters allowing).

Exhibitions in Italy:

Exhibitions in Italy:

Giacomo Balla:  Towards Futurism; Fondazione Ferrero, Alba (www.fondazioneferrero.it) til 27 February.  Drawing on masterpieces from collections in Europe and USA, this retrospective tracks the evolution of one of the most innovative modern Italian artists from the social realism of the early years in Turin to his analysis of movement and speed and the foundation of the Futurist movement.

Renato Guttuso:  the Power of Things; Scuderie; Pavia (www.scuderiepavia.it) til 18 December.  Renato Guttuso (1912 to 1987) was one of the major figures of 20th century Italian art, his expressive paintings are rich with the colour and passion of his native Sicily.  More than a simple painter, Guttuso worked people such as Moravia, Pasolini, Moore and Picasso, and the exhibition (held in beautiful Pavia a short train ride south of Milan), as well as presenting over 50 paintings, includes photos documenting these collaborations.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mudec, Milano (mudec.it) til 26 February.  Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the protagonists of the New York art scene in the 1980s.  His irreverent pictures exploded with light, colour and range, an unmistakable style all of his own.  This major retrospective presents over one hundred works and is well worth the visit (as is the museum itself, a cultural complex with an excellent restaurant, set in restored factory space on the edge of the city centre).

Hidden Italy weekend in the Aosta Valley, under Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn.

Hidden Italy weekend in the Aosta Valley, under Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn.

Bordered by Europe’s highest mountains (Monte Blanc, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn), veined with deep valleys and studded with medieval castles, the Val d’Aosta is one of Italy’s most spectacular regions.  Sitting on the border with France, it is also a fascinating blend of French and Italian culture. 

The region is famous for its national parks, ski fields and hiking trails but less well-known for its vineyards, which climb heroically up impossibly steep slopes, producing some of Italy’s finest wines.  Vines have been growing in this region since the time of the ancient Romans and exploring the cellars and vineyards of the Val d’Aosta provides the theme for this month’s Hidden Italy weekend.

How to get there:

If you are arriving by car, take the A5 autostrada (Turin-Mont Blanc) up the valley heading for the French border, taking the Morgex exit, 27 kms after Aosta city.  Aosta is linked by train to Turin, via Ivrea.  The closest airport is Caselle, 16 kms north-east of Turin.

Where to stay:

La Clusaz (Gignod), a magical hotel in a tiny village, has been welcoming travellers since the 12th century.  It’s warm and convivial restaurant is on the ground floor, centred around a large fireplace, its menu includes homemade pasta with leeks and toma (local mountain cheese) and suckling pork belly glazed with honey and vanilla – doubles from 120 euro.  Monte Blanc Hotel Village (La Salle, locality La Croisette) is a beautiful 5-star hotel, set in a historic stone and timber building, furnished with antique furniture, each room has a terrace and there is an indoor pool - doubles from 350 euro.  Hotel Les Montagnards (Morgex) is a lovely 3-star hotel in the heart of Morgex, its rooms are lined with timber, each overlooking the Grivola River - doubles from 130 euro per night.  The charming B&B Lo Djoua del Toueno (Arvier, locality Chamencon) only has two rooms, both with views over the Rutor glacier – doubles from 85 euro, breakfast included.  Il Fienile della Nonna (Introd, locality Villes Dessus) is set in an 18th century building that has six well-appointed apartments, from 150 euro per night.

Where to eat:

Café Quinson (Morgex) This elegant restaurant is in the heart of the town of Morgex and has a Michelin star.  Its specialities include pigeon with cherries and apples and scallops cooked with stinging nettles.  Cantine du Clou (Arvier) is a family-run osteria that specialises in a more traditional verison of Aostian cuisine, specialising in their roast meats and desserts.  Vinosteria Antirouille (Aymavilles) is a sleek enoteca (wineshop) which also serves a range of apertivi and dehors.  The best way to appreciate the local wines is accompanied with the local cheeses: Chez Duclos (Gignod) sells a range of cheeses produced in the surrounding mountains including fontina and toma (soft cows’ milk cheeses), tomini and tronchetto (goats’ milk cheeses) and a sublime Bleu (made from a mix cow and goat milk).

What to do:

Friday evening:

Settle into your hotel, enjoy an early dinner and the local hospitality.

Saturday morning:

Start with exploring the pretty historical centre of Morgex, including the church of Santa Maria Assunta (with its Romanesque bell tower and 15th frescos) and the Archet tower that was built in 998 and now hosts contemporary art exhibitions) and then walk on to La Ruine, the first stop on the wine tour Cave Mont Blanc:  this little village is ‘base camp’ for the ‘spumante of the glaciers’ (using Prie Blanc, an indigenous grape, this champagnoise-style wine is produced and stored in cellars beneath the peak of Mt Blanc at an altitude of 2173 mts).  Drive for 10 minutes to the hamlet of La Ravoire and go for a walk in the Grisenche Valley through forests to Lake Lolair, a noted bird sanctuary (1.5 hours round trip).

Continue on to nearby to the pretty village of Villeneuve, to the family-run vineyards of Maison Anselmet, where you can lunch on a ‘tagliere’ of local cheeses and salamis, enjoying the views accompanied by their celebrated reds (Pinot Nero Semel Pater and the legendary Prisonnier).

Saturday afternoon:

After lunch you can walk down the river, or drive, to the nearby Castle Sarriod de la Tour, an extraordinary Savoy hunting ‘lodge’, whose numerous rooms tell the story of the Italian royal family (and include the ‘sala delle Teste’, its famous timber ceiling decorated with over 150 grotesque figures, carved in the middle mid-1400s). 

After your visit to the castle, and before returning to Morgex, we’d suggest crossing the River Dora into the lovely town of Aymavilles to visit the Les Cretes vineyards, owned and operated by the Charrere family since the early 1700s, to try one of their award winning chardonnays.

Sunday morning:

After the eating and wine tasting of the previous day, it is time to get out and immerse yourself in the extraordinary natural splendours of the region:  the walk to Lake d’Arpy is a classic itinerary.  This easy hike following well-marked trails starts at San Carlo, a short drive into the mountains from Morgex.  It takes around an hour to reach the lake (2066 mts) passing through larch forests and past numerous waterfalls along the way.  The crystalline lake offers spectacular views of the peak of Mt Blanc, 4809 mts the highest mountain in Europe, rising above you.

Sunday afternoon:

The town of Aosta (which took its name from Augustus, the first Roman emperor) was founded in 25 BC to guard this strategic valley.  Its an attractive town with a rich heritage including an amphitheatre from the 1st century BC and the Pretorian gate from 25 BC. 

Returning to Morgex, you can stop at Arvier, a lovely town, surrounded by south-facing slopes protected by a natural amphitheatre that produce Enfer, a big red made from a blend of Pinot Noir with Petite Rouge, a local grape documented from the 18th century.

Hidden Italy weekend in the Aosta Valley, under Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn.

Hidden Italy weekend in the Aosta Valley, under Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn.

Bordered by Europe’s highest mountains (Monte Blanc, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn), veined with deep valleys and studded with medieval castles, the Val d’Aosta is one of Italy’s most spectacular regions.  Sitting on the border with France, it is also a fascinating blend of French and Italian culture. 

The region is famous for its national parks, ski fields and hiking trails but less well-known for its vineyards, which climb heroically up impossibly steep slopes, producing some of Italy’s finest wines.  Vines have been growing in this region since the time of the ancient Romans and exploring the cellars and vineyards of the Val d’Aosta provides the theme for this month’s Hidden Italy weekend.

How to get there:

If you are arriving by car, take the A5 autostrada (Turin-Mont Blanc) up the valley heading for the French border, taking the Morgex exit, 27 kms after Aosta city.  Aosta is linked by train to Turin, via Ivrea.  The closest airport is Caselle, 16 kms north-east of Turin.

Where to stay:

La Clusaz (Gignod), a magical hotel in a tiny village, has been welcoming travellers since the 12th century.  It’s warm and convivial restaurant is on the ground floor, centred around a large fireplace, its menu includes homemade pasta with leeks and toma (local mountain cheese) and suckling pork belly glazed with honey and vanilla – doubles from 120 euro.  Monte Blanc Hotel Village (La Salle, locality La Croisette) is a beautiful 5-star hotel, set in a historic stone and timber building, furnished with antique furniture, each room has a terrace and there is an indoor pool - doubles from 350 euro.  Hotel Les Montagnards (Morgex) is a lovely 3-star hotel in the heart of Morgex, its rooms are lined with timber, each overlooking the Grivola River - doubles from 130 euro per night.  The charming B&B Lo Djoua del Toueno (Arvier, locality Chamencon) only has two rooms, both with views over the Rutor glacier – doubles from 85 euro, breakfast included.  Il Fienile della Nonna (Introd, locality Villes Dessus) is set in an 18th century building that has six well-appointed apartments, from 150 euro per night.

Where to eat:

Café Quinson (Morgex) This elegant restaurant is in the heart of the town of Morgex and has a Michelin star.  Its specialities include pigeon with cherries and apples and scallops cooked with stinging nettles.  Cantine du Clou (Arvier) is a family-run osteria that specialises in a more traditional verison of Aostian cuisine, specialising in their roast meats and desserts.  Vinosteria Antirouille (Aymavilles) is a sleek enoteca (wineshop) which also serves a range of apertivi and dehors.  The best way to appreciate the local wines is accompanied with the local cheeses: Chez Duclos (Gignod) sells a range of cheeses produced in the surrounding mountains including fontina and toma (soft cows’ milk cheeses), tomini and tronchetto (goats’ milk cheeses) and a sublime Bleu (made from a mix cow and goat milk).

What to do:

Friday evening:

Settle into your hotel, enjoy an early dinner and the local hospitality.

Saturday morning:

Start with exploring the pretty historical centre of Morgex, including the church of Santa Maria Assunta (with its Romanesque bell tower and 15th frescos) and the Archet tower that was built in 998 and now hosts contemporary art exhibitions) and then walk on to La Ruine, the first stop on the wine tour Cave Mont Blanc:  this little village is ‘base camp’ for the ‘spumante of the glaciers’ (using Prie Blanc, an indigenous grape, this champagnoise-style wine is produced and stored in cellars beneath the peak of Mt Blanc at an altitude of 2173 mts).  Drive for 10 minutes to the hamlet of La Ravoire and go for a walk in the Grisenche Valley through forests to Lake Lolair, a noted bird sanctuary (1.5 hours round trip).

Continue on to nearby to the pretty village of Villeneuve, to the family-run vineyards of Maison Anselmet, where you can lunch on a ‘tagliere’ of local cheeses and salamis, enjoying the views accompanied by their celebrated reds (Pinot Nero Semel Pater and the legendary Prisonnier).

Saturday afternoon:

After lunch you can walk down the river, or drive, to the nearby Castle Sarriod de la Tour, an extraordinary Savoy hunting ‘lodge’, whose numerous rooms tell the story of the Italian royal family (and include the ‘sala delle Teste’, its famous timber ceiling decorated with over 150 grotesque figures, carved in the middle mid-1400s). 

After your visit to the castle, and before returning to Morgex, we’d suggest crossing the River Dora into the lovely town of Aymavilles to visit the Les Cretes vineyards, owned and operated by the Charrere family since the early 1700s, to try one of their award winning chardonnays.

Sunday morning:

After the eating and wine tasting of the previous day, it is time to get out and immerse yourself in the extraordinary natural splendours of the region:  the walk to Lake d’Arpy is a classic itinerary.  This easy hike following well-marked trails starts at San Carlo, a short drive into the mountains from Morgex.  It takes around an hour to reach the lake (2066 mts) passing through larch forests and past numerous waterfalls along the way.  The crystalline lake offers spectacular views of the peak of Mt Blanc, 4809 mts the highest mountain in Europe, rising above you.

Sunday afternoon:

The town of Aosta (which took its name from Augustus, the first Roman emperor) was founded in 25 BC to guard this strategic valley.  Its an attractive town with a rich heritage including an amphitheatre from the 1st century BC and the Pretorian gate from 25 BC. 

Returning to Morgex, you can stop at Arvier, a lovely town, surrounded by south-facing slopes protected by a natural amphitheatre that produce Enfer, a big red made from a blend of Pinot Noir with Petite Rouge, a local grape documented from the 18th century.

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March 2017: Slow Food, Easter, Manet and a weekend in 'Campania Felix'

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