This month Marjan and her husband Willem-Jan stayed in our Mulino. Marjan gives creative writing courses and workshops. That's how we met her a few years ago. Of course, we did not refuse her offer to write a guest blog about her experiences at Pian del Nasso, because how nice it is to 'see' and 'hear' Pian del Nasso through the eyes and ears of our guests!
After more than a year and a half of postponement due to all the Corona restrictions, we are now going to Pian del Nasso for a week. The anticipation started at the end of May when we spent a week looking at houses in Piedmont. During a short visit, Sander and Corine showed us around their beautiful estate, and after that we couldn't wait any longer. We've been looking ahead to the past all summer.
Our holiday started on Wednesday with a few days of lazing on the beach of San Remo. It is already around five o'clock when, after stocking up on supplies, we arrive at the Conad Superstore in Cairo Montenotte on Pian del Nasso. After a warm welcome by Sander, Corine and Dasti, we settle in the Mulino. In the evening, while eating under the 'portica', we see a curious young doe wandering around in the field. After dusk falls, around eight o'clock, the air soon fills with all kinds of natural sounds. At nine o'clock it is really dark and we marvel at a clear sky with thousands of stars. There is no light pollution here at all. With my binoculars I discover numerous star clouds.
We slept very deeply because of the wonderful bed and the cool night. The windows in the bedroom can be left open all night thanks to the mosquito nets; we didn't see any mosquito. After breakfast we decide to take a walk around the estate. Pian del Nasso is about 8 hectares in size and consists of fields, which are colorfully decorated with wild flowers from spring to early summer, including wild orchids, forests, Calanchi (these are rolling gray rock formations) and two streams. It is extremely dry this summer, it has not rained for two months. Most flowers have now finished blooming or cannot withstand the drought. The grass is mown and rolled up in large, nationally themed rolls on the land. In the afternoon we take a refreshing dip in the large swimming pool. After half an hour of swimming laps we enjoy the peace and quiet (we have the pool to ourselves) and the warm autumn sun. In the evening we eat outside again. As the contours of the forest fade into darkness we hear the plaintive call of the tawny owls.
Another beautiful, clear day with sunshine. Today we want to go for a walk in the Piana Crixia Natural Park. We start at the 'bus station', a kilometer walk from Pian del Nasso and choose route 4 with a length of almost four kilometers. We are soon glad that we did not choose route 5 (almost eight km) because in those four kilometers we overcome a height difference of more than 150 meters. But the reward is great: halfway up we have the most beautiful views of the park. I can't resist writing another message in the fine grit of the Calanchi with my found chestnut wooden stick. During our walk we don't meet anyone, only a curious donkey. In the evening we meet the dormouse, a squirrel-like mouse, who rummages under the roof tiles and occasionally walks across the beams above the 'portica' before jumping into the trees and disappearing into the forest.
Because we enjoyed the pure nature and complete tranquility so much yesterday, we are going to try out another walking route. This time we choose route number 2 because we also want to visit an agriturismo (Verdita) on the other side of the park. In the spring we spoke to the owners because they wanted to sell it. It has now been sold (not to us) and we are still a bit curious to see what we 'missed out'. It takes a while before we find the starting point (which we think is on the Via Giberta) of this route. Ultimately we park our car in the parking lot about 250 meters away at Pontevecchio. We get lost a few times along the way because the directions are not clear and the path overlaps a little with route 1. With Google maps and a smart watch, we end up at Verdita after a long climb of about 170 meters in altitude. On the way back we find the route very easily and the path runs downwards almost all the time. Today we don't meet anyone at all, but we do hear a green woodpecker and we once again enjoy the view of the beautiful hilly landscape, including the tower of Merana 'Torre san Fermo'. Back at the Mulino we enjoy an extensive lunch and fall asleep on the sunbeds in the shade.
In the evening we drive to La Braia restaurant in Cairo Montenotte and let ourselves be pampered by the special owner Fabio. The food is fantastic (be sure to choose the dish that Corine and Sander recommend on their list) and the house wine, a Barbero d'Asti from Ad Maiora (2020), is dangerously tasty. Especially if you then drive back through the pitch dark on winding roads (SP9 and SP33), like us. You can also drive on the 'highway' SP29 to Pian del Nasso. But then you don't see what we see along the way: six deer and a wild forest cat!
Today we go to Loazzolo to buy our favorite red wine 'Le Grive' at the organic wine farm Forteto della Luja. This idyllic spot is about a 45-minute drive from Pian del Nasso, where the last ten minutes (from Bubbio) you drive on a very narrow winding road where you have a completely different view after every bend. Forteto della Luja has received a WWF designation because no fewer than 21 species of wild orchids bloom between the vines. A rare phenomenon and a sign that the soil on which the vines grow is of exceptionally good quality. After loading two boxes of wine we continue our way to Alba, a small characteristic town 33 kilometers to the west. Along the way we come across a badger that has just been hit, lying in the middle of the road. Upon closer inspection it turns out he is already dead and to prevent him from being run over again we drag him to the roadside. It is impressively large and heavy! I've never seen a badger up close, let alone touched it. We drive on, a little dejected. In Alba it is quiet on the streets, it is lunchtime and most shops here close between twelve and half past three. We have a delicious meal on the large square: ravioli with black truffle! When I walk to the toilet, I pass an impressive wine collection, Le Grive is also among them. Good tent, I think.
Because Pian del Nasso is just an hour from the beach, we decide to spend another day at the seaside. It would be the best day of the week, but it is still a bit cloudy at ten o'clock. We drive to Savona to find a spot on the beach a few kilometers south of there at Albissola Marina. You can easily park here for little money and walk straight onto the beach with all kinds of beach bars with beds and facilities. The sea becomes deep here quite quickly, so you can enjoy swimming. We decide to rent a bed at Mirage Beach Club, with a swimming pool, restaurant and opportunity to shower. We were a bit shocked by the price: €50 for two beds…. In San Remo we spent all day on the beach for €15! The owner says it is the same price everywhere. That's fine, we think to ourselves, but we don't feel like looking any further. In the afternoon we go into the town of Savona to buy some tasty things to take home. We notice that the mentality in this city is different from the countryside of Liguria and Piedmont where we find the Italians particularly friendly and approachable. We are also a bit disappointed with the shops, so we quickly drive back to our green paradise in Piana Crixia. In the evening we try to identify the birds we hear with the app 'Birdwatch', but that is not easy with all those cheerfully chirping crickets in the background. A deer comes to visit and nibbles on a tree a few meters from our 'portica' in the stream.
Our last day before departure! Through the owner of Verdita we received the telephone number of the best truffle hunter in the region: Roberto Milani. We are going truffle hunting with him today. The region is known for having many (good!) white and black truffles (also on Pian del Nasso). Due to the drought and warm summer, there is little chance of finding anything, says Roberto, but that does not stop us from going out with him, his daughter and two truffle dogs. We leave from Merana, about a 10-minute drive from Pian del Nasso, and walk for an hour and a half through the fields and forests. The dogs find a truffle twice. Black ones in our case, which are unfortunately not suitable for consumption due to the weather conditions. Finding truffles is really a momentum thing, Roberto explains. Everything has to be right: moisture, wind and local conditions (such as certain tree species together and the composition of the soil). Sometimes they can only be smelled by the dog for a few minutes, so you have to be in the right place at exactly the right time. This means that there is enormous competition among truffle hunters and that a number of them regularly go out in the middle of the night in search of secret locations where they suspect truffles can be found. The best time to look for truffles starts at the beginning of October.
With regret in our hearts we pack the car to go home. Waved goodbye by Sander and Corine, on Sander's advice we drive through the large Sint Bernard tunnel/pass (via Aosta) to Switzerland instead of through the Gotthard tunnel and then through Germany to the Netherlands. A beautiful and super quiet route through the Alps. Do we still have a holiday feeling on this last day!