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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Idyllic Italy

We left Lake Annecy in the French Alps bound for Cessole, Italy, in Piedmont country, home to Barolos, Barberas and Barbarescos, white truffles, porcini mushrooms, to name just a few treasures.  Upon arriving at Casa Forcellini (www.casaforcellini.com), we were greeted with a glass of frizzante white wine and a lunch of epic proportions. Casa Forcellini was to be our home for five golden days.

My first visit to Casa Forcellini was during the summer of 2007, where I spent a heady three weeks housesitting for the owners, Ken and Anna. It had been a last minute, whirlwind post and slotted perfectly in the two weeks that I had to kill between the time I was due to leave Spain and arrive in Austria. Although it left me with just three frantic days to pack up and arrive instead of the thirteen leisurely ones I'd thought I'd have, it was worth every panic-stricken, jam-all-my-worldly-goods-into-whatever-corners-of-the-car-I-can moment.

The first moment I walked onto the terrazzo, overlooking a valley laden with hazelnut trees and manicured row upon row of grapevine, I felt as if I'd stepped onto a film set, a stereotype of every movie I'd ever seen of Italy. (Although, moments later, the charm took a backseat to my dismay when I realized I locked myself out while simultaneously locking the dogs, my purse, cellphone, laptop and owner contact information inside, but that story is best related in my upcoming book (whenever that will be).

It had been quite a weekend, what with, two days earlier, my sleepless, espresso-fueled Spain departure where a tractor-trailer jackknifed about 50 feet in front of me at 5am on the motorway south of Barcelona, just two hours into my trip, as I looked on bleary-eyed in disbelief.  Followed the next morning by me desperately to outpace the Tour de France which, to my horror, I discovered was just behind me as I raced to reach Italy. (That would explain the empty motorway!) Add to that getting hopelessly lost on local roads not far from Cessole because the Italians don't believe in street signs, and you get an idea of how thrilled I was to find myself locked out!

Anyway, that was then and this is now. I had only met Ken and Anna for the first time last year, en route back from Tuscany to the Loire Valley here in France, spending an impromptu night there after yet another lovely lunch served in true Italian style.

This time, because the clouds looked a bit ominous, we decided to forego eating on the terrazzo in favor of shelter so we ate instead in the dining room. We ate, drank, and laughed for hours. Melon with parma ham was soon followed by the local Toma cheese with red pepper flakes and drizzled in olive oil, eggplant, breaded chicken cutlets with almonds accompanied by sauteed carrots, zucchini and potato in butter, salad, a cheese course and then gelato. That meal, it turned out, was just a warm-up for what was to greet us over the course of the next few days.

There was one challenge—the one bathroom was in mid-renovation, leaving us neither shower nor toilet. Luckily, by the time my friend and I had arrived, the contractor was at least able to connect the toilet each night before leaving—no rocking, please, as it wasn't bolted down—but he didn't go as far as to hang the door! It didn't matter, however. We could not have enjoyed ourselves more. Good company, good food, good wine, good weather and, let's not forget, this was Italy after all.  Ciao!

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