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This autumn is extra special as we celebrate our 25th anniversary together. Click HERE to see last autumn in Paris and HERE to see autumn 2021 in Copenhagen. And for good measure, 2021.
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Baked treats and walks in the woods
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At Mottisfont Abbey, we discovered a painting we'd never seen before. There was also an exhibition of paintings by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, featuring original artwork from The Jolly Postman, Funnybones and more. Tiny Cow found his first porcino of the season.

Bar

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After spending the summer in Sicily, we celebrated our 25th anniversary by returning to Piemonte. We were last here in 2017, 2012, and for our 10th anniversary in 2008. On our first day this time, we came across Alpine men selling roast chestnuts and wine by the side of the road. They seemed delighted by our interest and enthusiasm. The next day, we drove to the International Truffle Festival in Alba. We were the first people let into the tent, and we bought a white truffle from this man, whose dog, Kim, is an expert in her field. This toma cheese is cooked slowly in pig skin until the crackling forms. I'd love to taste some of the crackling.
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We didn't buy the expensive truffle. Tiny Cow helped with our bingo cards.
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There was lots of Art Nouveau to see, as well as gorgonzola, which comes from this area.
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Scenes from Alba, including truffle products and a squishy Bacchus that squirted wine.
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Mombaruzzo is the home of wonderful soft amaretti, and we have been to this Antica Fabbrica three times now. We got there right before they closed for lunch. Back at the mill, we prepared soup stock in the afternun sunshine.
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Our Airbnb mill, restored from the 19th century and complete with its own stream.
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The stream was a trickle early in our journey, but after a day's rain, it became a torrent. The truffle flavoured our eggs for breakfast.
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Tiny Cow poses with the truffle.
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Our breakfast was scrambled eggs with truffle. Tajarin is the Piemonte pasta to serve with truffles. We also found porcini at the supermarket, which was our starter.
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We came across this town on our way to the first Big Bench sighting.
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We discovered the Big Bench Community Project in 2017. Artist Chris Bangle has overseen the installation of 330 benches worldwide since 2009. Each bench provides stunning views of the countryside and the size of them gives the feeling of enjoying the scenery “as if you were a child again”. This bench was in Barengo.
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The Barengo bench was near an Alpine group's meeting place and chapel, as well as this medieval tower.
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I spotted lots of lovely carved wooden doors during our trip.
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Leaving Barengo, we passed through this street art area and stopped for photos. Afterwards, we got stamped in the town and had lunch of cheeses and a burger outside the bar.
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Getting to Sesia castle was a challenge because Nick had an injured back, but we made it and enjoyed the view of the valley from the orange bench. We had espresso at the stamp place afterwards, just as they were about to close.
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The Juliet balcony was a 19th century addition to the herringbone brick tower. I liked the "cruel world" sign on the bar with the bench stamp.
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Shown here are Sesia, our risotto meal, sitting by the stream at Spritz time, local artist Gaudenzio Ferrari, and the view of Vallaro from the top of the cable car to Sacro Monte.
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Sacro Monte is a series of chapels built in the 15th century as a "new Jerusalem" for pilgrims to visit and learn about stories from the Bible. The statues seem a bit kitsch today, but it is impressive to think that they are over 600 years old. I was especially drawn to Adam, because he looks like Taskmaster’s Little Alex Horne.
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The details and quality were certainly impressive. Visitors have to look through lattice-work grilles to see the tableaux. They were a nuisance, but they have helped to preserve the statues for hundreds of years.
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Modern art is a blessed relief in Italy, and these goggled divers suspended mid-air at the Sacro Monte was an intriguing site.
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The splendid basilica was full of treasures. Back in the town, I found Superman for my bingo card.
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We didn't realise beforehand, but Tuesday was market day in Valarro, so we got to walk through the market while looking for a place to have lunch.
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Lunch at a hotel featured a plate of local cheeses, porcini pasta, spinach gnocchi, and beef tartare. Afterwards, we sought out the Gula Bridge, which may date back to 721. We read the exact same myth about this bridge as about the Devils' Bridge near Lucca, in Tuscany: The bridge was built by the devil in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross it, so the wiley locals sent a dog.
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Racing car driver and founder of Lancia, Vincenzo Lancia, was born in the mountain village of Fobello, one of the Walser towns recommended by our host.
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We smelled biscotti baking in this small bakery so we stopped off and bought an assortment to bring home.
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Founded in 1255 by Walser emigrants from Visperterminen in the now Swiss Valais, Rimella’s population of just over 100 is traditionally Alemannic German speaking. When we arrived, two fencers were being photographed outside the church. Other photos are from our nearby town, Quarona.
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I can't remember the name of this town. All the sights were closed the morning we visited, but it was nice to look around and find that Ernest Hemmingway never visited there.
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This bench was guarded by two inquisitive dogs. We could hear cow bells downt the hill.
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We wandered through the vineyard in Borgofranco for some time looking for the bench, almost turning back.
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Each bench location provides a wonderful, peaceful view.
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This was my favourite bench location, on a reflective lake with a castle. Even the lime green on the bench was my favourite.
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After our day of bench finding, the weather turned foggy. Nevertheless, we drove to Alagna and enjoyed seeing all the wood and stone Walser houses.
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There were a few market traders in the piazza and the bells of the Sexy Jesus church chimed Immaculate Mary for my bingo card.
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We crossed the little bridge to this rustic mountain restaurant, which was filled with lots of local workers, a good sign. We had wild boar pasta and gnocchi with nettles and blue cheese sauce. The best meal of our trip thus far.
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Riva Valdobbia was settled by the Swiss Walser community in the 13th century and dedicated to Saint Michael. The Last Judgement fresco on the outside of the church has been declared a National Monument. We were amazed at the naked war memoral that any fighting got done.
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Some of the church's treasures.
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On the way to the next village, we stopped on Campertongno for photos.
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Our stop in Rassa coincided with a herd of sheep and goats grazing near the medieval bridge. Hard to get more pastoral than that!
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From the bridge, I spotted a doorway with twinkling lights inside. We investigated and found an old woodcarver who was setting up his nativity village two months before Christmas. He seemed embarrassed that it wasn't yet finished.
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Rossa was our last mountain village. Even there, the church was full of glorious art.
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The 15th century masterpiece seemed to be just propped up on the floor in front of the lectern. Mary looks like her costume was inspired by Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman.
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On Thursday, it rained so heavily that we stayed inside until the afternoon. The Palace of Museums in Varallo had an outstanding collection of artwork, especially considering the size of the town.
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Many of the more modern paintings were much appreciated after all the Renaissance religious works.
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Leaving Varallo, we had gelato, including this pumpkin and amaretti cone. I’m not even sure where the chapel is – it was between Varallo and our home base – but we screeched to a halt when we saw it lit up against the mountains at dusk. Most nights, we had a fire in the garden and roasted marshmallows while listening to the stream and nearby owls. Wonderful!
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