Hemingway came to Cuneo to buy candy — we followed and found a lot more


Window at Arione, Cuneo

Framed clipping from newspaper reporting Hemingway’s visit to Cuneo in the window of its famous caffé and confectioner, Arione

by Peter & Jean Richards

Cuneo was a big surprise.

More to Jean, who asked, “Why do you want to go to a dumpy little town like Cuneo?”

After two eye-opening and enjoyable weeks in northern Italy, including Modena, Bergamo, the Lake Country and the flamboyant Certosa di Pavia, we were heading south into the Piedmont.

We stopped for lunch at Eataly in Turin, always a treat, from where Cuneo is less than a hundred kilometers.

We often find that third-level attractions turn out to be highly rewarding. That was the case in Cuneo.

via Roma, Cuneo

Corso Roma in Cuneo, looking towards Piazza Galimberti and the Alps

The guide books say little about Cuneo. One source seemed to say that the only exciting event in its history was a May 8, 1954, visit by Ernest Hemingway, who went there to buy a special rum-infused chocolate candy, a local specialty.

Slow Food sign, Bra

Logo of Slow Food movement outside restaurant in Bra

It sounded intriguing and little-explored by the average tourists: great food at the heart of the Slow Food area, and Renaissance architecture replete with arcades. What we did not know is that the hotel we had chosen was in a perfect location on the main square, had very comfortable rooms, and was hosted by a charming man whose family had run the hotel for two generations.

We arrived at the Best Western Hotel Principe at the northeast corner of Piazza Tancredo (Duccio) Galimberti and were greeted by Maurizio Maccario and his sister, Irene. The hotel is carved out of two buildings, so we had to take two elevators to get to our spacious and comfortable room.

The piazza and the two major avenues, Corso Roma and Corso Nizza, form the spine of the city. All are arcaded and lined by impressive neo-Renaissance buildings. Because of the arcades, you can walk to many restaurants and shops protected from the weather.

Arkione, interior

Arione, the famous caffé and confectrioner in Cuneo

Within easy walking distance were several good restaurants and caffés, the most famous caffé/confectioner, Arione, a great gelateria, and many interesting shops.

Within an easy drive are several small, attractive towns with restaurants belonging  to the Slow Food movement, founded in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini with the goal of promoting traditional gastronomy and food production.

On our first night we asked Maurizio for a restaurant recommendation. He directed us to Via Dronero, which he said had many good eateries.

Battuta, Bove's, Cuneo

Battuta at Bove’s

We chose Bove’s, which had great atmosphere, friendly staff and very good food. We enjoyed  superb battuta (the Italian version of steack tartare), a delicious coteletta alla Milanese, a delicate tempura di verdura and a fresh mixed salad. It was so good we returned twice more during our six-day stay in the city.

We also had extraordinary meals at Osteria della chocciola (an unbelievable tagliolini burro e saliva), Boccandivino in Bra, headquarters of Italy’s Slow Food movement,  and Taverna San Martino in nearby Saluzizo. A highlight of several meals was the local tagliolini, a very thin pasta made with 40 egg yolks to a kilogram of flour. Dressed simply with butter and sage, it was possibly the most elegant pasta dish we ever had.

Tagiolini al burre e salvia

Tagliolini (also called tajarin locally) al burro e salvia

We walked around Cuneo, sat in outdoor caffés where one could see the snow-capped Alps in the distance, sampled gelato (a tedious chore), and browsed the confectioners and food markets.

It was a glorious six days: we plan to return as soon as we can.

© 2017 by Peter & Jean Richards




About oldmainetravelers

The Old Maine Travelers are Peter and Jean Richards, who met more than a half century ago covering President John F. Kennedy on what would become his last trip to Boston.  They worked for many years as wire service and newspaper reporters and editors.  Peter did a nightly television show on WGBH, Boston, before he went into government in the administration of John V. Lindsay, mayor of New York City. After they moved to their brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Jean did a spell on Madison Avenue in the real “Mad Men” days and later became public relations officer at Chase Manhattan Bank.  Since 1973 they have worked together first as owners and publishers of a group of award-winning newspapers in Dutchess County, N.Y., and then as antiques dealers.  Now they are old and live on the coast of Maine and in the Southwest of France when not traveling further afield. In the red barn by their house in Damariscotta, Maine, they tend an antique shop specializing in 18th and 19th century furniture, metalwork and accessories, buying objects they know about and like and selling them from May to October to delightful people of obvious discernment and taste. In France, they live in an old stone house in the shadows of the remaining towers of an unfinished 17th century church and above Roman drains in a town along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. They love it — for its authenticity and abundant boulangeries.  The rest of the time they travel the world together seeing the sights, seeking out museums, stumbling into interesting conversations, savoring local specialties and otherwise bumbling along in their own style. For years they have sent article-length postcards to family, friends, fellow travelers and some media. Many of these will now be posted here.
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One Response to Hemingway came to Cuneo to buy candy — we followed and found a lot more

  1. Thanks for a lovely reminder. I recently returned from Cuneo and I agree that the charming town is a delightful surprise. I stayed in the same hotel with Maurizio and Irene! I was there for work, so I didn’t have much time to really explore, but I did get to shop. Definitely authentic. ~Elizabeth

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