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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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