We just got back from one of the most perfect weekend getaways. Our friends (Italian-German couple) celebrated their wedding in the small village of Crocetta in the province of Pavia, Lombardy, which is about 1 hour 40 minutes away from Milan. Lombardy is beautiful from all perspectives area. It has Milan – sexy and classy, modern and ancient at the same time; other small, or better to say smaller, charming towns around, such as Monza, Bergamo, Pavia and, and, and; it has majestic scenery of endless vineyards and forests; and, of course, exquisite food and wine.
We were super-excited about the wedding and didn’t really plan anything else around it. Yet, somehow after this short, plans-free weekend, I feel like we have lived in Italy for a while: so many new memories, perspectives and moments were collected. In three days we’ve experienced the countryside of Lombardy, went to the charming coast of Liguria, and, of course, witnessed romantic and beautiful wedding of our dear friends.
Our stay in Crocetta
Frist of all, we were extremely fortunate and happy with the place where we stayed during over weekend trip.
When we got the wedding invitation, we also received several tips on where to stay. Browsing through them, I stumbled across upon the small B&B right in Crocetta, Pavia province, which sounded nicely, looked amazing on the pictures and was just 2 minutes’ drive from the wedding site. I’ve booked it right away, just cross this project off out of my to-do list.
Such, uncharacteristic for me prompt decision, turned out to be one of the top highlights of this trip! The Bacialupo B&B is a beautiful, traditional Italian countryside house, surrounded by panoramic vineyards. The house is owned and is a home to a Dutch-Italian couple Sarah and Federico, and their two beautiful daughters. They have just recently opened the doors of their wonderful, traditional, authentic and at the same time fully renovated house to guests. At the moment they offer two rooms for the visitors, so we were actually extremely lucky to get one.
It is not only that Sarah and Federico gave us a lot of advice, were nice and attentive to our needs (which they absolutely were). They were so open, so friendly. They told us their beautiful love story, shared their vision on life in Italy, showed every corner of their house and shared their plans on what else they want to do/build on their property. Federico took us to the cellar, showed the wine bottles that were some centuries old, and explained why the cellar was so perfect to keep salami and wine.
I was very much impressed by this couple. They both are so young and modern, working in busy Milan, and yet have such a touch, love and feeling for the land and nature. I just admire this passion for down-to-earth life, where main values are family, house and living the moment.
In general, I find that the best travel experiences can be collected when you try to stay with locals, when it is personal, when you feel that you were actually able to become a part of something unknown to you before. Well, staying with Sarah and Federico opened us a little door to Italian countryside life. I absolutely loved it, and would certainly recommend staying at their B&B if you are discovering this region of Italy.
Wine and food
Crocetta is also a perfect starting point to do various wine and food tours, as the area is really in the heart of vineyards and production of distinctive salami, cheeses, and other specialities. Since we obviously didn’t have enough time to try everything, I already promised myself to come back next year and to take a time to discover wine and cuisine of the region.
But I was absolutely impressed by everything we’ve tried! Especially, of local risotto, which apparently is a typical Lombard dish. It was just so creamy and al dente at the same time… I really don’t know how it is possible! I am even afraid to cook risotto myself now, because even though I was always convinced that my risotto is good, I was never able to achieve such a great result… well, challenge accepted 😉
Our weekend was short, but we could not resist driving down south and checking out the coast and the sea. Thanks to my sister, who is an absolute Italian expert, we discovered a charming bay just a bit outside of Genoa’s center.
Boccadasse is a beautiful small fishermen’ neighborhood, which regardless of popularity among tourists managed to keep its authentic seaport character. There is a little stony beach, where you can lie down and enjoy the sun after a refreshing swim. I would highly recommend browsing through the narrow, charming streets, peeping into the windows and wickets of locals and enjoying the views of the sea and cliffs.
Right on the beach, you’ll find a small gelato place, with the most amazing, not only according to my opinion, ice-cream: soft, creamy and natural. Since I was instructed by my sister to eat nocciola ice-cream while I’m in Italy (which is a hazelnut flavoured ice-cream) I fulfilled her order 😉 Must agree, nocciola is the best ice-cream ever!
Another “must do” is getting a place in one of the small local restaurants with the view, ordering a glass of crispy Pigato wine, freshly baked focaccia, some fish or seafood, pasta with pesto alla Genovese, the best pesto sauce I’ve ever tried, and enjoying watching people, boats, and seagulls.
Searching for Castello Di Rivalta
Since our flight was only departing late in the evening, we wanted to check out some other nice town and grab a nice late lunch on our way back to Milan. Our Italian friend advised us to visit Castello Di Rivalta, a beautiful castle about 35 km away from Crocetta. So after a very long and pleasant coffee/Aperol Spritz morning spent with friends, at about 3 pm we finally hit the road. We thought that we are perfectly good on time with managing everything: checking the castle, having a meal and catching our flight from Milan. But somehow we (being used to German autobahns) totally underestimated how long it takes to drive through little hilly roads. So even before we reached Castello Di Rivalta, we were already starving and knew that we have to set an ad hoc plan in line with the new priorities. Everyone, who was ever around at times when I am hungry, would know that getting food asap replaced “sightseeing” thus moving to the top of our list. The problem was that it was already 4 pm, which meant that we fell into the gap between lunch and dinner time, so-called pisolino (siesta) time.
We were in the middle of nowhere, there was only one restaurant in every new small village that we were passing through and they were all closed. I was getting miserable, and the only thing that distracted me from hunger was the breathtaking scenery. When we stopped the car by another beautiful property with a restaurant sign, I decided not to bother getting out to spare myself the frustration.
Patrick went to check and came back with a smile. Apparently, they were also closed, but when Patrick said that all we want is some cheese and bread (coupled with his emotional “per favore” afterwards), the young woman kindly agreed to prepare something small for us. In five minutes, our table was full of local specialties: amazing cheese platter (with young goat cheese served with local honey totally blowing our mind); the variety of salamis of an exceptional quality; some fresh salad and bread with local olive oil. And that was not all, as we also were offered delicious stuffed zucchinis and tomatoes, and marinated vegetables (which were just unbelievable). Oh, and I was about to forget to mention the pitcher of red house wine, light, refreshing and exactly what a doctor ordered after this “hunger shock”.
That was how we discovered Agronauta, a little farm in the beautiful hilly surrounding, not far from the charming town Piacenza and just 100 km away from Milan. Agronauta grows their own vegetables, has a cheese production, has several pretty and equipped rooms for the guests and a nice restaurant. We met the owner of the place, Stefano, and I was once again impressed by how kind Italian people are, how attached to the land and the local product, how proud they are of their work.
I wish we could spend more time there, stay for dinner, try risottos and pastas they serve in their restaurant, and would not need to rush back to our busy and somehow quite detached from nature and sun life in Germany.
But we are certainly inspired and already planning coming back to Italy to make new discoveries in Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont.