Top 5 things to do in Cortemilia
Ok, I admit I have used the boring ‘5 things to do’ in Cortemilia as the header, as I know you want to read short snappy list articles. There are many more things to do in Cortemilia but there is more than one thing to do to. A lot of travel articles reference Cortemilia for a pit stop and they will in the same breath mention Canobbio too, the famous pasticerria. But then as soon as that is written they take you off to Alba or Asti and that is the end of that, as if Cortemilia only has one place to visit. Except it hasn’t.
Cortemilia is a little like Cinderella. She is a proud Roman town that sits dominated by two huge sisters with big personalities, Alba and Asti, who get all the attention due to their prestigious names due to truffles and wine. Yet, here, hiding in the depths of the majestic Alta Langhe Hills, sits their very hardworking sister and a princess in disguise. Not to mention the fact that the truffle hunters get a lot of the famous white ‘Alba truffles’ from the Cortemilia hills and the winemakers around here are medal winners.
I fell in love with Cortemilia a few years back, when I ventured into Piemonte for the first time, after a dozen different holidays to all the other areas of Italy. I was smitten with the place within seconds and we now live here. It’s not beautiful in the centre for sure, but take yourself off up the hills from all angles of the town and you will see beauty within a minute. Cortemilia is a practical town. It is the vibrant heart beat of the region, circled by many villages that rely on it for every day trade such as Pezzolo, Perletto, Roccaverano, Bergolo and many others. The mornings are hectic with life and the late afternoon and evenings bustle too. Of course, like every non-tourist area of Italy the place is closed up for the sacred hours of lunch and siesta between 12.30pm and 3.30pm.
But I digress, here are my 5 favourite things to do in town, from my perspective, as a permanent resident and proud adoptee of Cortemilia:
Then go for a stroll around the corner to the arch covered portico shopping area, there are some great local shops to explore.
2. Stop off in my favourite organic food shop 'Alla Rinsfusa' and meet Marianna. If you are self-catering, their wholegrain spelt bread is the best.
-3. Pop into ‘Gallo’ a true Alimentari (local grocers) where you can see locals buying their vegetables and hams, they have great cheese and will give you a sample if you are buying.
4. Stroll up to B.J. boutique and meet Anna, an elegant lady who runs a very stylish Italian boutique with gorgeous Italian label clothes you can afford to buy, this isn’t Alba thank goodness!
5. If you are staying self-catering, circle back and on the other side of the road is a great butchers, Macelleria Bogliacino where you can meet a lovely hardworking family team, Amabile and Manuela Bogliacino and their daughter, Elena, she is fluent in English and German too. They also make the best home made Insalata Russo, a Piemonte staple and other tit-bit delicacies to take away - so delicious!
6. Then take yourself off via the pedestrian bridge, over the River Bormida and take in the relaxing view of the local wildlife, geese, ducks and sometimes - otters!
Continue on, and there is a real old bar, 'Bar Bruna' on the right, it’s tiny but knowledgeable about wine. If the weather is nice you can sit outside. They sell the best collection of wine in the area in the back room off-licence.
7. Then walk down the cobbled street where more little shops await and my all-time favourite vintage furniture shop is on the right, ‘Ricordi e Desideri’, run by the lovely Monica and her husband Rino. You can pick up a vintage glass or two or other trinket to take home in your carry on luggage.
8. Further on and you reach Piazza Savona and diametrically opposite is Bar Nazionale, the first place I ever entered in Cortemilia and a destination for everyone who loves Cortemilia. The characters in this place in the morning are great to watch. All the wise farmers, young and old, meet here to talk all things farming. Don’t be alarmed to see them drinking Moscato at 11am, they’ve been up since 4! This is also the place to watch football, Italian league, in the evening. At the weekends bikers come to hang out and show of their bikes! The bar staff is super-efficient and is a very friendly team run by Luana Giribaldi. Great for cappuccino and brioches (croissants) in the morning.
9. Another lovely bakery 'Pane Burro & Zuccero' is a few doors up from Bar Nazzionale run by Dania Franchello, vibrant and energetic, she stocks great local produce for gifts too. Plus, her partner is an excellent winemaker, Enzo of Patrone winery, and if you are extra nice to her she might help organise a private tasting for you at Patrone, which is another great experience too!
10. Have a tasting at Patrone winery – see my review here of this very cool, award winning, winery.
11. Finally, for the best pizza in Italy, Pizzeria La Torre can’t be beaten, run by family team Clara and Anna. It is only open in the evenings and not on Wednesday. You must book to get a table! +39 0173 81881
Oops that was supposed to be 5 things to do wasn’t it! My passion for Cortemilia has gotten the better of me – sorry 😊. I will write another part on what to do outside of town, as there are loads of other things to do such as hiking, cycling, cooking, yoga and other local shops to visit here.
Hopefully, by now, you can see that this is the place to stay, in the heart of 'Alta Langhe' and a great base to do your day trips to the coast, Alba and Asti from here, that’s why the Romans made this their 'crossroads town'!
Places to Stay in Cortemilia
To stay in Cortemilia I would recommend Canobbio’s B&B or Cucina Barroero for a holiday, they have a great pool and it is a great place to stay for biscuit lovers too. If you have young children, Agriturismo Gallo is full of knee-high kids running about the place and they make pizzas in the summer too. Another B&B is Hotel Langha In.
Hotel Villa San Carlo is perfect for a decadent and romantic stay and is a hit with Americans, it has a lovely garden, pool and a world famous restaurant too and Carlo Zarri has cooked for Michelle Obama and other celebrities so you will be in for a treat.
If you are planning a trip here get in touch, I can meet you for a glass of wine!
Where to find these great places:
Canobbio: Piazza Molinari, 11, Cortemilia
Alla Rinfusa: via Dante Alighieri, 21Cortemilia
BJ boutique: via Dante Alighieri, 55/57 Cortemilia
Macceleria Bogliacino: via Dante Alighieri, 48 Cortemilia
Bar Bruna: via Cavour, Cortemilia
Ricordi e Desideri: via Cavour, Cortemilia
Patrone Winery: Strada Viarascio, 15, Cortemilia
Bar Nazionale: Piazza Savona, Cortemilia
Pane Burro & Zuccero: Piazza Savona, 9, Cortemilia
Pizzeria La Torre: Piazza Castello, 18, Cortemilia +39 0173 81881
Cuccina Barroero: Str. Viarascio, 35, Cortemilia +39 0173 821250
Agriturismo Gallo: Strada Serole, Cortemilia +39 0173 81 404
Hotel Villa San Carlo: Corso Divisioni Alpine, 41, Cortemilia +39 0173 81546
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