3.13.2013

Unexpected Nostalgia

This morning I was online perusing The New York Times Dining & Wine section, it’s my weekly hump day highlight, and an article called Treasures of the Alps caught my eye. I clicked on it and it turned out to be about featured wines from one of my favorite regions in Italy; Valle D’Aosta. I didn’t even finish reading it because I started to reminisce about the last time I was there. In June 2009, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a week long road trip to Switzerland. From Bologna we drove through Valle D’Aosta, where we spent the night in Aosta before moving on, and had a lovely experience in this little known region of Italy. 


Valle D’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region tucked right under the alpine borders of France and Switzerland. Being in the Italian Alps it’s attractive for the many ski resorts and even has a national park. Other than that it’s almost all sparsely populated rural towns and villages with the capital city being Aosta. It’s a small city with a clear Roman heritage and culturally a sweet mix of French and Italian, from the street names to the cuisine. We experienced a delicious Valdostana meal of roasted rabbit, local cheeses and a baked dish of crespelle (Italian crepes) and fontina paired with a local Gewurztraminer. We walked the cobblestone streets admiring the small specialty shops and enjoyed drinks in Piazza Chanoux. I adored Aosta for its culture and history, and like most Italian cities, a major perk was how easy the city center was to navigate by foot. What made me fall in love with it, however, was its pure untouched and lush beauty. How it was nestled in the Italian Alps, hidden from the rest of Italy and the surrounding borders. It’s a place I consistently dream about returning to and one of the first places I recommend going to when people ask about Europe.



If you decide to travel to Valle D’Aosta, I highly recommend staying at a small agriturismo called La Reina outside the center of Aosta. We stayed in the green room twice, and absolutely loved it for the quality, good food and fantastic people. It’s a family run operation on a small plot of land with a small garden and livestock. For breakfast they set out an assortment of fruit preserves and bread for us, as well as some amazing charcuterie, everything made in house. The concept of an agriturismo is similar to that of a bed and breakfast, usually a family run farmhouse inn with breakfast included but made with ingredients produced or grown on the farm or from other local farms. Sometimes agriturismi also feature live music on the weekends and a farm to table dinner menu. It’s meant to be a way to combine agriculture and tourism, hence the name agriturismo. These days we are learning how important it is to support small businesses and local economies, so it is a great way to help a community that you’re visiting while abroad. It is also an excellent opportunity to experience the locals. It’s one of my many culinary dreams to have a similar concept here in the U.S. some day.

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to have experienced living and traveling in Europe. I take it for granted but then am somehow reminded of the places I’ve seen and I can’t believe that I’ve seen them. Photos of places I had never heard of until a few years ago are sitting in folders on my computer, and I’m amazed all over again when I look at them. It reignites my passion for travel, for culture, and for learning. While I miss Bologna and Europe, I look forward to my future traveling and eating endeavors across other continents and can’t wait to share them with you. 


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