and with some reverence. It is the home of the Slow Food Movement (Bra) and ground central for truffles (Alba and Asti). Not to mention the superlative wines of Barbaresco and Barolo. That all being said, there is also a plethera of castles in the area and some incredible landscapes worth tootling around with. Because of the reverence for food and the agricultural richness of the area there are terrific restaurants and markets as well. Being at the foot of the Alps makes for spectacular scenery.
Did I mention the history? Ah! the history. Tucked up in the northwestern pocket of Italy there have been centuries of visitors, conquerors, passers through and settlers. Each decade has left their mark in the charming towns, bridges and castles. You can go see Venice for those things Venetian but this area is still Italy at it's finest without cruise ships and not too many buses.
We stayed at a marvelous castle, Castello de Pavone which was really quite fun. THere are day trips available in the area but to go in the spring or fall is to want to find a corner to tuck yourself away in.
The only downside is that the spaces are rented out, with regularity and popularity so there is often a flow of people coming and going from weddings, meetings and the like. THe solution for this I think is to go during the week.
We ate at the castle one night and another had dinner in a funky restaurant in town, filled with locals, which made terrific looking pizza but I had the pasta with seafood which was Great! Bright lights in local restaurants seem to be the norm so don't be fooled if the place of culinary dreams is lit like a grocery store. The better to see your food.
The castle dining was in vaulted rooms with period-ish furniture and plenty of atmosphere. I felt the wooden covered menus were a bit over the top but it was pleasant and the service was good.
Other good castles are scattered in the area. Spain has some excellent castle hotels to check out. There is a fairly comprehensive site -http://castleandpalacehotels.com/index.html. Of course, anywhere in Europe there has been royalty there are probably castles. They were built to last.