Text and Fotos   Charis Stank*

Between hazelnut and wineyards.

A wood fired oven to bake pizza? Kneading dough like an Italian mom? I ask myself whilst looking at Casa Castello in Dogliani in the search of a place to stay in Piedmont; I looked at the pool in the picture. Go swimming late in the year, surrounded by green hazelnut bushes and bulging grapevines? A little hike through the beautiful scenery surrounding the house? In any case, enjoying the good food in the Langhe!. Everything together seemed to me very tempting…
I wouldn’t have thought it but, as it turned out, the real attraction was the wood-fired pizza oven. It was exactly this that created one of the most beautiful evenings of our stay and its effect lasted for days through its enormous heat storage capacity lending a homely welcoming atmosphere in the kitchen.

Serafina Quota: a cultural club

But from the beginning: the Casa Castello is one of the holiday homes of Serafina Houses. Behind Serafina, hides Quota; a cultural association that manages several rustic holidayhomes in the Langhe. It took me a while to figure out what’s really behind it because it is neither a classic holiday home rental, nor a typical private property. – If you translate the word “quota” from Italian into German, Google spits out the word ‘stock’ (as in shares). And although this is not the official derivation, it fits very well.
, The “Quotas” want to connect creative people. They should “come together to work, exhibit, network and – not least – enjoy.”. Each guest contributes a share to the success of the project and instead of just taking a holiday, dive into the lovable and in many places still wonderful, traditional way of life of the Piedmontese. Like almost everywhere else, it is also apparent in the old town of Dogliani that old structures dissolve. Small craft shops and dealers have disappeared. Supermarkets on the outskirts of the city out compete the smaller grocers. As a guest of the Serafinahouses you are right in the middle of whats left of this ancient delightful culture . You have the chance to get to know the innkeepers, hazelnut producers and winemakers of the region. To hear their stories, taste their products and without anyone waiting on the corner wagging their index finger, one can contribute to the healthy preservation of this region through one’s presence and vacation. Simply by spending some time there, running in the morning with the bread bag in hand to the baker, sipping an espresso in the Bar Riviera on the main square or in another of the numerous establishments or picking up the the wine for dinner directly from the winemaker. All in all, one might think: an ambitious goal. But if you read the reports of the guests on the website of the house, you realize that plan seems to work. Enthusiasm is felt and the will not to disturb, but to revive.

Sleep above the city gate

Thick walls, a cross vaulted ceiling and the view over the rolling hills of the Langhe characterize the charm of our bedroom in the Casa Castello. I am fascinated by the old fireplace behind the bed and the darkly painted shutters. This is reminiscent of an old castle.
The other rooms include kitchen and living areas and two further bedrooms and bathrooms offering further views of the distant countryside beyond the town walls. These are best seen from the narrow balconies that are accessible from both upper floors of the house. Although it feels like a stately building, Casa Castello is a normal townhouse. Robustly built, altered over the centuries and expanded again and again. Since 2017 it has been refurbished to a comfortable three-storey holiday home.
The floors are grey, the walls beige; a pallet of subdued natural hues and tones. The owners have put a lot of taste and functionality into the fixtures and it is built with rustic and local, traditional materials. The washbasins and partitions in the baths are bricked and plastered. Mirrors and wrought-iron hooks are reduced to what they should be.

La dolce vita

We spend our time on walks in the village, we shop, swim in the pool and enjoy the mild weather and in the evening we cook. Special highlights are the weekly markets; on Tuesday, a large market runs through a large part of the old town and on Saturday morning a small vegetable market is found there. And of course, visit the Bar Riviera or Aldo in the Café Corte for a taste of unequalled italian coffee and culture.
A day trip to Savona by the sea and a detour to the surrounding area, for example to visit the hazelnut producer Alberto Quazzo – we do not need much more “outside” here. Even the previously considered inevitable trip to Turin must be postponed to the next visit, in favor of the hours of sunshine by the pool. On the last evening, we celebrate with a farewell dinner in “Il Verso del Ghiottone”. The refined Piedmontese cuisine and wines justify the slightly higher prices compared to the, equally close to the house and always gladly visited, pizzeria La Lanterna.

On our departure one of the cats strays past us behind the house and we are filled with the urge to follow her …

How to while away your time.
Hiking trails start next to the house.
For visits to Alba (about 30 km), Bra, Monforte d’Alba and the sea you should have your own car, otherwise it gets complicated. Incidentally, my favorite for shopping is Bra, the home of the Slow Food movement.
Buy wine: Enoteca Il Vino, Via Carlo Rovere, 46, 12063 Dogliani
Food: Oliver Giuseppe, Via Guglielmo Marconi, 4, 12063 Dogliani (Great variety of different types of flour)
Bakeries: in the Strada Provinciale (Grissini and especially beautifully decorated rolls), unfortunately also without a name: on the corner of Via Carlo Rovere / Via Salita al Castello (there were very delicious pastries)
Bars: Bar Rivierra on the main square – Caffé Corte (We always drove Aldo crazy by asking for a Bellini ? – Open Air Bar Il Caveau del Gusto, Piazza Belvedere, Borgo Castello, 12063 Dogliani
For more tips, it is best to contact Yvonne from the Serafina houses, she is nearly always on hand to help, just a phone call away.

 

*Charis Stank
Reisejournalismus und PR • Onlineshop Wohlgeraten

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