Van Life #14 | Exploring Piedmont’s wine towns | My favourite place in Italy

After Turin, we headed to a little camper stop in Neive, voted one of Italy’s most beautiful towns. It is really gorgeous with dreamy cobbled streets, little wine caverns and colourful wonky buildings. We had dinner al fresco at the van and enjoyed listening to a crazy lightening storm.

Renting e-bikes

We actually set our alarms for once and booked 2 e-bikes from Bik-e in Alba. You have to email them in advance and it’s €40 per bike for the day (9.30-18:30) so we made sure we used it all day. Our route hit the most popular wine towns starting in Grinzane Cavour then up to Diano d’Alba, Castiglione Faletto, Montforte d’Alba, Barolo, had lunch in Alba at our favourite Focacceria (see below) then continued to Benevello, Tre Stelle finishing in Barbaresco and 93km later we were back at the bike rental spot in Alba. We would never have covered that much distance if we were on regular bikes and I totally recommend e-bikes for this area because it’s so hilly!

Eating out in Alba

Our favourite lunch/snack stop in the centre of Alba is Focacceria Il Budego. His focaccia is the best I’ve ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot. He does a variety of different toppings with a lot vegan, but my favourite is simply the plain one which is coated is extra virgin olive oil. The owner also gave us a free loaf of bread, what a legend!

In the evening, we parked up at the camper area and ate out at Soda. It’s a fully vegan restaurant that we went to 5 years ago and I was happy to see it’s still open. They specialise in f*cking good drinks (their slogan) and Asian style vegan food. We shared the vegan combo platter and I had a Pad Thai for mains. The cocktail menu is extensive with so many different combinations and flavours. They’re beautifully presented with herbs, basil oil and fresh ingredients. Mains average around €10 and with 4 cocktails, a sharing starter and 2 mains cost around €60 so not bad at all. I love supporting fully plant based, locally run restaurants.

Swimming in Costigliole d’Asti

The temperature kicked it up a notch so we headed towards Costigliole d’Asti which has a 50m outdoor pool. We used to go there pretty much every day when we worked in Piedmont and it was just as good as I remembered. Management has changed now so you have to wear a swimming cap and become a member, but overall it’s cleaner and appears more organised. It costs around €10 for entry depending on what time you go, usually cheaper in the afternoon. There’s a great camper area in the village too where we stayed and I enjoyed visiting the market on Sunday morning whilst Pete went running.

Camping at a Moscato vineyard

In the summer of 2015, we lived in the tiny village of Castiglione Tinella which is known for it’s moscato grape vineyards. We stayed at Ai Cuivin campsite which has a swimming pool and incredible views. It cost €25 per night with electricity and more importantly a bottle of their delicious Moscato costs €10. We did a couple of 5km runs but spent most of the time lounging by the pool and relaxing.

‘Area sosta camper’ & van life tips

Similar to aires in France, some villages in Italy have designated rest stops for campervans which are usually close to a grey water emptying drain and fresh water. Fresh water taps are everywhere in Italian villages, look near churches or the main squares. We did a bit batch of laundry in Alba at the Lavanderia Self Service. There was a huge 18kg machine and a dryer which was ideal for us. We find the cheapest supermarkets are Penny Market and iN’s Mercato which often have some vegan goodies.

Alba and the surrounding hilltop villages will always be in my heart as one of my favourite places in Europe. When Pete and I did a summer season here 5 years ago, for 6 months we truly had an amazing summer experiencing living the Italian lifestyle in one of the most beautiful regions surrounded by vineyards, kind locals and a traditional way of life. As I sit here and type this now watching sunset over Castiglione Tinella, I can’t help but get emotional at how much I love this place as it never fails to amaze me. Sounds cheesy but you really need to come and experience it for yourself.

Sunset over Castiglione Tinella

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