Tue 16 Nov 2010
As it was only 15:00 by the time I had completed both my lunch and giro of Asti, it was too early to head back to TorreBarolo, so I figured I may as well check out Alessandria as it was only 35km away. Alessandria is much bigger than both Alba and Asti, as evident by the fact that it has multiple exits on the Autostrada. So again, using my tried and tested method of heading towards “centro” and Piazza Liberta, I found myself in the center of the historic section of Alessandria. Again, I was surprised by the ample outside parking lots in the city center.
After referring to the little map of Alessandria in my Italy road atlas, I headed off towards Corso Roma, as anything with a “Roma” tends to be the city’s shopping street. At first I wasn’t too impressed but as I kept walking down this very long pedestrian street lined with various clothes and jewellery shops, I began to enjoy my stroll more and more as the well restored historic buildings lining the street really gave it a nice charm. My stroll brought me to very impressive Piazza Garibaldi. The porticos were especially impressive and added elegance to this square.
Another thing I have learned over the year is that a very nice bar (i.e., with table cloths and waiters) tends to be located on these beautiful historic piazzas. I spotted one but kept on walking as I wasn’t in need of a rest just yet. Heading away from Pizza Garibaldi up Via Maestra is when I really started enjoying my mini-adventure to this new city. Again, the street was lined with historic, well restored building though instead of clothing stores, store after store was a bakery, a pastry shop, a butcher, a fishmonger or a fruit and vegetable vendor.
My favourite was checking out the “delis” with the cured ham hanging above the counter and the massive stacks of DOP parmigiano cheese. There was also an ample section of fresh pasta stores and one had some yummy looking take-away lasagna that I considered as an easy dinner option. The street was lively as it was now past 5pm and it was fun to watch all the ladies in their fur coats do their evening shop.
I stumbled upon a lovely arcade and tucked inside was a quaint café/patisserie. With the table cloths, wooden chairs and ladies having tea, I knew this was the perfect place to settle down for some refreshment and a read of the Herald Tribune I bought back in Asti. What a pleasure it was to find they served bicerin, which is the sumptuous hot drink that consists of layers of thick rich hot chocolate, espresso and fresh cream that originated in Turin.
A glass of this is a meal almost, but I couldn’t resist sampling some of the yummy biscuits they had in their cases. By the time I left 40 minutes later, the tables were all filled by parents treating their kids or elderly couples having a little treat.
By this time it was getting colder and darker, so I thought time to head back to TorreBarolo.
So, would I recommend you have Alessandria as a day trip destination? That is tough call. It takes a bit of effort to find the old town center and doesn’t offer anything like the regal pizzas in Turin with the gorgeous turn of the century cafes. Instead, it offers no tourists, some pretty piazzas and a nice stroll down streets that you wish you had in your own neighbourhood. No question, Alessandria was a pleasant surprise but if I had limited time in the area I don’t think it offers enough to make it a day trip destination…….but I am glad I made the effort.