We're not sure why exactly, but we have a tough time getting folks to join us in May. Generally the weather is great this time of year - clear blue skies, a fresh breeze, warm temperatures during the day with a nice cool-down at night. As you can see below Monferrato has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique vineyard landscape. Miles and miles of paved roads with little to no automobile traffic, fantastic food and wine, what's not to love?
Some have said May is "too early" in the season. Too early for what? You're not 100% "in shape" whatever that is? What better place to ride yourself into "shape" than over the dolci colline (sweet hills) of Monferrato? Think of it as spring training. That's what Larry's doing now.
Sunday was warm and sunny, perfect for a bit of exploring, though by now Monferrato is truly our backyard in many ways. So off Larry went, leaving tiny Terruggia and riding through Rosignano, Ottiglio, Grazzano, Casorzo and out towards Grana, a place we don't get to that often.
Montemagno is always interesting, both in the approach, where you can admire their medieval castle and once inside through the narrow streets. From there it's just a few kilometers down...and up ...to Castagnole Monferrato, home of the cult wine -.RUCHE
Where, totally by surprise, a festival celebrating RUCHE was being held! Che fortuna! Normally a sleepy village when we visit, today Castagnole was full of people, many of them wearing little sacks on their chests, just big enough to hold a wine glass. Think of one of those baby holders but instead of a baby there's a glass of Ruche.
Even better, in the same spot where we take a break on our tour through Castagnole during our annual Vineyards to the Sea tour (where there are two places left if you act quickly) was this smiling young lady, offering two great buys - first, 5 euros gets you a generous portion of the famous carne cruda of Monferrato + grissini and a glass of RUCHE. Second, 4 euros gets you some wonderful hazelnut cookies and yet another glass of vino, your choice from various producers they featured.
Some of you might recoil at what looks like raw hamburger but rest assured this is raw beef, usually from the Fassone breed of cattle, grass-fed critters so lean that it's tough to cook 'em, hand-chopped rather than run through a potentially disease carrying grinder like in the USA and served with a bit of lemon, olive oil and salt/pepper.
This, combined with the excellent cookies was a fine snack on the ride, which meandered through some of the Ruche vineyards of Bersano and Ferraris (two Ruche wines we enjoy) before turning back towards Terruggia. 65 kilometers with a pause for a snack = a perfect Sunday, especially when one can tune in the Giro d'Italia on TV in the afternoon!