Trip to Rivarolo Canavese

When my beloved told me we were visiting the home town of one of his new clients, Rivarolo Canavese, I thought it sounded like a full-bodied red wine. But no, it’s a wonderfully historic town just 30 minutes north-east of Turin.

We drove there on a glorious Friday morning when all along the motorway the trees were just starting to show off their new lime-green finery and pale-blossoms. The crops in the farmers’ fields were showing early emerald shoots, lambs were gambolling and cows were lazily chewing the grassy green cud. This was all set against a backdrop of mountains still dusted with snow. Spring had most definitely sprung.

A bit of research revealed Riverolo’s ancient name of “Riparolium” means “place on the bank of the stream.” You can clearly see the “stream” in the map of the town below. In December 1862, shortly after the Unification of Italy, it was renamed Rivarolo Canavese to distinguish it from other similarly named towns in neighbouring Lombardy and Liguria.

Riparolium is first mentionned in an old document dating back to 1000 AD. From 1200 it belonged to the families of the Counts of Valperga and San Martino. The town’s  original early medieval core was enlarged in 13th century with a comb-like urban layout and walls. In 1358 the Counts of Savoy granted partial autonomy to the town in respect of the management of its ovens and mills. Mid-18th century the town’s medieval fabric was remodelled in a Baroque style. In 1863 Rivarolo achieved city status thanks to its socio-economic growth  and the construction of a rail link to Turin.

Nowadays Rivarolo sits at the centre of an efficient road and rail network linking it with Turin, its airport and the rest of the Canavese region. The town’s former activities in textiles and leather production have downsized but become more upscale with the presence of numerous artisan businesses.

The city’s main axis is a wide road (Corso Indipendenza) featuring a number of interesting 19th century buildings, such as Casa Pistono, Casa Maspes, Villa Recrosio and Villa Vallero which houses exhibitions, cultural events and educational activities and is surrounded by a public park. On week days there’s a small food market, largely fruit and vegetables, which morphs into a footwear and textiles one on Saturday mornings.

Given its interesting history, there’s plenty to see, particularly in its Old Town which spreads around the arcaded via Ivrea and features a number of former palaces: Palazzo Palma di Borgofranco, Palazzo Farina, Palazzo Toesca and Palazzo Lomellini, now the Town Hall. There’s also some really beautiful old shop fronts, many of which are still used for their original purpose.

Along this same street, there are also three churches the most spectacular of which is the octagonal, brick-built Baroque church of San Michele Arcangelo which dates back to 11th century, with 18th century additions.  Practically, opposite one another you’ll find the Church of the Confraternity of Jesus which has an elegant painted façade with a large wooden door and the Church of San Rocco and San Carlo which was built by the community after it had been devastated by the plague in 1630.

The town also has its own castle which I spied in the distance. Malgra Castle was built by the Counts of San Martino in 1333. It was renovated, at the end of 19th century by the architect Alfredo D’Andrade. In the inner courtyard there is a crenellated tower and a small portico with 14th century frescoes. Owned by the municipality since 1982, you can only visit it on Sunday afternoons from May to October.

After pounding the cobbled pavements in the town, I checked out its splendid coffee and cake shops, all in the interests of research you understand. Later when my beloved had finished work for the day we were able to sample the town’s offering of our favourite pre-dinner tipple, an Aperol Spritz, before a delicious dinner with his client.

Postcards from Not Too Far Away

In recent weeks, I’ve gotten to visit a few places I’ve been meaning to visit for some time. It’s not exactly a bucket list; I’m far too young for one of those! At the end of June, thanks to an invitation to a dental meeting, I finally got to visit Turin. This is a town we’ve driven around on numerous occasions. I had a trip planned back in 2012 to watch the start of the Giro which I cancelled at the last moment – pressure of work. I even passed close by when I was at this year’s Giro in early May.

castellotorino

So, finally I get not only an opportunity to visit but time to look around. Our hosts had organised a bus tour of the city and it’s truly delightful. Well worth a visit just to marvel at its splendid architecture but I would counsel against visiting in the height of summer. It’s hot, humid and the mosquitos have fearsome bites, as my legs will attest. After a delightful dinner at a restaurant on the river, I looked like someone with a severe case of the pox, despite a liberal application of deterrent. So, I’ll be returning again to Turin to visit its museums and splendid buildings when those pesky blighters have gone into hibernation.

Aude

Last week, during the third week of the Tour, I finally visited Carcassonne. Again, another town I’ve driven past on the motorway many times. On the last occasion, in early April, fog made the place look like something out of Disney. Sadly, despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the place is stuffed full of shops selling tourist tat and restaurants offering Cassoulet. The castle itself is a wonder to behold but the plethora of tourist coach trippers make it difficult to appreciate let alone look at the old buildings within its walls. Possibly, another one to visit in cooler climes. The villages surrounding Carcassonne are charming but there’s a wind that blows all the time in the Aude and which would really get on my nerves were we to spend more than a couple of days there.

Figarol

After Carcassonne, we moved onto the Pyrenees and a delightful spot called Figarol which my beloved was much taken with. It’s very beautiful and out-of-the-way but – there’s often a but – with so few restaurants and amenities nearby, we found ourselves eating in the same place on a couple of occasions. The country’s fine for a day or two and then I find it’s scenic attractions (and flies) pall. I’m a city gal at heart.

While at the Tour last year, I visited Albi and Castres – both deserving of a trip – and stayed in a hotel in Najac, about a 45 minute drive from Albi. It was delightfully bucolic with some nearby walled towns such as Cordes en Ciel that are well worth a potter around.

Najac

 

As I discovered to my cost on the bike, the terrain is rather more undulating than I had remembered. My beloved and I have recently introduced a new system whereby we set off together and agree a rendezvous point, generally a watering hole but, in between, we’re free to cycle at will. This saves him having to huff and puff while waiting for me.

Luberon

En route for home, we stopped off in the Luberon and rode along some familiar routes beside the vineyards in the hot sunshine. I made the serious (rookie) mistake of not booking somewhere for dinner and after countless trips into restaurants to enquire if they had a table for two, we had to settle for a little pizza place round the corner from where we were staying. A place, I hasten to add, we normally wouldn’t have considered. But regular readers will know that my beloved will die if he doesn’t have at least three square meals a day!

I don’t consider myself a big fan of pizzas and I always have a Margarita. I know, predictable and boring. But, this was the best pizza I have ever eaten! It had a wafer thin base, a delicious herb and tomato topping, with just enough cheese. It had been cooked in a wood-fired oven – I so want one of those – but the edges weren’t burnt. We also had a bottle of their finest red which was easily the best wine of the entire trip. So all’s well that ends well!

Clasica San Sebastian

We’ve only been home for a few days but we’re off again tomorrow, this time to my beloved Basque country, sadly sans velo and with our wet weather gear. Yes, a spot of rain is forecast.