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Dec 31, 2007 04:57 PM

A non-touristy, small town food mecca...?

I am considering a four or five day food-centric trip to a central-european city, perhaps in Italy. I would be driving from the Netherlands in mid-July, and my dream would be to find a pension in a smallish city to hunker down and explore the food in the surrounding areas. No budget for fine-dining....and any other sightseeing would be secondary to finding wonderful breakfasts, lunches, dinners and too. I don't speak a word of French, but am not rattled by trying to communicate. I will be a solo gal this time around, looking for low-key deliciousness. Someplace that offers a very specific regional specialty (Steingarten's choucroute search comes to mind) or a lot of different places and tastes... I'm totally open at this point, just needs to be moderately priced, away from the mid-summer throngs of tourists, and delicious. Any and all advice welcome!

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  1. Interesting idea. The possibilities in Italy are endless, but to get you started, I'm going to suggest the Langhe area in Piedmont in the province of Cuneo. You could make your base in Cuneo itself or Asti or Alba. It won't be truffle season, but that's not a bad thing. Truffles can be so distracting from the underlying superb cuisine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      alba cuneo a great idea, been there many times, its fantastic ! stay at cascine reine??( spelling) outside town of alba..

      or stay in town of modena...great town, many day trips from modena

        1. re: intrepid

          mbfant and intrepid - thank you SO much! This is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for...the possibilities ARE endless, and having two people chime in on Alba right off the bat makes it easy to focus my thoughts there! intrepid, when you stay at the Cascina Reine do you get their "dinner of local specialties?" What do they usually serve for breakfast? Do you book through the link you sent? Can you give me an idea of prices - with breakfast and with dinner? Thanks again for your suggestions!

          1. re: saticoy

            hi they have a nice cozy eating/comfort area..ive had nice breakfasts there( italian), never had dinner there..there a re so many places to eat in the area...not sure of current prices...not sure if you book thru the link..or try others..its a fabulouus region indeed

        2. re: mbfant

          Like the others said, you can't really go wrong with Alba. But for another option you might want to think about the Veneto region. You could make a nice base for yourself in Padova, Treviso or Bassano. There are so many interesting and diverse dishes in this region...lots of great "surf" and lots of great "turf."

          1. re: badwaiter

            i had also mentioned modena as a base..great location itself, and easy to get into veneto and emiglia romagna also..modena is a fabulous town

            1. re: intrepid

              Yes, Modena is indeed a great town and if you decide to go there, be sure to reserve ahead and have lunch at Giusti (see other posts on this board).

        3. I've just returned from a four day food trip to Bologna (with a day trip to Venice, which I wouldn't recommend!). Food was fantastic and it's easy to get to other places from Bologna on the train, eg Parma, Modena, the coast and even Milan. We chose Bologna for its location and great train connections. It's not a 'small town', but it's not big, easy to walk everywhere, and of course has amazing food...

          Helen Yuet Ling Pang

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodie guide

            ...and if you go there, try to include a trip to one or more of the food speciality places round Parma . I did one many years ago with Parmagolosa. The contact I have for them is

          2. There is a wonderful small hotel called Ca'de Lupo in Montelope Albese, which is about 15 minutes driving south of Alba. Wonderful hotel and they will help you set up visits with cheese makers, honey makers, winemakers, etc.

            if you are looking for a slightly bigger city, then I would suggest Cuneo. They have a food market there that is astoundingly good. The cheese options alone are overwhelming. And you could easily drive from Cuneo into many of the smaller towns in the area like Dogliani.

            1. If it is Italy you decide upon for your food excursion, make sure you get a copy of Osterie & Locande d 'Italia-A guide to traditional places to eat and stay in Italy. It is the best resource I know of for solid, local, places to eat all over Italy.

              1. WOW - thank you all so much for amazing suggestions and further resources! I'm torn....but keep the comments and suggestions coming - the research is a vicarious trip in itself. I'm still leaning towards Alba, though Parma and Modena sound very appealing...I think I want to explore a relatively small area, since I have so little time, and I think if I chose Bologna I would wind up frustrated with not being able to get to everywhere and do/see everything close....but it sounds like the perfect place to start a proper visit when I can swing it.

                Thanks mattrapp, for recommending that book - it is on its way to me even as I type!

                1 Reply
                1. re: saticoy

                  alba and the surrounding area is fab indeed..try to get into cascina reine/room/apt