We’re both feeling a bit stressed at the moment. Our plans for the house have just gone before the Commissione Edilizia (the regional planning committee) and we’re waiting to hear back. We’re not trying to do anything outrageous… no super-modern glass walls, stainless steel bridges or grass roofs, just converting a couple of fairly run-down agricultural parts into habitable spaces. The trouble is, the area is currently a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as a result, planning controls have become incredibly tight.
I’ve been letting off steam in the garden, often with a chainsaw, much to my wife’s (and, I presume, the tree’s) absolute dread… but last Sunday we decided to take our minds off things in a slightly less dangerous manner, by getting out and about. So, we headed to two local towns and two quite different events.
Our first stop was Cherasco, a small hilltop town famous for edible snails, Baci (dark, hazelnut chocolates) and a visit from Napoleon during which he described it as “The most beautiful town in Italy”. Maybe Napoleon had something to do with the snail obsession too, you know what the French are like…
Hard as it is to believe though, we weren’t there for the snails, the chocolates or the beauty; we went for antiques. Five times a year, people travel from across Northern Italy for the Cherasco Antiques Market. There is a different theme every time, such as toys, books or glassware, but on this occasion, the theme was Vintage. To me, this seems a bit of a cop out, as antiques by their very nature are already kind of vintage, but what do I know… It basically meant there were antiques, plus a lot of things that were old, but not quite antique-old.
We wandered around for an hour or so, soaking up the early morning sunshine and relaxed atmosphere. While there wasn’t such an eclectic mix of offerings as at our previous antiques market experience – Turin’s Gran Balon – there were still some fascinating things on offer, from little Smurf toys that we both remembered from our younger days to an awesome leather chair that I really wanted, until I found out the price…
Unlike in Turin though, we were feeling brave this time, and as a result, we actually bought something: A chair (not the cool leather one, I hasten to add). We even negotiated €20 off the price!
Giddy with success and slightly regretting not haggling harder, we headed off for our second engagement of the day, this time in Bra.
Just a couple of kilometres down the road from Cherasco, Bra is a far larger town with an immature-giggle-inducing name and a couple of impressive claims to fame; It is the home of the Slow Food movement and houses the world’s first University of Gastronomic Sciences, as well as a raft of really great restaurants. It is also the home of the rather delicious Salsiccia di Bra (Bra sausage), which, as far as I’m aware, is the only sausage you’re encouraged to eat raw. Having always been told eating raw sausages is really not advisable, it took me a while to get my head around this, but it really does taste good!
Again though, we weren’t there for the Slow Food or the sausages, we were there to let off steam, and what better way than by drinking beer and looking at classic cars at the first ever Bra Motorfest – a car and motorbike show rammed with amazing vehicles, both new and old.
I love classic cars, and I’d really love to own one. I can just imagine driving around the vineyards in an Alfa Spider, or even a little Fiat 500. I know they’re not practical, they break down and they cost a lot to run and look after, but who cares, they’re just so… cool.
There were dozens of Fiat 500s in various states of restoration; Some completely original, some pimped to within an inch of their lives. There was even a stretched version available for wedding hire. A few were for sale. I wrote down the phone numbers, you know, just in case. There were also some amazing VW Beetles (one, a cabriolet owned by our blogger date friends, brought out new levels of envy!) and split screen campers, a couple of beautiful Spiders, and hundreds of other incredible vehicles, all of which would look perfect sitting in our hopefully-soon-to-be-renovated garage.
There were a lot of bikes too, mainly big American Harleys, but also a few lovely vintage Vespas.
The whole event felt very non-Italian (as our friend Anna explains so perfectly in her blog – check it out!), and in our slightly stressed state it was exactly what we needed. People were drinking beer rather than wine, rock music was pumping out and there was a proper, American-style barbecue, cooking up ribs, steaks and burgers. Nobody was dressed in a particularly Italian way either. No pink chinos and deck shoes here, instead most people had gone for the biker-meets-pirate look. I wouldn’t have said that to their faces mind, as they looked terrifying… in a Jack Sparrow-y sort of way.
It was a great day out and we headed home tired, a little sunburned and dreaming of all the cars we could spend the summer cruising around the vineyards in. After all, if our house plans get turned down, I guess we’ll have a lot more money to spend on classic cars! My wife favours a 500, but I think a Spider would be nice, or perhaps an old Porsche or a Beetle cabriolet. Or maybe all four. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with an antique yellow chair, if Otto ever lets me sit on it.
P.S. There are loads more images from Bra Motorfest on our facebook page. If you don’t follow us yet, you really should you know…