Another day when it didn’t rain. Some 26ºC in the shade where you could find it. The forecast wind was 2 kt NW – the standards must be inverted for the plains around the Sesia, Ticino and Po rivers because it was stronger and coming upriver, up valley into our faces.
Yes, we cycled 80 km from Bard to Vercelli, from valleys to plains. Sure, I saw Sacred Ibis for my first time (considered feral escapees). Yes, Ivrea was pretty cool but what’s this obsession with cobble stones hereabouts (think rain, fully laden bikes on narrow wheels in traffic). But as I wrote, it hasn’t rained and isn’t expected to rain while we’re where we are (and will be) in Italy. Is that me putting a hex on it? Is this forecast inverted too?
Funnily enough, I watched as the Alps behind us were slowly sheathed in cloud as we cycled away, bringing down the curtain on that stage of the adventure (journey). A former colleague was posting geology pictures from near Ventimiglia and I realised I hadn’t looked at the rocks enough when up there at the top.
Now, a change of storyline. Imagine you book a hotel on distance, availability and price. You notice it has a restaurant. You don’t read much after some cretinous reviewers sour your future by posting the slights experienced in their visit. All you know is that you can’t find accommodation in Robbio so Vercelli is where you must stay. This hotel has rooms and is priced fairly.
Then you arrive, ask if they do dinner and by the way we’re vegetarian. ‘You can eat rice.’ Matter of fact expressed in English perhaps lacking nuances we’d have heard if we spoke Italian.
It’s Michelin graded. It’s even been featured on CNN and Sky. Cook books lurk in piles all around the ground floor. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. In many languages.
It’s a family affair. Two Costardi bothers cook. The mother, Sigra Costardi does the serving performance. You won’t understand, you can’t understand the preparation of the wines for service. This is something experience reveals, explains. Maybe you’ll see it in Series 2 Episode 1 because Stanley Tucci came back to film it. Suffice to say my dessert was called envy, like the graphics cards that power your computers. This invidia was two boats of endive filled with creamed liquorice, topped with gran padana dust. The main was a tin of coffee dust and gran padana on a beer reduction with local carnaroli risotto. To be fair, I tasted Chris’s Sottobosco (di Carnaroli) and it was even better. Undergrowth with mushroom as the main theme. Sublime. Magic. Brilliant. And by chance.
We are in the home of risotto rice. The fields stretch to the curving horizons, yellow, pylons dotted like becalmed yachts.
And there are insects: clouds of them like I’ve not seen since Burma or Sumatra (midges in Scotland maybe). Unlike the regions of France we passed through. Sure, many are annoying, hungry mosquitoes. Does this abundance indicate good, safe farming practices?
If I ever get a boat, there is but one name: invidia. In the honour of a superb dessert, not a boastful poke in the eye and such would be the mystery of it.