THE NORTHWEST Piedmont Map Italy

Again, industrial Turin would be an unusual (though certainly not bad) choice for a foreigner looking to experience a life in Italy, especially when pastoral beauty and culinary jewels await just outside the city in areas like Alba and Asti. In Asti, the Hotel Raniero (Via Cavour 85, tel. 0141/353-866, www.hotelrainero.com, ‚85 d) makes its home in a centuries-old building in the best part of town. The rooms are modern and comfortable, if not very long on charm, but most importantly it is in a quiet pedestrian zone. In Alba, the Hotel Savona (Via Roma 1, tel. 0173/440-440; www.hotelsavona.com, ‚100 d) is clean and bright, with modern amenities like whirlpool tubs in some rooms, as well as some terraces on an inner courtyard.

FOOD With just a few tables and an authentic Piemontese repertoire, Il Convivio (Via G. B. Giuliani 4 6, tel. 0141/594-188, noon 2:30 P.M. and 8 10 P.M. Mon. Sat., ‚8 12) in Asti is one of the top spots to enjoy the local specialties that may become your bread and butter. If it is on the constantly changing menu, try the braised rabbit with olives and white wine, and gnocchi with a sweet pepper sauce, for prices that will seem head-scratchingly low to a North American. It goes without saying that wine lovers will be on cloud nine when they see the list and are invited to tour the cellar. Alba, home of the white truffle and neighbor to some of Italy’s most prestigious wines, is ground zero for gourmands, which raises the bar in the restaurant category to new levels. Still, I can confidently recommend Lalibera (Via E. Pertinace 24, tel. 0173/293-155, www.lalibera.com, noon 2 P.M. and 8 10 P.M. Mon. Sat., ‚9 21) as one of Alba’s best. It is both stylish and comfortable at the same time, and the traditional Piemontese dishes are mercifully lighter than usual and given a special twist. You might want to start with zucchini flowers stuffed with a trout mousse, and move on to oversized ravioli stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and an egg yolk, and covered with shaved truffle.

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