Number 4 of the Down on the Farm Series – If you haven’t heard of the Agriturismo brand then let me introduce you. The Italian brand launched in 2001 and is the leading site for farm and country holidays in Italy. Their marketing speak says that Agriturismo is ‘synonymous with free time spent in the open air, at one with nature, immersed in a social-rural environment abounding in culture, authentic traditions, and quality agricultural food products’.
As a mum I say it covered my holiday wish list – self-catering yet an onsite quality restaurant should we wish to dine out, a swimming pool like you’d find at a hotel yet somewhere homely we can relax, a play park is always nice, as well as spectacular views in a rural setting with lovely hosts. All of this was available at Agriturismo Brusalino in Piedmont, Northern Italy.
The Agriturismo brand is a little bit different. Each property is unique; often a converted farmhouse, which grows and harvests its own crops and cooks the produce fresh for you that day. The pace is slow, the flavours exquisite and the views are second to none. We opted for Brusalino as we were searching for an Agriturismo site within a short drive of Turin, located near interesting towns we would wish to visit, with facilities to a rival a hotel. Yes, we were quite demanding.
Booking and Check In – it was very informal and relaxed, so relaxed in fact that I double checked it all for fear I’d actually booked nothing at all, but all was well. On the day we travelled to our Agriturismo accommodation our room was available all day so we were free to check in at any time we wished so no stickler for rules here.
Our Apartment – we were the first people to stay in the newly decorated two bedroom apartment. Though recently refurbished it wasn’t stripped of character – dark wooden furniture and traditional crockery gave the flat a homely feel in keeping with the rural farm setting. The rooms were spacious with a television in one of the bedrooms which was a huge hit with the babies who became hooked on the Russian cartoon Masha and the Bear (?!), they weren’t so enamoured with the lack of a bath and cried through every shower we subjected them to.
The Playground – have you ever seen a playground with views like this? Me neither. The kids only had eyes for the swings and the slide rather than the serenity of the surrounding countryside but we’ll make poets of them yet.
The Pool – the pool looks utterly stunning, and it is, but in real life the unheated water was bitterly baltic and even Mr Toddler refused to go in beyond his knees. On the plus side he would happily splash about on the steps for an hour leaving the rest of us chilling on the sun loungers in our swimwear. The pool’s existence gave us the social permission to wear our dookers which otherwise, on a farm, might have looked a little … odd.
The Grounds – the land surrounding the farmhouse is rich with vineyards and hazelnut trees in the heart of rolling Italian countryside. Guests were free to visit and explore the fields which we did on several occasions. Mr Toddler probably thought grapes came from a plastic box until he saw them growing on the vines in Italy. The farmer also took us to see the pigs in their pen/outdoor run to feed them – these animals are periodically slaughtered to provide the cured meat at breakfast so this is a true working farm.
The Food – many people are led to Italy by their stomachs. Piedmont is the birthplace of the global Slow Food movement so it’s especially proud of its local produce, its cooking and dining experience. For €25 Brusalino offers a four course tasting menu in the traditional antipasti, primo piatti, secondo piatti and dessert format – that’s starter, pasta dish, meat dish and pudding as a rough cultural translation. It’s excellent value for a home cooked meal prepared fresh for you onsite. The babies ate from our plate and somehow sat through four courses of gluttony – Italian food and children does seem to be a desperately winning combination. The meals naturally incorporate the local products; grapes and hazelnuts feature in most dishes or at least are used as a garnish.
At breakfast we ate the wee piggies as well as a startlingly green (but delicious) spinach and hazelnut omelette and a homemade red grape chutney which complemented the cheeses. Not to mention a sinful hazelnut chocolate spread and white chocolate hazelnut spread which we successfully hid from our tiny sugar fiends. Piedmont is the home of Nutella so chocolate and hazelnut have a very strong relationship here.
The Wine – Brusalino creates its own wines – red, white, dessert and sparkling. The surrounding area is renowned for the nebbiolo grape, especially in the towns of Barolo and Barbaresco, and the town of Asti, famous for its sparkling wine, is only a short drive away. With such strong local wine expertise every small producer has to punch above its weight to be chosen by any consumer. We had wine with dinner, a glass of wine in the apartment and one day when both children actually fell asleep at the same time a cheeky bottle of fizz on the terrace with all the nibbles. Heavenly.
The Location – Brusalino is in the middle of a rural idyll, as such you have to drive pretty much everywhere to sightsee which was no problem for us but may not suit everyone. The roads in Italy are notably excellent so it was easy to nip between small, picturesque towns on speedy A roads or dual carriageways. On day one we visited Alba and Barolo, the next day Saluzzo and Manta Castle, then Barbaresco and Bricco de Neive and finally Asti – I will cover these destinations in separate posts. Our accommodation was in a great spot for excellent sight seeing opportunities and taking in the best food and wine in the Piedmont region. And every night we came home for a quick splash in the pool steps, a play in the park before settling in for another episode of Masha and the Bear which I too am now addicted to.
THE LOWDOWN – Getting there – we drove to Edinburgh and flew with Easyjet to Milan Malpensa on a lunchtime flight. From there we picked up a hire car and spent 3 nights in Turin staying in Home Sweet Home apartment. When we checked out of Turin we then drove an hour and a half to Agriturismo Brusalino.
Getting home – When we left Brusalino we headed direct to Milan Malpensa which took approximately two hours plus extra time to return the hire car etc. Our flight was at 0930 so it was a turn of events for us waking the children up. Revenge.
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