Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Alla Corte’

Ristorante Alla Corte

March 31, 2012
Ristorante Alla Corte

Ristorante Alla Corte

shellfish and spaghetti

shellfish and spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

I had intended eating out, but there was nowhere nearby, Bassano del Grappa was half an hour walk away in the dark, and so I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte.

Not that I am complaining, as the food was excellent, and as I was to later discover, there is nowhere worth eating in Bassano del Grappa.

Many places claim to be gourmet restaurants, but few live up to the claim. Were Ristorante Alla Corte to make the claim (it actually does not), it would be well deserved as the food and service excellent.

Wherever possible, the ingredients are sourced locally.

Ristorante Alla Corte is popular with locals, which is always a good sign. Regulars were greeted as old friends.

The locals or regulars seemed to eat off menu. On my first night, a table of ten was served a leg of roast pork. I inquired and was told it had been slow roasted for ten hours.

I was then asked would I like to try.

I said yes, and was served a couple of slices of the roast pork with small, diced roast potatoes. It was excellent.

Roberto and his chef clearly took a great pride in what they served, and were very happy to sit and talk about the food if you showed an interest and they were not too busy.

One evening Roberto showed me two photo albums of cultural events where food was served, one location being the Villa Bianchi.

I was very much reminded of Nicolas Tavern in Protoras in Cyprus where Nicolas takes a great pride in the food served.

One night Roberto told me he had something special. I assumed he was going to tell me of a special dish and ask would I like to try. But no, Monetegrappa had booked a table for ten and had as their guest of honour Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

A great honour indeed for Roberto and Ristorante Alla Corte.

On the evening everyone was spruced up, but sadly it never happened. One hour before they were due to dine, Montegrappa called to cancel, Paulo Coelho’s flight had been delayed and he would not make it in time for dinner.

I ate there every night, not Monday as it was closed. Monday night I ate at a medieval Venetian castle at a St Joseph’s Day party, guest of Paulo Coelho.

My last night I did not enjoy. Roberto was absent and I do not think the chef was there either. The service was not as good and I did not enjoy my meal (though it may have been because I was not feeling well). My Japanese friends said their meal was good, shellfish with spaghetti. I barely touched mine. I emptied my plate onto Mio’s plate, she ate it and said it was good.

On my first night I was treated by Roberto to a glass of grappa, from Poli, a local speciality. I did not like it, and spent the rest of the night politely sipping.

Slow Food, as an alternative to fast food, was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986.

Slow Food has expanded to become the all embracing Slow Movement, which includes Slow Money, Cittaslow, Slow fashion, Slow music.

Slow Movement embraces local, seasonal food, local culture, local seed varieties.

Although not part of the Slow Movement, what Roberto and his colleagues were doing was something similar, cultural events that celebrated local food, local customs.

Sadly we did not see Roberto to say goodbye. He was in Brussels helping to prepare a Gala dinner for over 700 MEPs!

Villa Bianchi

March 29, 2012
Villa Bianchi - Bassano del Grappa

Villa Bianchi - Bassano del Grappa

You do not expect to wake up the morning, look outside of your bathroom window and find across the road an Italian villa, a Palladian villa.

I knew it was big, but it was not until later in the day when I walked into Bassano del Grappa after a three-hour walk along the river in the morning, I appreciated how big, or how splendid. My view earlier from my bathroom window was end on.

What I was looking at was a 16th Italian villa designed by the Venetian architect Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio was a Renaissance man. He reintroduced the Roman villa. And that is what I found I was looking at, a Roman villa, collonaded structures, a pond, massive gates, sculptures. Off to one side, forming a wing, a long block, probably once servant quarters, was now lived in.

This block formed one side of a farmyard, which we learnt talking to a local man on our last day, housed a winery.

What must have once been the extensive grounds for the house, now vineyards.

The villa is now boarded up, though Roberto, owner of Hotel Alla Corte, told me it was used a couple of times a year for grand cultural events (and showed me an album of pictures of one such event) and said during a visit to Italy, Queen Elizabeth II of England stayed at the villa.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio (1508-1580) got the name Palladio from Pallas Athene, patron of Athena. He was influenced by Vitruvius Pollio, a first century Roman architect whose books, The Ten Books of Architecture, had recently been rediscovered.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio wrote Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, four books on the principles of architecture.

Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio influenced Thomas Jefferson, who in turn had an influence on the design and layout of Washington DC, in particular the Capitol building.

In modern literature, Andrea della Gondola detto il Palladio makes an appearance in The Fire, the sequel to The Eight.

Synchronicity: I was in Bassano del Grappa for the launch of The Alchemist pen by Montegrappa and for a St Josepeph’s Day party. Alchemy is key to The Fire. I was given as a present The Fire at the St Joseph’s Day party.

Hotel Alla Corte

March 24, 2012
Hotel Alla Corte - Bassano del Grappa

Hotel Alla Corte - Bassano del Grappa

My initial choice had been Villa Brocchi Colonna but it was too far out and a little pricey.

I therefore decided on Hotel Alla Corte, a little way out of Bassano del Grappa, but hopefully not too far to walk.

At the time of booking Villa Brocchi Colonna was No 1 on trip advisor, Hotel Alla Corte No 2. They then switched places, Hotel Alla Corte No 1 and Villa Brocchi Colonna slipped down to No 3.

On arrival I was a little disappointed. It was dark, I seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, far further out than I expected and on a busy main road.

I was tired, it had been a long day, and I had been up early with little sleep. I wanted a long soak in a bath to revive.

There was no bath.

A shower did though revive me.

I had a good sized room. The furniture old and solid. A large double bed, of a size for at least three people. A table, with a drawer. Two bedside cabinets with drawers. A low table with shelves. And a very large wardrobe, though strangely only three coat hangers.

In the room free safe, free fridge.

A good sized bathroom, but as already noted, no bath.

All very clean.

As I walked down to dinner, I looked out of a window and saw what I thought was the tower of a castle. Must be Bassano del Grappa, thought I, across the river.

I had intended to go out for dinner, but I was not near anywhere, and as I was to later discover, there is nowhere worth eating in Bassano del Grappa.

I therefore ate in Ristorante Alla Corte, which I noticed was popular with locals, always a good sign.

Many claim to be gourmet restaurants. Few live up to that claim. Ristorante Alla Corte proved to be the exception. The food was excellent and apart from one night when I dined out, I ate there every night.

After the meal Roberto offered me grappa, a local speciality.

Roberto went out of his way to be helpful, as did his staff.

In the morning, in the daylight, I saw my bathroom overlooked Villa Bianchi, a 16th Century Italian villa, my bedroom, ploughed fields and open countryside.

What I had thought a busy main road at night, had very little traffic.

A very quiet, peaceful location.

As I walked down to breakfast, to my surprise, what I thought was a tower, was a nearby church, the backdrop mountains.

The buffet breakfast was a big disappointment. Very poor. Little choice.

Associated with the hotel a little bar cum café, very popular with cyclists.

There is no lounge as such. A couple of sofas in the breakfast room, a couple of sofas in the reception area.

In the reception area some very good books on the locality, including one of stunning pictures of the Italian Alps, and useful literature on the locality.

In the breakfast room, on a table by the sofas, a selection of newspapers and magazines.

Free wifi in the hotel, but no computer. Roberto kindly let me use the hotel computer.

A very pleasant walk into Bassano del Grappa. About half an hour along the road, then drop down to the river and walk along the river with fanastic views along the river and of Bassano del Grappa and its famous bridge, Ponte Vecchio.

Apart from the poor buffet breakfast, an excellent unpretentious little hotel in a good location.

Note: Trip Advisor has made the mistake of lumping Ristorante Alla Corte and Hotel Alla Corte together. They need to separate.

Hotel Alla Corte – Trip Advisor

Thoughts on Bassano del Grappa

March 16, 2012

Very misty in the morning. BA flight from Gatwick to Venice Marco Polo delayed by one hour due to mist, then further delay due to change of take off direction. But why only my flight delayed?

BA flight far better than Thomson Airways, but not in the same league as Turkish Airlines.

Stunning view of Alps, and of Venice as plane came into land.

No 15 Bus to train station, not the airport bus (No 5) which takes to Venice.

Need to buy ticket from a machine before boarding bus.

Not obvious when arrived at station, had it not been for a woman on bus telling me, I would not have got off.

Train to Bassano del Grappa, hot, overcrowded and standing room only. About an hour and 20 minute journey through not very exciting countryside, singularly unattractive countryside.

Venice to Bassano del Grappa by train

Taxi to Hotel Alla Corte. I was shattered!

I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte. Excellent. Many claim to be gourmet, few are.

I saw on arrival (it was dark) what I thought was old buildings of Bassano del Grappa across the river. Turned out to be a nearby church.

Morning to my surpise I look out and see mountains. I am in the countryside outside Bassano del Grappa.

From my bathroom window view of a 16th Cent villa, from my balcony ploughed fields and a hillside.

I take what I thought would be a short walk to establish my surroundings. Turns into a three hour walk along the river. But not in the direction of Bassano del Grappa.

A walk along the River Brenta

In the afternoon I walked into Bassano del Grappa, part way along the main road, then dropped down to the river and walked along the river. I got as far as crossing the covered bridge across the river, but no further.

I was very surprised to find the bridge was cobbled and paved.

I got no further than the other side, then walked back.

I somehow got lost walking back. I missed picking up the main road, but once I realised I was lost, I could see where I was.

Saturday I walked into Bassano del Grappa and spent the day wandering around the town.

A pleasant morning down by the river. Walking into Bassano del Grappa, I relaised how I went wrong the day before.

I found two lovely bookshops.

I got thrown out of the museum for not having a ticket.

Not as sunny or warm as the day before. Afternoon cloudy.

Down by the river very warm and sunny. I walk to the water’s edge and sit on a large rock. Very pleasant.

Paulo Coelho was due to dine where I was eating, but flight delayed.

Sunday. Cloudy, rain forecast for the afternoon. I am so soo tired.

I walk into Bassano del Grappa, along main road, then cut down to the river.

As I am crossing the river a voice shouts out. It is my friend Jane. A couple of other people say hello who seem to know me, but I cannot recall who.

Bassano del Grappa very busy.

Saturday I found a lovely bookshop, a former palace where Napoleon once spent the night. I look in again. The lady shows me a newspaper article about her bookshop. Bookshop is very very busy.

It is good that a large and three other small bookshops can all survive and do well in Bassano del Grappa. But then they do not have as in the UK a publishing industry hell bent on destroying independent bookshops.

Bookshops in Bassano del Grappa

Sunday night my friends from Japan arrive. They introduce me to their lovely friend Mio.

Monday, I take my Japanese friends into Bassano del Grappa.

Monday, it seems everything is closed. We try to find a couple of places I saw the previous day to eat, but I cannot find.

Why is there nowhere decent to eat in Bassano del Grappa? What we find is overpriced and not good. On Sunday I ate in a place just past the bookshop in a palace. I had pasta and it was disgusting.

The day started off very cold. We set off late as it was raining. As we are having lunch, it goes dark, it rains, it pours, thunder.

We now have to walk to Montegrappa. We are due at a press conference for the launch of The Alchemist pen by Monetegrappa. One of the reasons we are in Bassano del Grappa.

It is about a 20 minute walk. We get soaked.

We arrive at the press conference at 3pm just as it starts. It is packed. We somehow squeeze in at the back. We cannot see much, too far back to take photos. I had intended to arrive at around 2-30pm, but I notice had we arrived early, all the seats are taken. I do though notice my friend Elaine has somehow managed to grab a front row seat.

Montegrappa launch The Alchemist pen

Paulo Coelho, who had invited us to the launch, talks about his life, The Alchemist, and says it is the first time he has seen the pen. It has a lot of symbolism.

A man talks about alchemy, goes on and on and on, does not seem to know what he is talking about and in the end is cut off by Montegrappa. All very odd, as the expert on alchemy and best qualified to talk on the subject is Paulo Coelho.

Then a tour of the Montegrappa factory. As Paulo Coelho comes out he greets my Japanese friends and I. We introduce Mio. Had she died on the spot she would have gone to heaven happy!

A Japanese girl’s dream come true

A quick tour of what I learn later is the final assembly of The Alchemist and other limited edition pens, then up to the showroom, where many pens are on display, plus watches. Drinks and eats, then a detailed tour of the factory in small groups, and many thanks to our guide who patiently answered all my technical questions.

Montegrappa factory tour

I notice many of the workers have Paulo Coelho books at their sides. Is this to impress their VIP visitor? I ask. They are all keen Paulo Coelho fans and he kindly signed all their books.

More food and drink laid on, but sadly we have to go. We give our apologies. Too our surprise, Montegrappa lays on a driver to take us back to our hotel.

I notice a few press packs left. I ask if I could please have one. Are you a journalist? No I answer, but widely read. I get handed a press pack.

Back to our hotel, quick change, then back into Bassano del Grappa, to be picked up for a party. The second reason we are in Bassano del Grappa.

Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party at Castello Superiore di Marostica

About half an hour later we arrive at a Venetian Castle. Steep climb up to the castle. A police road block at the top to check we are bonafide guests, then at the top we are greeted by Venetian soldiers holding flaming torches.

We are probably the last guests to arrive. Some sort of pageant is taking place. Stunning views of surrounding countryside. Castle walls lit up.

We are guests of Paulo Coelho at his St Joseph’s Day party in a medieval Venetian Castle!

And what a party it is! Food, dancing, drinking.

Once we are settled at our tables, prayers in many languages. Very moving payer by Yumi on anniversary of Tsunami. One year, one week, one day. Yumi was in tears. Mio and and I held hand. Mio was in tears. I was in tears.

The Narrow Road to the Disaster Zone

Many many courses. Not sure what most of them were. There was also food and drink outside. I was told it was good. I did not have any.

Paulo Coelho explained why St Joseph’s Day Party. This year was special year. Silver Anniversary, ie 25 years, of party, also of the publication of The Pilgrimage.

Just before midnight, Paulo told us to go downstairs for dancing.

Incredible performance by Rudolf Schenker (founder and lead guitarist of German rock group The Scorpions) on guitar (which had been painted earlier by Christina) and Paulo Coelho on guitar and vocals, then joined by Rudolf’s girlfriend on vocals!

All great parties have to end sometime. We arrived back at our hotel 3-30am in the early hours of the morning.

I only had a few hours sleep. I awoke not long gone 6am.

Somehow I staggered down to breakfast Tuesday morning feeling bloody awful. My Japanese friends some time later.

Mio and I went for a walk to a church, then decided to climb to the top of the mountain. It was a lovely walk, very peaceful and quiet. We found spring flowers in the woods, and at least four or five species of butterfly.

In the afternoon we all walked into Bassano del Grappa, our last visit, but too tired.

It was a lovely day, warm and sunny. A pleasant contrast to the previous cold wet day.

And could we find a pizza place to eat? No we could not. Italy and we cannot find Pizza!

Eventually we did, but it was now early evening, we were passed hungry, cold and very very tired.

Why, why, why no decent places to eat, over charging and rip off the tourist.

The pizza was good, but over one third of the bill added as cover charge!

Earlier we had excellent fresh crushed orange juice in a lovely bookshop cum tea shop, but this was three euros for a small glass only two-thirds full.

We look in the large bookshop in a palace. They have a wonderful window display of Paulo Coelho books.

This morning (Wednesday) we caught a train to Venice. For me a half hour visit to Venice, then very sad farewells.

On the train Mio made me lovely origami figures to remember her by. On the flight from Venice I was very uset to find I had crushed them and all I had was a couple of pieces of crumpled up paper.

Synchronicity: We learn to read the signs. On waiting for a shuttle between terminal buildings I noticed the man in front of me had a bag with a Paulo Coelho book. I asked him what it was. It was The Alchemist with a new cover which I had not seen before. The man said he had picked it up on trip to Geneva. Paulo Coelho lives in Geneva! He had never heard of Paulo Coelho before. He asked his colleagues. They had not either. He was enjoying it and was saving the last part for the final leg of his trip to the Isle of Man. He said in the morning he would be going to a bookshop to buy more. I told him of The Alchemist pen. I looked in an airport bookshop. I saw Aleph was now in paperback. It and The Alchemist was joint No 7 (in the non-fiction section!). I bought both as special present for Mio (Aleph has not been published in Japan). It is going to cost me a fortune in postage!