After spending a few weeks on the Cote d’Azur, I was looking for a getaway that didn’t involve a plane, a train, or crowds; that had fresh air and stunning scenery; and it had to be somewhere I could reach by car within four hours. I found it at La Villa, a 17th century palazzo turned guest house sewn into the folds the Monferatto Hills in the Piemonte region of Italy.
Husband and wife owners Nicola and Chris moved to the area from the UK in 2005 and purchased the meglected 17th century residence with no experience, no Italian beyond ‘grazie’, and with two children, aged eight and eleven, in tow. The family is now as much a part of their new country as pasta and vino, and the daughters, now in high school and college, speak fluent Italian, and zip off with friends on their motorbikes.
“It was a complete change of our life,” confirms Nicola. “It has been a lot of work, but it’s been rewarding too.”
I was traveling with my husband and daughter, and was shown to my room after a welcome glass of prosecco. The terrace suite on the ground floor with, as the name suggests, a large terrace overlooking the vineyards, was huge, with t a sofa bed in the adjoining living room. Each of the 14 rooms, I was told, has some kind of view and I believe it. Every corner of the property seems to outdo another with 360-degree vistas over the surrounding hills and vines of the Piemonte region, with distant views of the Alps.. La Villa is also beautifully landscaped with flowering plants and lavender, and tables tucked into little corners for reading or enjoying an aperitif.
La Villa offers a variety of custom programs throughout the year, like wine tastings, cooking, truffle hunting, or private events. Nicola is also very knowledgeable about local wines and has her own impressive collection, which she’ll happily talk to you about.
I would absolutely recommend La Villa to my friends and family for the obvious reasons—the bucolic setting, the nice rooms, and the friendly welcome—but there is one thing visitors need to know.
While breakfast is served daily on an outdoor terrace, lunch and dinner service at La Villa is limited. Lunch is offered between 12 -3 and is sandwiches or bruschetta, and maybe a salad—unless you order one like I did but it couldn’t be made because the lettuce had turned bad. Dinner is a set menu that changes nightly, generally an antipasti platter followed by a pasta with a choice of sauce, and a dessert. A good selection of Piemontese wines is also available. If you have picky eaters or want more food variety however, dinner at La Villa could be a challenge.
On Tuesdays, the kitchen at La Villa is closed entirely (breakfast is still served), forcing guests out for lunch and dinner. Since most surrounding restaurants are also closed on Tuesdays, it rubbed me the wrong way that La Villa wouldn’t accommodate their captive (and paying) guests by staying open on Tuesdays and choosing a different day to close. Or better yet, why not just offer meals seven days a week in the high season? Nicola had compiled a book in each room listing local restaurants and their opening days, so that helped. And we did end up discovering a quaint little trattoria in main square of the village of Nizza, just 10 minutes away by car, which we really enjoyed.
All that said, La Villa is worth a visit. With little planning (the area is known for its gourmet restaurants) and a sip of some Piemonte wine from La Villa’s terrace, you’ll remember why you escaped to the countryside in the first place.
Rates: From €170- €240 per room, per night
Good To Know: There is a nice pool on the property; free wifi; free parking onsite; the town of Asti is only 30 minutes away; there is a train station in Nizza.
Visit the hotel’s website
Kimberley Lovato is a freelance travel writer and author. Visit her website