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Off the Beaten Path

In front of the home of the first Ceramic’s Artist Pirota

“How did you hear about Brisighella”?

Claudio has asked me this after taking me to his farm where he produces wines – we are tasting some of the wine under his label.

I’ve been asked this several times since rolling into town yesterday.  I think being American surprises people – they don’t get Americans here very often.  There are not very many visitors here … period.

And this is a beautiful town that would love to have the attention and publicity – and tourist income – of Tuscany.  It actually looks a lot like Tuscany and is only 20km east of the boundary, and has the rolling hills and vineyards and olive groves and medieval towns.  But they also have fields of peaches and apricots and kiwis.  It has castles and history.  It has national parks with hiking and mountain biking and rolling roads that are an athlete’s dream.

I’m in one of the true culinary centers of the world.  Incredible food, in a town with the slow pace of generations, still waiting to be discovered and wondering why the rest of the world doesn’t know about them.

Modern ceramic decorating the side of a building

But I’m selfishly glad to have this beautiful place without the herds.  In fact I like this town so much I changed all my plans and am staying put till I have to get to Rome to catch my flight.

Today the very friendly hotel arranged for a local wine grape grower to pick me up and take me to his farm. Claudio drove me to a beautiful farm that was also the home of the first ceramics artist in the area – and the ceramics of nearby Faenza are world famous.  The remnants of the home of Pirota still remain on the property and the wine labels sport images of some of his pieces.

In fact one piece of ceramics has two plates left in the world – on in the British Museum and one owned by a lawyer in Faenza.  The British Museum refused permission for Claudio to use the image on his wine.  The lawyer granted it in trade for a bit of wine every year in return.  That’s Italy – right priorities!

Claudio’s Label:  Ca’Pirota

The farm is surrounded by grape vines – old vines 35 years old and they are huge.  He produces Sangiovese – which is basically the national wine of Italy – a beautiful red that is made for food.  but he also produces a couple of white wines that are specific to Romagna … Trebbiana and Albano.  I like them all, but the Albano is particularly good, and a bottle of that will be in my Panniers when I ride out of here.  (And I might regret that climbing the mountain I plan to climb on Monday morning as I head West toward Florence on the old Roman Road).

Claudio has a winemaker who creates the wines for him using his grapes.  What started out as a retirement enterprise has become a second career – like many winemakers I know back in Washington who leave their professional jobs and turn to wine and the land.

After 2.5 hours with Claudio, I came back and hiked up into the hills to the castle, the church and the watch tower that are perched on the three rocky cliffs over the town.  Walking further takes you into a park with views for miles of the valleys below with their patchwork of fields and bright yellow and red and purple wildflowers.

The church, castle and watchtower from the mountain behind Brisighella

There are not very many places I’ve visited that I would choose to come back before traveling elsewhere.  But I could happily rent a house here and spend more time exploring and cycling and eating.  And I’m glad I ventured up the road and decided to stay in a place that’s nowhere in the guidebooks.

Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA