Albergo Cantine Ascheri, Bra, Italy

The location

On a tour through Piedmont, it is most in the spirit of the trip to stay in a hotel where the local industry pervades your visit – and on this count, the hidden treasure of the Albergo Cantine Ascheri does not disappoint. Located in the amusingly-named town of Bra, in Italy’s Barolo region, the hotel is quiet even in what might be considered high season by most (although in fact the area is busier during the autumn months), which at least virtually guarantees a good night’s sleep. The hotel is situated atop the Cantine Ascheri winery (of which we were lucky enough to receive an excellent tour), and across the courtyard from the Osteria Murivecchi, a restaurant serving high-quality local fare. A short walk away from the town of Bra itself, the hotel also comes with its own ample (free) parking.

The room

The wine theme starts off directly in your room thanks to a gift of a bottle of wine from the Cantine Ascheri winery, with glasses and a corkscrew made available should you wish to start drinking right away (although you are of course welcome to take the bottle home with you as a souvenir). Apart from this, there are sadly no tea and coffee-making facilities in the room, which are easy enough to provide and greatly appreciated (although it’s easy enough to see that this wouldn’t fit in so well with the Dionysian feel of the place). The rough wooden finishes (such as on the chest of drawers where the wine bottle is placed) are accompanied by more modern touches, including an appropriately equipped bathroom (with power shower), comfortable bed, and generously-sized wardrobe. If you don’t feel like relaxing in your room, the plush reading room (with its generous selection of Italian and English reading materials) and the sunny terrace (both on the first floor) are also available.

The breakfast

Quite good by continental standards, offering a selection of locally-sourced cheeses and cold meats (including the Bra sausage…underwiring not included :p ), decent espresso, and a variety of delicious cakes. Quality did vary in some respects, with the juice and chocolate (yes, there was chocolate at breakfast…no, don’t ask me why) falling short of expectations. As there were few guests in the hotel, we suspected that some of the food had been left in situ for a while, as indicated by (for example) the stale bread; however, there was more than enough to make up for this in the way of other dishes on offer. Bizarrely, breakfast is served in a sometime conference room, as indicated by the screen and projector equipment. At other mealtimes, there is always the self-service bar outside the breakfast room, which functions using an honesty box-style system. The breakfast room itself is also sometimes used for dining at other times (perhaps during their high season) and, as mentioned, there is always the popular local restaurant across the way, which is managed by the same family and from where it is easy to charge meals to your room (we even had our dinner included in our package for the first night).

The price

At €128 per night for two people, including a dinner for two (with a generous wine allowance), a winery tour, and breakfast on both mornings, suffice it to say that this oasis of calm, rooted in terroir, represents an absolute steal in terms of value. Would undoubtedly return.

Via Piumati, 25
12042 Bra (Cn)

http://www.ascherihotel.it/welcome_eng.lasso

NH Santo Stefano, Turin

The location

Conveniently situated a few minutes’ walk from Turin’s buzzing city centre, the advantage of the short walking distance lies not only in being able to burn off some calories from the gelati you’ve consumed, but also in the fact that it’s significantly quieter at night. To help you relax upon your return, the hotel does have a steam room (although it was sadly closed during our visit). During the day, all of Turin’s main attractions are easily accessible on foot from the NH Santo Stefano, and it also faces the attractive San Giovanni cathedral. Turin’s strong architectural history is reflected in the unique wooden beams and circular structure of the hotel itself. Furthermore, the establishment offers a convenient underground car park (albeit for a nominal fee), meaning that you can be on your way again straight away when you need to, confident that in the meantime your vehicle has been stored securely.

The room

Despite its slightly confusing Keycard system (which is almost too secure; you practically have to throw your entire body weight at the door to get in), the rooms are of a good enough size with comfortable beds, which draw you in thanks to their clean white linen. Wifi is easy to set up and is reliable once connected. The bathroom was also modern, even if the hairdryer was one of those annoying types where you have to hold down the button to keep the air flowing. However, this was compensated for by an excellent rainforest shower that had good temperature and water pressure.

The breakfast

Despite the selection of weirdly luminous panna cotta and jellies on offer, there was also a reasonable variety of cereals, pastries, cold cuts, beverages, and cheeses; in short, what you would expect of breakfast in Europe (although parents who don’t want their children hyped up on E-numbers to start the day may wish to look elsewhere). This was convenient and the price was included in the room rate too. For those who fancy eating later in the day instead, the hotel bar is open for drinks and nibbles, and there is also a restaurant (although we sampled neither of these).

The price

Including parking, breakfast and tax, this came to €170 per night for two people. For the location and hotel atmosphere, this to us represents good value for money, meaning we would certainly return during a repeat visit to this beautiful Italian city.

Address: Via Porta Palatina, 19, 10122 Torino, Italy

Hotel Principi dI Piemonte, Turin

The location

After a pleasant journey on a tiny plane towards the small Turin aiport, my suitcase showed up almost immediately on the carousel and I embarked on the usual scary taxi ride towards the city centre.

I was a bit disappointed with the drive through decrepit, slightly dangerous looking suburbs as I did not get to see much of the city centre. I was however to later fall under the dignified spell of Turin, with its large squares, its arcades and its delicious restaurants with the Alps in the background.

The room

IMG_0563I was very lucky to be upgraded to a suite. While the traditional Italian design may not have been my cup of tea, I liked the large shower, the very comfortable bed and the silence. I however found the wifi to be too expensive and I would have liked a bottle of water in the room.

The breakfast

I am yet to find an Italian hotel were breakfast is up to international standards. This one is no exception: they even bring you filter coffee if you are not careful!IMG_0564

The price

For three nights, the bill came to a non-negligible 540 euros. While I will certainly contemplate coming back to Turin for holidays, I will consider other accommodation options in future.

Best Western Hotel Firenze, Verona

The location

The hotel is situated within walking distance to the historic centre. Verona has a very refined feel to it: its streets are clean, although some of its many historic buildings could do with some renovation work. There is also wonderful food on offer if you venture beyond the tourist attractions. I recommend in particular wines from the nearby Alto Adige.

The room

My room was very spacious (about 26 square meters), with wooden floor, a large and comfortable bed (no duvet but no itchy covers), a desk and easy to access although slightly slow wifi. The bathroom was equally spacious, even though the shower could have had more pressure. The room, equipped with proper shutters, was also very quiet at night, although you could sometimes hear water noise.

The breakfast

Quite disappointing; you will have to catch up at lunch as it seems Italians do. Good espresso is of course on offer.

The price

Booking a couple of months in advance, I was able to get my room at about 150 euros a night. In expensive Italy, this makes it quite a good option.