By: Claudio DeMarchi
Barolo, Barbera and Nebbiolo wines from Italy’s Piedmont region are certainly well renowned throughout the world and very familiar to this Traveling Golfer.
Although a truffle is a rare edible mushroom that is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, my first thought when someone mentions truffles is that of the chocolate variety. Not having much of a sweet tooth I can’t say that I indulged much into the truffles, but the wine…well that is a weakness and I did have my fair share.
This was the tail end of a 2 week visit to Italy that started in Milan, moved up to Lago Maggiore, over to Lake Como and culminated with 4 days of exceptional golf and a cozy stay at a charming boutique resort and spa, Relais Bella Rosina, about 20KM north of Turin. In an upcoming issue we will cover the other regions that I visited.
The golf in Italy greatly exceeded my expectations. Only the exceptional conditioning even in November exceeded the quality of the layouts themselves. It never hurts to be playing courses that have hosted recent Italian Opens.
So add to the golf, the wine, some of the most delectable food and a spectacular setting at the base of the Italian Alps and there is nothing about Italy not to like.
There are a total of 4 courses within the stone wall complex, that was at one time a hunting preserve, and the beauty of staying at Bella Rosina is that once you get to the end of the stone wall you are at the gates of the resort.
It was a balmy 70 degree Friday afternoon in November when Renato Muscariello owner of Farfalla Tours and I teed it up at Royal Park I Roveri. The Trent Jones Course hosted the European Tours Italian Open from 2010 – 2012. Royal Park was built in 1971 by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and if you know Mr. Jones Sr.’s tracks at all, you know they are laid out to provide a true test of golf. Situated in La Mandria Park provides a natural setting for the gently rolling tree lined fairways, a small but quickly moving stream (the Alps affect) dissects the course on many holes. It’s very interesting to see that the course here provide almost as many ball scoops along the streams as we do sand rakes over here. Add in some strategic bunkering and a few ponds and you have the masterpiece that it is.
The Pramerica Course the second of the Royal Park courses (which we did not have the opportunity to play) is a Dr. Michael Hurdzan design and is also a top ranked course having achieved “Best New Course 2014” by 3 publications: Il Mondo del Golf, Golf Digest and Golf World. www.royalparkgolf.it
After the round it was only natural to have a nice glass of red wine rather than a cold beer in the well-appointed clubhouse. Although most clubs are considered private the playing of golf is open to virtually all who wish to pay. Green fees are generally in the $75.00 – $100.00 range. Not much considering the caliber of golf and exceptional conditioning.
The previous evening was a late one with way too much wine which was topped off with a grappa tasting. I was ready for an early evening. Leaving the course, it was not more than 5 minutes before I was winding my way down the Bella Rosina driveway.
Bella Rosina is a small (25 rooms) 4 Star luxury hotel in the Piedmont wine region, a 20 minute drive to Turin and 15 minutes from the Turin airport. So many people come to experience the Prima Rosa Spa but unfortunately I did not have time…this time.
My early evening plan was going to be grab some dinner at the resort and hit the sack. I did manage to accomplish that but dinner was no ordinary dinner. The resorts restaurant, Gemma DiRosa, is known throughout the region and attracts many locals for dinner alone, often serving up local cultural delights catering to the seasons. Mushroom was this night’s theme. Mmm… I like mushrooms! Although not really looking for something fancy, I went along with the chef’s game plan. I’m glad I did as the presentation was exquisite and the meal had a multitude of flavorgazzams. It was so impressive that I went back to my room, grabbed my camera and we re-enacted the courses that I had eaten through. The entire presentation of the meal will be featured in an upcoming newsletter in the Wine & Nine section along with wine, of course.
Saturday morning Renato’s lovely wife Mary joined us for a round on the Blue Course of Circolo Torino Golf. The Blue Course was the host course for the Italian Open in 2009, 2013 and 2014. Along with the Yellow Course the complex is home to the well-known Italian golf stars Francesco and Edoardo Molinari. The brothers are so instrumental for putting Italian golf on the map. We also had the opportunity to play 9 holes on the Yellow Course and to be honest it too could host an Open!
A Canadian Influence
La Mandria’s Blue and Yellow courses were designed by British architect John Morrison in 1956. In the 90’s Canadian architect Graham Cooke remodelled and established the two, par 72, 18-hole layouts as they are today. The two courses are similar in style, everything is all about the golf. There are no distractions in the unspoiled natural surroundings, majestic old trees and the same stream that dissected Royal Park meanders throughout La Mandria along with its own share of ponds. www.circologolftorino.it/en
I got a little taste of Turin’s downtown on Saturday night, having been lucky enough to be invited along to dinner with Renato and Mary, and we hooked up with their friends Martina and Maurizio in a quaint little restaurant in the heart of a bustling city center. Another delicious meal and more wine…what is there not to like? I will admit though that the most adventurous part of the evening was my driving into Turin trusting only my GPS to get me and my little Fiat Topo Giggio into and out of town!
Turin is currently one of Italy’s industrial centers, part of the so called industrial triangle along with fashion capital Milan and Genoa. Turin is a major automotive and aerospace city in Northwest Italy, with approximately 2.2 million inhabitants. Other than Fiat, which is the 6th largest automotive company in the world, other notable companies include Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and General Motors. The city is an important business and cultural center known for its architecture and numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses and museums.
Turin is a must visit if you are in the area, after all why not?! But for my liking you can’t beat the laid back Bella Rosina experience. A sample 5 day and 4 night package includes: daily breakfast, 2 – 4 course dinners (alcohol not included), 2 tee times for 2 people at each of the respective Italian Open Courses and some time at the Spa at a cost of €680 per person based on double occupancy…or about $885.00US. You can check it all out for yourself at www.bellarosina.it
To round out your Piedmonte region trip or to get yourselves to other parts of Italy, I am sure that our friends Mary and Renato at Farfalla Tours would be more than happy to provide assistance. www.farfallaviaggi.it