A few weeks ago, I discovered a part of Italy that I had never visited before: Biella. After receiving funds the Local Action Group and Aloha, a travel agency, organised a blog tour called #destinazionebiella. Biella seems to be a bit hidden between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, but it is well worth discovering and it will certainly surprise you.
“Biella, where’s Biella?” A lot of people would ask. you don’t end up in Biella by chance; you have to decide to go there, maybe to visit a specific place, or to eat in a specific restaurant or to sleep in a specific hotel. The area of Biella has a lot to offer, especially if you are looking for a different place to spend (and why not) a few romantic days away, and it’s close to big cities such as Milan and Turin.
I stayed at the Bucaneve Hotel, a very cosy and warm place along the panoramic route of the Oasi Zegna. The hotel is furnished as a chalet, in which you find shelter from the bitter cold during the winter and treat yourself to a hot drink or to the good smell of the essential oils of the wellness centre (the price of the stay includes half an hour in the wellness centre).
The rooms are big but cosy. I found a pretty bag containing typical local products, which of course didn’t last long. How could I resist Canestrelli di Biella (a kind of wafer with dark chocolate) or the original cream of pears and pepper?
On the first floor, there’s a bar, a restaurant and a common area where you can relax and chat until late, sipping a cup of tea or a glass of the local liquor ratafià, and eating paste di meliga (corn flour biscuits). The fire place and the fire’s popping flames were the details I loved the most, as they turned the atmosphere into something magic.
The hotel is almost on the top of the mountain, and normally in winter this area is covered with white and fluffy snow, but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to find any. In the morning, you can admire the awaking valley and the pale pink of the sunrise right by your window. If you want to be more daring you can, as I did with a few fellow bloggers, hike up Mount Marca (1600m) to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain. It was a cool experience indeed, despite my being half asleep and somewhat hungry; but I knew that a huge and delicious breakfast was waiting for me at the hotel!
The area of Biella is widely known for its industries. I visited the house of Ermenegildo Zegna, a very important fashion brand. What I particularly appreciated was finding out that Mr Zegna had a forward-looking mind and really loved his territory; he was, in fact, a great philanthropist. Earnings weren’t his only goal in life: he cared about the environment (he planted 500,000 conifers in the surrounding area) and the wellness of his community (he built schools, a hospital, a swimming pool, and a panoramic route). Nowadays, his heirs are following his footsteps, they promote education giving scholarships and support a WWF project in China.
I spent three very full days there, in which I did many different activities and tasted the most delicious local dishes. This blog tour was special because of the relationship born among us bloggers; We chatted for hours and hours, laughed a lot, and told each other about our travels and plans. Another unforgettable detail was a surprise that made me blush: I had graduated the day before this trip, and the organizers decided to celebrate it with a cake and a toast with a good bottle of a local wine. (I want to thank the organisers again!!!). The stereotype of the average Biellese person is as not being very welcoming, but this occasion showed me the opposite; they welcomed me and the other bloggers the best they could, and I love surprises!
The Biellese area isn’t just about industry, but also history, nature and architecture. During my stay, I visited the famous Sanctuary of Oropa (Unesco Heritage Site) and the mediaeval fortified storehouse called Ricetto di Candelo, perfectly preserved until now – but I will talk about it in my upcoming posts.