“A beautifully restored 17th century palazzo offering glamorpuss rooms and gastronomy in the wine hills of Monferrato”
Today’s villa is pale primrose with blue-grey shutters, slightly shabby in a chic Italian sort of way, and set in a fragrant rose garden, lawns edged with lavender and rosemary, shaded by a row of Robinia trees. The former cascina is now a smart reception-lounge-bar, all raw brick, leather and votive candles, the odd dash of contemporary art. For the Nortons this is home and they are ebullient hosts. There will be a glass of prosecco in your hand before you have time to catch your breath. Sip your drink under a flower-decked pergola, by the pool, or on their rooftop terrace, where you can see rolling acres of Barbera, Moscato and Cortese vines and, on a clear day, a glimpse of the Alps.
- Dreamy rooms and suites - a light and airy mix of romance, comfort, character and country views
- The cool blue pool - a wonderful place to slack out on a sunny afternoon
- A chilled house-party vibe, and a perfect spot for weddings or big family reunions
- Great location in the rustic heart of Piedmont’s wine county; an easy drive from Alba, Asti and Acqui Terme, a daytrip from Genoa, Turin and Milan
- On the subject of local wines, Nicola can talk for England, or even Italy - step into her sala degustazione and get the grape-by-grape low-down on Piedmont’s vineyards
- The restaurant only accepts cash
- You will need a car to get here and to get around
Best time to go
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- Not suitable for babies or very young children
- Closed: December until early March
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
The 15 rooms and suites come in a range of sizes, but each has a different personality; all individually designed around the villas’s original features, and each a labour of love.
Nicola is the designer in the house and she clearly relished the job, trawling antique shops and local markets for the curios and beautiful textiles, the clay pots, Rococo mirrors and unusual one-off pieces of exotic and period furniture that have been used to create a variety of different styles. In her “French Quarter” in the main house, the rooms are all whitewash, creams, dove grey, silver, faded damask and pale painted furniture; others are down-to-earth Italian, furnished with warm wood, terracotta and wrought iron. Some have high vaulted ceilings or bare brick walls; all are light and spacious with interesting beds, quirky details and great views.
We loved one of the Deluxe Doubles with its own front door (and giant iron key) off the garden, travertine floors and a contemporary four-poster bed, draped in wispy white muslin and dressed with a luxurious faux fur throw. The walls are all white, other than a fragment of preserved 1800s fresco; French windows open onto a generous terrace (shared with the Suite next door), and carved doors lead into a large bathroom. The Penthouse, the villa’s original master bedroom, is another stunner - furnished with antique floor tiles, a romantic roll-top tub and a balcony with views of the rose garden. The Junior Suite and Granary Suite are romantic and ideal for cosying up in.
Most of the bathrooms are big and gorgeous, many have large wet-room showers; all have windows with the exception of the rustic Single Room (or, as Nicola calls it, the “emergency double”).
All rooms are supplied with local, hand-made olive-oil soap, generous bottles of Verde shampoo and bath/shower gel, heavy white towels, fluffy bathrobes and posies of flowers. All come with a minibar fridge and hot drinks tray (if you want fresh of milk, just ask).
- Air conditioning
- Central heating
- Coffee / tea making
- Ironing board
- Pool towels
The hotel’s restaurant - La Vie - is an informal guests-only dining room, with views of the garden and pool, offering a simple daily 4-course table d’hote menu. Prepared by Ian Simpson, Tilda Chef of the Year 2014, a typical meal might include a red prawn ravioli with a prosecco sauce, porcini risotto, ragu of wild boar with root vegetables and roast garlic polenta, followed by vanilla pannacotta with Moscato-drenched berries. Dishes vary according to the season, and all are served with a selection of Piedmontese wines.
Breakfast is served in a garden room by the bar, where doors open out onto a terrace (you can eat outside on fine days); expect fresh fruit, cereals, breads, pastries and preserves, hams, cheeses and eggs to order.
If you fancy eating out, a comprehensive list of local restaurants (all tried and tested by the Nortons) is provided in the room. You can, for example, do fine dining at San Marco, a Michelin 1 Star in Canelli (25 mins from La Villa), or cheap and cheerful at Mistral in nearby Bazzana (5 mins). Eat out every day for a week and wouldn’t get through them all.
- Coffee / tea making
- Vegetarian menu
- Explore the beautiful Roman spa town of Acqui Terme (20 mins' drive), the Piedmont equivalent of England’s Bath Spa (with piping hot thermal springs). It’s great for shopping and there’s a weekly market
- Medieval Alba, the centre of the Barolo wine region, is also worth a visit: there are pay-as-you-go bikes for hire in the centre, and in October/November the town hosts an annual 6-week truffle festival
- Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Wednesday morning produce market at Asti (30 mins) - a great introduction to Piedmont’s foodie culture - or come in September for the town's palio (horse-running festival)
- Local towns and villages worth a look include: Nizza Monferatto (7 mins), good for restaurants, shopping and mooching around; the hill village of Mombaruzzo (5 mins), home to the Amaretti biscuit, the Berta Grappa distillery and an excellent Cantina Sociale; and Canelli (15 mins) for cobbled streets and more cantinas
- Wine buffs should make pilgrimage to the hilltop vineyard village of Barbaresco (book a wine tasting in the enoteca, in a deconsecrated church)
- Or enjoy the views from Nieve, a beautiful medieval village with a Castello winery - and perfect for an al fresco lunch
- Longer day trips can take you up to museum-rich Turin (the famous shroud is stored in the Capella della Sindone in the Duomo), the fashion capital of Milan (the drive into the city is not for the fainthearted), or to the coast around Genoa
- During the truffle season (Sept-Nov), you can join a truffle hunt (see Rates), including a truffle supper - the hotel can organise this for you
- If there’s anything else you fancy doing - horseriding, hiking, cookery courses, vineyard tours - just ask. Guests can take part in the chef’s regular Italian cookery courses to recreate dishes at home
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Massage available
- Museums / galleries
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
It’s not overtly child-friendly; children over 10 are welcome and pay normal rates. They can be accommodated on sofa beds in the suites (there is a small supplement), and a baby-sitting service can be provided. Children over the age of 10 can also have their own room.
La Villa sits among Monferrato vineyards, 4km from Mombaruzzo in the Alessandria region of Piedmont, in northern Italy.
The nearest airports are Genoa (1 hour by car), Turin and Milan Malpensa (both 90 minutes), and Bergamo (to the east of Milan, 1 hr 45 mins) for some charter flights.
From southern England, it's a surprisingly easy rail journey to reach the cradle of Slow Food: leave London in the late afternoon, change in Paris and have dinner and an early night's sleep on your way to Milan; then take a morning transfer and be in Turin in time for early breakfast. See the excellent Seat 61 for details. The nearest stations are at Mombaruzzo (4 mins) and Nizza Monferatto (7 mins).
You will almost certainly want a car during your stay: the hotel can arrange for a hire car to meet you at the station. See our car rental recommendations.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Italy and getting around
- Genoa 90.0 km GOA
- Turin 90.0 km TRN
- Beach 100.0 km
- Shops 5.0 km
- Restaurant 3.0 km