Milan weekend escape to Brescia

Stay in Hotel L'Alberetta and dining at Michelin starred Da Vittorio and Miramonti (7-8 Apr 2016)

After Florence and Pisa, Y and I continued our wonderful springtime travels to Milan, where we met R at the Milan Centrale to do a nice 4 day weekend escape to Brescia region and the Lakes. After picking up our car from EuropCar, we made our way to the Brescia region, where our plan was to stay 2 nights in the spa retreat L’Alberetta, check out some of the nearby sights around such as Brescia town, Lake Iseo and of course not forgetting some amazing restaurants like Da Vittoria and Miramonti L’Altro.

The exterior of the italian villa – Hotel L’Albereta

STAY 

Hotel L’Albereta Via Vittorio Emanuele, 23, 25030 Erbusco BS, Italy, Tel: +39 030 776 0550, Classic Room cost Euro 443,71 for 2 nights, taxes included

This well known spa retreat that’s had many celebrities from the likes of Sophia Loren to Karl Lagerfeld staying here, is easily accessible from central Milan, just an hour’s drive away. I was curious about this, and it seemed a good place to stay at in exploring Brescia and nearby Lake Iseo. Perched on a hilltop on the left of Via Vittoria Emanuele, it’s easy to get lost in this large 19th century Italian villa, which is almost like a maze with 57 rooms spread across a few floors. Known for their award-winning spa, Espace Vitalité Henri Chenot, you can spend days inside just having massages, to doing even medical and aesthetic treatments for the face and body. Naturally, there’s a gym and pool, and one can even do a wellness retreat package here with dietary plans for a full detox retreat.

Of course, we weren’t planning to be on any detox plan while staying here, but we did make use of some of the spa facilities, since our bodies were definitely in need of some TLC after all the travelling plus skiing so far. The massages are rather gentle, so don’t expect any deep tissue or Chinese tuina massage here, which is our preferred, but the Espace makes for a nice chillout area just to literally do nothing and go between sauna and steam rooms, and I love how they have lemon water for the guests to help themselves to at any time of the day. I wasn’t such a big fan of the room though. It’s a tad too classical looking for me, and given they regarded this time of April still part of winter, there wasn’t any air conditioning on yet, and yet it wasn’t that cold, so we had to sleep with the balcony doors open which is a big turn off for us who love the cold and aircon. My favourite part of the hotel definitely has to be lounging outside the verandah near the Greeneige lounge, having a healthy cuppa tea.

Old pictures frame the walls

Hanging out in the lounge

Lounging outside Greeneige Lounge having a nice hot tea.

EAT

Da Vittorio Via Cantalupa, 17, 24060 Brusaporto BG, Italy, Tel: +39 035 681024. Reservations a must.

Enough about the accomodation and next on the two gourmet restaurants I dined at in this leg of the trip. Our first lunch stop for our weekend escape was Da Vittorio, located in the region of Brusaporto near the historic town of Bergamo, east of Brescia. Thanks to my researching skills, I discovered this interesting restaurant as a good place to stop by for some indulgent lunch.

Can’t wait to indulge in a long lazy lunch at Da Vittorio.

This restaurant seems to be somewhat of a culinary gem in this area. I understood from the maître d’ that it was first founded by Vittoria Cerea and his wife Bruna in 1966 originally in Bergamo town. This new location in this part of Brusaporto definitely provides a perfect location to enjoy the cuisine and one can even stay in the hotel, which is equipped with sports facilities, swimming pool, and with large garden terraces in the grounds. Run by the entire Cerea family, with brothers Enrico and Roberto in charge of the cuisine, it’s definitely no mean feat to keep this going for 50 years and holding 3 Michelin stars since 2010. I was curious about the stars for sure, but reviews from the likes of Andy Hayler definitely made this a rather compelling restaurant to try.

Classical airy interiors 

Tour of the large kitchen

Housed in a lovely large classical room with grand old chandeliers and largely white walls, and patterned ceilings, with large bay windows, the restaurant on the contrary didn’t feel at all stuffy like some of those old school French classic restaurants. Very much seafood centric, they are known especially for their Carte Blanche menu priced at 260 euros, which is made up of 13 courses, largely comprising of the freshest seafood and fish for the day. So naturally the glutton in us opted for this. Overall, the dishes were really well-executed, with interesting flavours and ingredients for some of the dishes, which you can see in the slideshow I placed below. The pace was managed very well and we didn’t feel the course was draggy at all, although we definitely felt immense food coma probably by the time we were done with the last fish course and haven’t even made it to the meat ravioli and pork ribs.  We ended off with a much needed detox tea, which we selected from their impressive tea selection trolley plus of course had to indulge in some of their very fine desserts to finish off including the amazing largest candy floss and special panettone made to commemorate their 50th anniversary!

Amarantha chips with herring caviar and sour cream Parmigianna cheese marshmallow w black salt and meringue Potato inside with the top layer of boiled milk skin with Iranian caviar Salmon tartare with iced rhubarb and cream of mascarpone Angel hair pasta with sea urchin cream Shrimp tail with fois gras sorbet , ginger and carrot sorbet Shrimp tail with fois gras sorbet , ginger and carrot sorbet Turbot fish with artichoke cream and fried artichoke Scorpion fish (head) with tartare in soup and lemongrass Fois gras parfait w mushroom and beef consommé Meat ravioli , black truffle , crumbled with whisky 12 hours slow cooked pork ribs marinated with beer brown sugar and mixed herbs Canoncino - traditional Italian pastry in a canon shape filled with vanilla cream Apple tart with green apple nitrogen and cinnamon ice cream Gioconda - Venice type of panettone to celebrate Da Vittoria's 50 years

Tea service complete with an hourglass.

Gazillion bon bons in this bon bon trolley.

Biggest candy floss I have seen.

Miramonti L’ Altro Via Crosette, 34, 25062 Concesio BS, Italy, Tel: +39 030 275 1063. Reservations a must.

On our second night in this region, we headed to Miramonti L’Altro, another interesting restaurant with 2 Michelin Stars, located 30 mins near Brescia from our hotel L’Albereta. Housed in a cosy neo classical style villa house, the restaurant had an inviting feel.

Entrance of Miramonti L’Altro

Also run by siblings – Mauro and Daniela Piscini, they run this restaurant pretty well judging from the warm welcome, service and food. The kitchen is run by head chef Philippe Léveillé, and he is known for creating Italian dishes with French techniques but with a twist. This was the main reason that drew me to dine here rather than the stars.

After we sat down and observed the menu – there was the a la carte, which we had earlier decided we should opt for that in a bid to not overeat. Then our eyes veered towards set courses – an 80 euros 4-course ‘Classical at Miramonti’, a 100 euros 7-course ‘Seasonal Flavours’ and a 130 euros 10-course aptly titled ‘The Great menu of the Party Day’. Yes, no surprises, greedy us changed our mind when we saw the last menu and decided to go for the ‘party’ all the way – at 130 euros, it seemed really well priced.

The food here is more modern centric, and was always quite unexpected and refreshing in terms of the presentation to the combination of ingredients, which definitely made the dinner all the more enjoyable. It might seem slightly theatrical at first – presenting a green parsley sauce in a “paint tube” for the sardine dish, but the flavours were superb with the fish. Their attention to detail such as the plates is as high as the taste and flavour of the dishes. Out of the entire course, the chicken ravioli was the only dish I wasn’t a big fan of, it was way too rich, almost like a pate in a ravioli but R loved it though.

Amuse bouche - soup with vegetables , oyster and salmon Prawn tartare , oyster with pressed caviar shavings on top, caviar mayonnaise are the dots on plate Sardine, and in the "paint tube" is a parsley based sauce Black cod with mashed potato and black truffle Lobster with cabbage and soy milk Gin fizz with lemon sorbet Foie gras 3 ways - candy with liquid centre, jelly with smoked foie gras and chocolate with hazelnut and foie gras Ravioli with chicken and topped with drizzle of smoked oil Snail course: Sandwich with mozzarella, with snails on side, plus gazpacho with mustard gelato Famous cheese trolley Bon Bons to end off Traditional house ice cream with strawberry and hot chocolate sauce

Their desserts here are simple but good. First, we get indulged in the amazing cheese trolley, so we chose a small portion of the Casoulet and Gorgonzola cheese, which was served with some fig jam, bread, raisins and apple sorbet! Next we had some fun ‘painting’ our own dessert, when we were served with a deconstructed cheesecake, and on a special plate laid a paint brush with small glass ramekins of blackberry sauce, strawberry sauce in a paint tube and cheese cream. When we thought we were so full with desserts, the maitre’d came by and said we had to taste some of their house ice cream. And it’s hard to say no, when a wait staff comes by with a trolley – with a huge dollop of Zabaglione ice cream sitting on a plate just waiting for us.  Drizzled with strawberry and hot chocolate sauce – I felt like a little Hug and Tugs (Baby Care Bears) eating this, it almost felt like a Swensen’s sundae but tasted way better. We definitely had as much fun being delighted in all ways with their food, including ‘playing’ with them.

Creating a funny face with my deconstructed cheesecake.

SEE

Winery tours at Franciacorta Region

Our hotel location made for a perfect spot to venture out and enjoy some of the sparkling wine in the famed Franciacorta region, known to be the leading sparkling wine region of Italy. However, when we we there, many of them were busy or closed as they were preparing for a big vino fair in the following week, so they couldn’t entertain visitors. So it’s best that if one of your main purposes to visit this area is to do some wine tasting, check in with the various vineyards before planning your trip. The good ones to go to as advised by the hotel concierge are:

Ca Del Bosco Via Albano Zanella, 13, 25030 Erbusco BS, Italy, Tel: +39 030 776 6111. Must reserve ahead of time for tour. Received many awards for their still and sparkling wine from Italian leading wine magazine – Gambero Rosso. I was more keen for a visit to their winery as they are known for many modern sculptures and artworks in the space, which makes the visit only all the more interesting. Tripadvisor seems to have mixed reviews on the winery’s tasting tours, so I really can’t judge or comment on that.

Berluchi Piazza Duranti, 4, Borgonato BS, Italy, Tel: +39 030 984381. Must reserve ahead of time for tour. Berlucchi’s two staple wines are made from the classic sparkling wine grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They do tours of the cellar, vineyards and I heard their winery tours are pretty informative. Pity we didn’t get to go.

Passing by some of the neighbouring vineyards on route to L’ Albereta.

Lake Iseo

The other sightseeing task you could do only absolutely if you are bored out of your mind is to go to Lake Iseo. I am not going to write a glorious review of this place, more like I am gonna warn you to only come to this lake if you are really bored to tears with nowhere else to go. I was clearly lured by the glorious reviews I saw on the likes of Telegraph and other top notch travel websites who lauded it as the hidden gem – a tiny lake located between Lake Como and Lake Garda. But it was super underwhelming, I think it’s still years from becoming anything like a Lake Como.

We had booked lunch at Ristorante Locanda Al Lago (Località Carzano, 38, 25050 Monte Isola BS, Italy, Tel:+39 030 988 6472), a simple casual restaurant known for their fried lake fish, and decided to check out this little lake. You can take the Navigazione Lago D Iseo (see here for stops and timetable) – the ferry which goes through the island, which is what we did. We decided to walk from one of the landing points to the restaurant, which hmm was probably not calculated well, as we took almost an hour on foot to walk to the restaurant. The restaurant was decent but definitely didn’t deserve us walking that long to get there. I think the only lovely thing I got out of this visit was some of the beautiful pictures I took here.

First glimpse of Iseo from the ferry. 

At least take some nice photos even if I didn’t like this lake.

Seafood stew with some bubbly.

Last views of the lake!

SHOPPING

So in case you are sick of sightseeing, you are wondering where can you possibly go get some retail therapy? Well, from my 2 days worth here, here’s what I managed to shortlist.

Franciacorta Outlet Village Piazza Cascina Moie, 1, 25050 Rodengo-Saiano BS, Italy, Tel: +39 030 681 0364
The most exciting store here for us, was Richard Ginori – well known for their handcrafted porcelain tableware, which coincidentally the few of us were ogling and oohing at it in the grand boutique in Florence. So Y was super excited to find it here. If you love your porcelain, this is probably the only shop I think worth coming to in this village. Of course the variety was not as abundant or current as what was in the main boutiques but we still managed to purchase 2 large lovely white porcelain plates. The rest of the stores here are more run of the mill casual sports brands like Nike, Adidas, Levis, you get the drift.

Franciacorta Outlet Village

Brescia Landmark: Piazza Paolo VI, 25121 Brescia BS, Italy

Next for shopping then is to head to the city of Brescia if you want some kind of modern civilisation. Don’t expect anything like Milan shopping, although you could find smaller boutiques of Italian brands like Tod’s, as well as high street brands like Zara located around here. The Duomo Nuovo serves as a good place to park and start your walk from to the various streets near here such as Corso Palestro, Corso Zanardelli and Piazza della Loggia. A pity we only had 2 hours here, so it’s hard to advice thoroughly what’s available.

Duomo Nuova in Brescia.

In my quest to discover random new places in the world, I was glad I came to this part of Italy, but I can say that I wasn’t that stoked about the whole place. Lake Iseo was really lack lustre, Brescia as a town seemed okay but I can’t say there was anything I particularly liked about it that I would come back to it. I think possibly the vineyards could have been nice if I managed to tour them, and definitely the best thing from these first 2 days were these 2 degustation meals we had and staying in a spa retreat at Hotel L’Albereta though yes the rooms were not my cup of tea. Wait for my next post on my part 2 of my weekend escape where we head to Lake Garda – did it measure up to Lake Como?

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