by Erin Framel
I landed solo in Milan, feeling like I’d been tossed into another world ~ like Alice in Wonderland except the card guards were replaced by smoothly dressed men speaking Italian to me as if the louder they pronounced their foreign words the more it would make sense. It was all exaggerated hand gestures and flashy jewelry. Designer clothes and sleek leather shoes. This was my first journey to Italy, and naïvely, I guess I assumed everyone here would be speaking my language ~ at least enough to direct me to my driver. But alas, time to embrace the confusion of it all, the thrill of a new adventure!
Finally locating my ride, I was whisked away to Franciacorta. What a peaceful reprieve from the bustle of the big city! I felt my pulse slow, then my heart flutter as the countryside breezed by. Stone villas dotted lush hills; I could already taste the olive oil and smell the ripe vineyard soil.
I met my travel companions at Relais Franciacorta, a quiet hotel hidden in the hillside. Surrounded by woods, I felt safe sleeping each night with my balcony doors thrown open, letting mountain breezes cool my room and nearby church bells and birdsong wake me in the morning.
After a quick unpacking and languorous bubble bath (my go-to jet lag cure), it was time to taste some of that sparkling wine I’d been hearing about. And taste we did! I was delighted from the first drop.
With over 150 vineyards sprawled across Franciacorta, the options are ample, but I must insist that any visitor make a stop at Majolini. Its owners are not only winemakers but also avid art collectors and the property, tasting rooms, and cellars are adorned with an incredible collection of Italian works.
ABOVE RIGHT| Ann Taylor tshirt, Elle Sasson pants, Janessa Leone hat, Ralph Lauren Ricky bag, Coach patent loafers (similar here)
With that first taste of bubbly elixir tickling our systems, we floated our way to il Mosnel, walking on sunshine.
We wandered its expansive gardens, exploring the verdant fields, hidden alcoves and cavernous cellars that had us dreaming of packing up our lives and settling right into this Eden. Paradise found!
We continued the indulgence with an unforgettable lunch at Vistalago Bistrò at L’Albereta hotel. Shamelessly, I spoiled myself with my three favorite Italian dishes all in one sitting: pizza, burrata and spaghetti. When in Rome (er, near Rome), AMIRIGHT?!
Have you ever had a truly life changing cheese? I mean the kind that practically melts on your tongue, has you forgetting your name, makes you want to change the whole direction of your life? This burrata fell into that category. Just the memory, bliss!
ABOVE| Cynthia Rowley swimsuit
We wiled away the afternoon at L’Alberta, unwinding at the spa, floating in its pool, then traipsing all about the property, discovering a new enchantment around every turn. There are cozy indoor and outdoor lounging areas, secluded nooks for dining and drinking, and massive sculptures scattered across the gardens. It’s the kind of place you can’t believe is real.
ABOVE| enchantments abound at L’Alberta BELOW| Cynthia Rowley tank (similar here), Issa skirt, & Schutz sandals
Come evening, we piled aboard a motorboat & zipped across Lake Iseo, enjoying a wine soaked water view tour of the countryside. Popping bottles and leaving bubbles in our wake, we watched the sun sink seductively over the hills.
The lake’s crown jewel is Montisola, a tiny island that’s home to a small fishing village. Accessible only by boat, we docked here to visit La Foresta ~ a restaurant where the menu changes daily based on what was caught fresh off the lake. I don’t recall anyone ever taking our order, but we were blown away by the bounty of creative dishes delivered to our table.
One of the most cherished memories of my Italian adventure was a visit to Cappuccini. Built in 1569, this abandoned monastery has been restored into a hotel and restaurant, yet still maintains a heavily atmospheric, old-world energy. With sweeping archways, clandestine courtyards and cramped corridors opening into majestic dining spaces, there’s a ghostlike aura, an echo of chanting monks and contemplative silence. It’s like escaping into a different time, an immensely peaceful world we’ve sadly lost.We had the pleasure of taking a cooking class with Cappuccini’s Chef, Fabrizio Albini. He taught us how to make pasta from scratch ~ turning flour, eggs and water into ravioli and tagliatelle.After our hard work in the kitchen, we were rewarded with a shimmery, candlelit dinner, an evening of simply perfect pastas, divine bubbly and multicultural conversation. Robin Leach once said, “In Italy, they add work and life onto food and wine.” I’m starting to see it’s a seriously smart lifestyle.CLICK HERE| to revisit Part I of Erin’s sojourn in Franciacorta