It turned out to be two hectic days in Bra. But up until I arrived in Bra, it was a long and tiresome journey that ended well in spite of some Italian lack of structure along the route. I flew in to Turin and must admit it’s not the center of the world. There is a bus service from the airport to the city center, but it also serves as a local buss service, but actually did call on the train station where my train to Alba was parting from. I don’t speak Italian and the Italians don’t speak English; it’s not much more you can do other than fold your hands and hope for the best. Arrived in Alba in good shape and walked the ten minutes it took to my Bed and Breakfast where my arrival came as nothing less than a surprise. But I had my confirmation, so who had to move out, I do not know, but I moved in. Thee was a wait while everything was arranged, during which I was cordially served both wine and a bite. One happy family, but again, no English spoken. Not that I expect everybody to speak English just because I happen to speak it, but I find it somewhat practical, after all. Douce Maison is absolutely recommended if you are happy with a fair standard, clean rooms and a central location across the street from the main church in Alba; ready to be woken up by the church bells at 7 am every morning.
Sunday in Bra
Well, before I actually arrived in Bra I had a marvelous Sunday morning in Alba. Breakfast served outside and then off to the station for the 20 minutes train ride to Bra, only to find there were a few others as well. The railway company had found it convenient to close down the ticket office for the day, so the only opportunity for a ticket was a kiosk at the station with a line as long as an annus horriblus. The combination of a slow working ticket printer and someone at the front of the line with a serious need to ask all the impossible questions about whatever, moved the line into a state of unrest.
For my part it ended when an Italian lady in front of me asked if I was going to Bra and wanted a lift. She had given up the public commute project of the day and decided to go by car. So off we went, only to come half way where we had to park and go by shuttle bus the rest of the way. But at least it worked and I arrived in good shape along with most of the 300 000 visitors that came to Bra during the Cheese 2017 festival. It felt like they were all there on the Sunday. I am an introvert with a somewhat reserved personality so there was not much to do with all there people fighting for room in front of the sales booths. I sneaked in by the side to grab a taster here and there. Was welcomed at the Norwegian stand though, for a good chat. Enjoyed that.
Bra is good for inspiration
There was an extreme amount of cheese there. All from raw milk. Not all of the cheese equally relevant, so many small cheese makers just there for selling their cheese. The Cheese festival is the best farmers market there is around. They’re not particularly interested in talking to me about cheese, they want to sell cheese. So a retreat to the press center for a coffee and the ability to cash in on a few tickets to guided tastings was my reward. More about that later.
It took quite a bit of walking to get to know my way around the town. With so many people in the streets you cannot decide the speed. There are, however, probably a few shortcuts that I have to learn till next time.
Monday gave room for chatting
Markedly fewer people on Monday. Fortunately. A few school classes, that is so, but they are manageable. Monday was the day for talking to producers, affineurs and exporters alike. Some of them I had decided I wanted to talk to, and others were more at random; but no less interesting to talk to than any others. Cheeses I had not tasted before. Of course, 99 % of the cheeses there I had never tasted, which I suppose applied to most people present. A majority of the cheese are local Italian cheeses.
What was special with Cheese 2017 in Bra, was the focus on raw milk and raw milk cheese. Well deserved. All the cheese on offer during the four days was supposed to be from raw milk. Apart from the Norwegian Brimost, a type of brown cheese made solely from goats’ milk. Boiled until it caramelizes. Sweet as it is, very popular among the Italians and other visitors alike.