At the end of the ‘strada delle ville’ (villas road), which runs between Novi Ligure and Gavi, there is a large green house overlooking Gavi grape vines – it is the Locanda La Raia of the Rossi Cairo family. Once an emporium, surrounded by the summer residences of the Genoan nobility, today it is a true haven, which set in an agricultural mosaic of 180 hectares, stands as the architect of the landscape.
Lavender and rosemary. When seen from above, the herb garden at the entrance takes the shape of the veins of a leaf, a new way of reinterpreting the Italian garden. A second garden blends into the vineyards, created according to a concept by the French Coloco team, students of the landscape designer Gilles Clément, and is a sight to behold.
The spa swimming pool stands out in the lawn, while around it, the vines of the biodynamic La Raia farm are rooted in marly soil, producing Gavi DOGC and Piemonte Barbera DOC wines. Cows graze freely in the pastures and the works of ‘Fondazione La Raia’ – three designs by Remo Salvadori are site-specific and blend into the surrounding nature, the multi-colored round hay bales made in industrial straw by Michael Beutler, the ‘Palazzo delle Api’ by Adrien Missika, French artist specialized in the creation of ‘bee hotels’, is a upturned pyramid with over 2,300 holes drilled into a block of luserna stone, offering shelter to pollinators – Albert Einstein believed that if bees disappeared from the earth, humans would only have another four years to live.
Inside la Locanda, hospitality is “slow”, which means real luxury. The old stone fireplace is always lit, when you wake up early in the morning, hoping to spot an African Stonechat in flight. There is no reception in the lobby, just a long white rug and the very best hospitality provided by João and Stéphanie. There is no actual bar; it is organized in a green cabinet in the middle of the living room made up of arches and velvet sofas. The open kitchen of chefs Simone and Valeria is part of the furniture. A slice of cake with oranges and chocolate with tea for a snack, caramelized hazelnuts with coffee. Ancient cereals of single-grain spelt and honey. Maldon salt on home-raised Fassona beef tartar tickles the tongue – when sea salt comes in flakes, it stands for life and health. Upstairs there are twelve bedrooms each bearing the name of a flower, and the wardrobes and chests of drawers are in old Piedmont style, with design pieces, family pictures and books – Italian taste.