The Nicola family, art restorers in Piedmont truffle heaven
Hidden in the hazy and magical atmosphere of Monferrato, near the Langhe hills in Piedmont Region, a special laboratory owned and led by a single family, the Nicola, restores the most important art masterpieces of Italy and, possibly, of the whole world.
Tiziano, Tintoretto, the golden boat that used to carry the king of Italy from the capital of those times, Turin, to Venezia along the Po river: in this beautiful village house on the border with a private wood (where the old patriarch, Guido Nicola, used to go searching for truffle with his dog), many of the most precious and famous pieces of art from the Egyptian mummies to the Renaissance masters have spent their convalescence in the last 40 years.
The house where the family still lives is near the huge but yet secret and disguised in a thick ivy wrap laboratory. The feeling that you have walking through their garden is a perfect example of blending tradition and innovation, between the aroma of roasted chestnuts and the light of computer screens flashing from the end of 20th Centuries floor to ceiling windows.
Here the Nicola family welcomes very good friends and some guests that can book a private tour through their magical working and living place. Security issues prevent them from opening their doors to random visitors, but the Nicola family is very generous when you get to know them and their amazing story better.
When I first visited them in Aramengo, five years ago, I was shown around the laboratory where they keep thousands of natural pigments, to match the colors of the original painting, brushes and other materials but, first of all, the most updated and precise technology to investigate the pieces before any intervention is even planned. The only other reality that could compete with their unique expertise is the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (National Restoration Center) in Rome, financed by the Italian Government.
After our first encounter, I have never missed the chance to ring the metal bell on the gate covered with dark green ivy every time I pay a visit to Langhe. In November, the clou of the truffle season, I usually like to stop and have a tajarin (local thin tagliatelle) with butter and truffle at Cannon D'Oro in Cocconato D'Asti, nearby Aramengo, where I can experience the real local truffle tradition: basic recipes and stunning flavour.