This is the typical Sunday scene in Bra, where – for locals – the second day of the weekend usually means a morning visit to church and long lunches at home with family. On the rare occasion a store is open on Sundays, you’ll be sure to know – a glaring DOMENICA APERTO emblazoned across it, front and centre, at all times.
On arrival to town, I wanted to suss out if there were any grocers nearby I could dash to when in desperate need of weekend cooking supplies.
“Domenica, viene chiesa il negozio?”, I’d ask in my most confident Italian.
A furrowed brow was the typical reaction.
This query I repeated over and over again, never quite understanding the information offered in response – something along the lines of “there are lots of others you can go to” or “there’s one on that street nearby”. Yet the Sundays rolled past, the grocers remained shut, and the people went to church.
One Wednesday, uni classes were cancelled, so we (fellow students Chelsea, Lily, and I) hopped on a bus to La Morra – a stunning hilltop town surrounded by steeply planted grapevines – with hopes of dining at the picturesque Bovio restaurant. Our boisterous bus driver, Marco, dropped us right in front of the remote diner, belting out as we stepped onto the pavement, “I hope he is open for you!”.
CHIUSO IL MERCOLEDI. Closed on Wednesdays.
He was not open for us, this restaurant, as the sign on the gate so bluntly announced. Nor was he chiesa – the term I’d mistakenly used so far in my quest for Sunday food vendors.
La Morra is home to quite a famous chiesa – the Cappella della Madonna delle Grazie on the grounds of the Brunate vineyard. Originally built in 1914, the tiny church was reimagined in 1999 by artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett with bold, vivid patterns.
With Bovio off the menu, we headed off to find this chiesa. The trail seemed clear enough, marked by a sign at a fork in the road – one direction keeping to the main highway, another snaking through the vines. After more than an hour along the asphalt, a friendly farmer informed us our pilgrimage was misguided. La chiesa colorata should be reached via the dirt lane we’d spotted… all the way back up the hill.
I went back to La Morra with Ali a few weeks later, determined to see out the original plan of a lazy hillside lunch and leisurely visit to the chapel. This time, Bovio was not chiuso – it wasn’t chiesa, either – but it was definitely worth the wait.