A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Longing for Italy

October 4th, 2009

Italy is one of my favorite places to travel.  I have been there a dozen times, but have not visited since I moved to California. I miss it terribly.

I am often asked to name my favorite city in Italy, and I have a hard time narrowing it down to just one.  I love the larger cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice for their architecture, culture, and great food.  But I think I like the small towns best.   They are quaint, warm, and filled with character. I have two favorites that hold a special place in my heart: Bellagio and Ravello.

Bellagio is a tiny town that sits on a peninsula in the middle of Lake Como.  It has a small village square right next to the marina where the ferries dock. Narrow cobblestone streets spoke out from the square and meander up the hillside. The blocks are lined with charming  and unique shops catering to almost every desire. Antique stores, salumerias, boutiques, art galleries, and wine shops will keep you entertained for hours. My best purchase in Bellagio was a wooden spoon made of olive wood, it is a prized possession.

Bellagio

Bellagio

My favorite spot in Bellagio is Villa Serbelloni, a 50 acre estate that dates back to the times of Pliny the Younger. In 1959 the estate was bequeathed to the  Rockefeller Foundation which uses the property as a conference center and a residency program. There are 12 small one bedroom buildings that house visiting scholars, artists and writers that work on projects for two to six weeks. Since most of us are not eligible for such a program, we should be thankful that the estate is open to tours twice a day.  As you begin the tour it looks like a typical walk in the woods, but as you ascend the hill you notice these small buildings that almost blend into the landscape. At the top of the hill the conference center is off to one side, and magnificent gardens dominate the landscape. The path continues up the hill for a couple hundred more yards to the  most spectacular site, a 360 degree view of Lake Como, the alps,  and the nearby towns of Varenna and Tremezzo. 

The lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth. In the morning the serene lake glistens; the royal blue water reflects the sunlight like a mirror. But what makes it so dramatic are the mountains that frame the lake. The hills are bright green and are dotted with Italian Villas painted in warm yellows, ochres and salmons.  Every villa is perfectly landscaped with the most predominant feature being symmetrical rows of cypress and olive trees. No wonder George Clooney has a home there.

Bellagio is in northern Italy, and the food is simple yet delicious. There is an abundance of fresh fish from the lake, pan fried perch being a popular dish. Risotto and a simple pasta of garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes are also  typical fare. If you go, eat at Bilacus, a small  trattoria with a deck overlooking the lake.  You won’t be disappointed.

Next week…Ravello.

5 Responses to “Longing for Italy”

  1. Maureen Ferrari says:

    I so want to go to Bellagio :-) How is the weather in December or January? M

  2. Autumn says:

    Jay and I SOOO miss Italy as well. We have not been since 2005!! We need our Capri fix!
    A

  3. Paul says:

    And the memories just flooded back. The scenery across the lake truly is spectacular. Thanks for the journey. Looking forward to you taking us to Ravello, haven’t been there. P

  4. Ed McAniff says:

    Maureen, Lake Como is great in Spring, Summer , and Fall but shuts down during the coldest months.

  5. Glen says:

    Lake Como sounds so lovely and the picture Ed inserted was perfect. This has the makings of some blog. Spread the word.

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