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Today we are traveling to Lago Di Como, located in Northern Italy in the Lombardia (Lombardy) Region. One of the things I found most interesting about this area is that I started Ciao Amici’s Northern Italy trip in Milan, a crowded, bustling city, and within an hour’s drive, I was in a completely different atmosphere at this beautiful lake area.

The hotels on Lake Como are very expensive to stay in, especially in the town of Bellagio, so instead I stayed in the City of Como. It was such a nice surprise, the city was beautiful. Como is a modern city with walls surrounding the older, inner city that has narrow cobblestone streets. It is like a city within a city. It has the feel of the town of Lucca and it’s like stepping back into medieval times. It was the perfect location because it was just a few steps away from the ferry that could take you to the beautiful Lago Di Como (Lake Como) but it was also less crowded and less touristy and certainly less expensive.

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The lake itself has an interesting shape.   It is said to be shaped like a ballerina. When I visited in January, I took the funicular to the top of Brunate, a local town, for a fantastic view of the lake.  It was chilly and getting a little dark.  There were not many people around and there was only one café open.   I sat down while they brought me blankets to keep me warm and a delicious Vin Brulè ( mulled warm wine).   The view was spectacular.  What a magical time!

Later when I went back again in July, it was a completely different feel yet still beautiful. It was hot, certainly more crowded and there were amazing flowers everywhere.

It is easy to take the ferry between towns on the lake. Bellagio is the affluent town where some of the rich and famous reside. It is definitely more touristy, but very beautiful. Varenna is Bellagio’s cousin and equally as beautiful, but smaller and less touristy. Both places have flowers everywhere you look, especially lavender.

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While I was there, I was able to take a cooking class with a well-known chef in the area. He had renovated his grandparents old farm house and turned it into a restaurant. He kept part of the farm land to grow fresh herbs and vegetables so before the cooking class we were able to go out and pick what we were about to cook for lunch. Truly farm to table! Where the cooking lesson was given, there were huge wheels of cheese all around, which we sampled while sipping delicious wine. We made pasta during the cooking lesson and then we were able to eat what we prepared in the lesson for lunch. While we were there the Chef told us a story about a monster in the lake. The story goes that sometime after World War II, two fishermen were out in the middle of the lake and saw some type of monster that was 10 meters long, which the locals call Lariosauro or Larry for short.

I hope to return to Lago di Como someday and perhaps see Larry. But for now here is the recipe for Vin Brulè to give you the feel that you are actually there.

Vin Brulè

  • – 1 litro di vino rosso | 1 liter of red wine;
  • – zucchero 100/200 gr (io ne metto 100 gr. | Sugar 100/200
  • – mele rosse 2 | red apples – 2
  • – scorza di arance 2 | Orange zest- 2
  • – scorza limone 1 | Lemon zest 1
  • – stecche di cannella 2/3 | Cinnamon sticks 2/3
  • – chiodi di garofano | 6 cloves 6
  • – Noce moscata q.b (Io ne metto metà) | nutmeg to taste (i put half)

A piacere aggiungere | If you like, you can add:

  • – Bacche di ginepro | 6 Juniper berries – 6

Variante per bambini | For children

  • – Sostituire il vino con il succo di mele | Replace wine with apple juice
  • – Lavare le arance , il limone e togliere la buccia | Wash the oranges, the lemon and remove the peel
  • – Lavare le mele e tagliarle a rondelle sottili | Wash the apples and cut them into thin slices
  • – Porta ad ebollizione il vino | Bring the wine to a boil
  • – Aggiungere tutti gli ingredienti e lasciare bollire per 15 min |  add all the ingredients and allow to boil for 15 min
  • – Servirlo ben caldo | Serve it hot

Alla salute