Lake Como is shaped in an upside down ‘Y’ and is one of the larger lakes in Italy. It’s shores are dotted with villa upon villa belonging to the rich and famous. Even the Hollywood clan has been spotted vacationing here. George Clooney owns a house in Bellagio and is photographed frequently on his motor bike as the many paparazzi snapshots displayed in shop windows testify.
Bellagio is on our destination list and the narrow winding road that leads there has some spectacular scenery. The “Pearl of the Lake “as it is known locally has many claims to fames. It shares its name with the well-known casino in Las Vegas that was inspired by the village. A scene in one of the Star Wars movies was also filmed here.
Arriving in Bellagio after a 32km scenic drive initially seems somewhat of an anti-climax. Having visited the area before in high season the memories that was left was that of a bustling energized village with 180 degree steps winding up from the central square in every direction. Every shop keeper would be outside peddling their wares.
This is not the picture that greets us. We are visiting out of season and it is clear that Bellagio is slowly awaking from a winter slumber. The streets are literally being unpacked (extensive paving is being done for the tourist season) and only a few small cafes are open. We practically have the whole village to ourselves. What a joy, we have a quick Panini (sandwich) and espresso at a street café, buy a take away gelato (ice-cream) and wander the streets and alleyways unhindered.
After exploring Bellagio we head down the other leg of the ‘Y’ in search of a town called Gardone Val Trompia. If this name rings a bell for you, you will definitely know what I am about to say next. Gardone VT is the home of the Beretta factory and every Beretta is proof marked with the town’s name.
Arriving in Gardone we head straight to the factory were hubby (being an avid gun enthusiast and weapons instructor) has his moment of Italian heaven. Beretta dates back to 1526 and the Beretta family are currently still directly involved with the factory. Even though the brand has major international status and various military and law enforcement contracts, they still want to make themselves approachable to the man on the street. Hubby is welcomed with open arms and on showing them his credentials he is escorted on a mini factory tour as well as a viewing of their in-house collection. His experience is complete when we visit their merchandising facility and he gets to go home with some lovely Beretta goodies.
That night we book in at the local hotel in the neighbouring village and probably have one of the best totally unexpected (since this is not predominant culinary country) meals of the trip so far. It is not the uniqueness of the menu rather than the amazing quality and freshness of the produce the impress. The tagliolini is freshly made with lots of garlic, prawns and spicy ham. We must stop ourselves to lick out the plates and smile as some of our fellow dinners use the bread to mop up the delicious sauce.
A memorable Carpaccio follow topped with rocket and parmesan shavings and you are left to you own devises to dress it with olive oil and lemon. A testimony that simple yet fresh and quality ingredients make a meal exceptional. Hubby opts for the guine fowl casserole served with dainty tomato gratins and enjoys every morsel.
Hotel Marcheno is highly recommended with friendly service, great food and large rooms. Tomorrow we are off to Verona – city of Romeo and Juliet!