“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir

A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful privilege of traveling to Italy and spending a week in the shadow of the Italian Alps along Lake Como. The people, the food, the wine; the sunshine and lake breezes and bells clanging in the campaniles; all were unforgettable, magical. I have come to realize even if I breathed every breath in my lifetime in Italy, the time would not be enough to take all of its goodness in.

Now home, back in Ohio, U.S., I look back and savor many of the experiences. But one day on this trip, the simplest things filled me up, all on a hike up into the mountains surrounding Lake Como.

Unforgettable Italy: Hiking, Polenta, Lake Como, and the Italian Alps

From Menaggio, the road toward Lugano, Switzerland, leads up into the mountains. We began at a small village for which we didn’t even know the name, simply that we could park the car, find a trail, and begin, up. The morning along the lake was hot, and the path into the mountains was cooler, covered with tall grass and loose rocks, and passed through shady forests and along ancient rock walls.

Italy and Lake Como area map

Italy and Lake Como area map

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy — gorgeous beside the Alps, hot in the summer sun

 

Rock walls everywhere along the trails up into the mountains

Rock walls everywhere along the trails up into the mountains

 

For part of the way, we hiked through a pasture where cattle grazed. Giant metal bells hung from the cows’ necks and clanked as they shuffled along, chewing grass, swatting at flies with their whip tails.

Walk along a farm trail, above Lake Como, Italy

Walk along a farm trail, above Lake Como, Italy

Mountains above Lake Como, Italy

Mountains above Lake Como, Italy

Crotto Buba

One of the greatest treats while hiking up and up is to find a place to return to for food. We were not sure we would find a place to refill for water, much less a place which served up spectacular food along with great views.

We passed this place, Crotto Buba, and smiled, knowing we would return hungry. When we stopped for lunch, tired and starving, we discovered local families and groups of workers filled every table. To me, the more local the place and the less English they speak, the better. In this case, this was true, too.

Crotto Buba, above Lake Como, Italy

Crotto Buba, above Lake Como, Italy

Polenta

I have Celiac disease, which means I use the phrase Senza Glutine frequently in Italy.

Most of the time, if a local restaurant or osteria offers risotto, a traditional meal based on rice, I am lucky and very happy. But at Crotto Buba, their only non-gluten meal was polenta.

I ordered it, not expecting to have one of the best-tasting meals I can remember. But it was.

In the photograph below, the polenta doesn’t look like much. Creamy cornmeal, at most. I don’t know if I loved it because I was eating outside overlooking Lake Como far below, or if the cheese and olive oil and polenta were simply the perfect blend baked in its own cast iron dish. But this polenta, I will never forget.

Best Meal Ever, Crotto Buba, Grandola Ed Uniti, Italy

Best Meal Ever, Crotto Buba, Grandola Ed Uniti, Italy

Hiking into the Italian Alps

One of the animal friends along the way …

the locals

the locals

I love the local villages, the steps and narrow alleys and doorways, and the black cat who followed us.

streets of the village

streets of the village

Light and shadows

Light and shadows

 

Hat, camera, hiking boots: check!

Hiking on a hot day — hat, camera, hiking boots

The View of Lake Como from the Italian Alps

All photos above have been taken on my iPhone, and one below, from my Nikon. I took thousands of photographs on my full-frame Nikon while in Italy … but they take quite a while to get through. :)

Every time I have traveled to Italy, the country, its people, its natural beauty, and its food and drink have been beyond compare. This trip was the same, and even more unforgettable in every way.

Lake Como, the view from the Alps -- sheer beauty

Lake Como, the view from the Alps — sheer beauty

Have you traveled to Italy? If so, have you tried polenta? What did you think?

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