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

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

“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?

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

8 thoughts on “Unforgettable Italy: Hiking, Polenta, Lake Como, and the Italian Alps

  1. Spent my 20th summer in that area. One day we hiked up a valley and encountered tiny, hard-working strong locals who seemed to have walked out of an ancient tale. Loved this, as usual!

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  2. I love your photos- I’ve been to Milan and taken the train past Lake Como- I actually have family there but have never visited. Polenta- yes! One of my all time favorite foods, especially the way my Italian grandmother used to make it.

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  3. I have not yet travelled to this part of Italy. But have spent time in a villa in Tuscany and spent time in the three big cities, Venice, Florence and Rome. It is a wonderful country, full of wonderful people. I have a celiac daughter whom we travelled with and in Venice we found Black rice cookies, scrumptious! And have found that if you bring your own pasta to some small establishments they will cook it and add their fresh sauces Polenta is one of my favourites. I cook it in milk and it is a wonderful base for roasted vegetables as well as a perfect side with salmon! A touch of maple syrup adds the Canadian flavour that complements sockeye salmon!!!
    I look forward to seeing more of your photos. Cheers

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  4. I’ve had two completely different trips to Italy. The first was with a tour group, and we hit most of the major cities and tourist attractions. Venice and Capri were my favorites that time. The second time I was off the beaten path looking for the village of my ancestors. We spent a night or two in the car because we couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. Finally found the village, had the best meal I’ve ever had in Italy, and even found a relative (my grandmother’s 1st cousin.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t communicate much with him. (I was dying to ask lots of questions about the family.) I would love to visit again some day.

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