If you know where to look, off the beaten track locales are a-plenty in this country. We come across them all the time on hiking trips, Sunday drives, food festival outings and even by word-of-mouth, but what I’d like to start exploring and adding to these pages are a few of the places mentioned in i borghi più belli d’Italia – the most beautiful villages in Italy. The website (also in english) lists locations in criteria of history, art, culture and traditions, and does a fine job of giving pertinent info without sounding like a textbook. As an added plus, it describes local products and dishes that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the area. Here’s a suggestion for a ½-day tour that is within a short distance from Lecco or Bergamo.
Cornello dei Tasso – birthplace of the first italian mail delivery system
Located less than 20 miles north of Bergamo and east of Lecco, it’s best to take the SS470 by way of Bergamo to Camerata Cornello (right exit just before the tunnel). Historical detail for Cornello dei Tasso is under the listing for Lombardia. This tiny village can only be reached by foot; to get there, look for the signs pointing to Museo dei Tasso. At the end of the road lies a small parking area and the short path begins from this point. Stone arcades and a cobblestone street are one of the main features that draw attention from photographers, and I had the feeling of being smack in the middle of a medieval setting for a movie!
Continuing past the village, the almost level trail through partially-shaded woods leads to the hamlet of Oneta; about 35 minutes. It’s said to be where the masked character of Arlecchino (Harlequin) was born and a museum is named after him. Taverna Arlecchino serves up some tasty food from what we were told, but we turned around and drove to nearby Val Taleggio in search of the local cuisine. Note: there’s a place to eat in Cornello named Trattoria Camozzi, but as they did not allow dogs or served meals outdoors, we had to find lunch elsewhere. Their suspended sign looks so promising!
You must try schisöl
Also spelled without the “s” in front. We chanced upon Albergo della Salute’s restaurant in the Taleggio valley and schisöl was on the menu. Okay, I know a pronunciation is in order but this is hard because it’s dialect so here goes: shki-suhl. Now say that 10x real fast. It’s taleggio cheese wrapped in polenta and heated over coals or on the stove. You can see just some of that cheese oozing out in the photo, and it came served with a saute of wild forest mushrooms. It was so GOOD! Taleggio is a soft, buttery cow’s milk cheese – great as part of a cheese tasting – but this is the first that I’ve heard of it being enveloped in polenta.
The meal got even better with a plate of cured meats (prosciutto, pancetta, salame), served with a trio of pickled and oil-preserved veggies. For non-carnivores, vegetarian options are also on the menu. I liked the cheese plate of branzi, strachitunt and taleggio (clockwise from top in the image below). Yes we cut off the crusts, and ate the cheese with thick smears of honey and wild cherry preserves. Fruit and cheese…what a combo. A ¼ carafe of bonarda wine to complete the meal and for the finale, a slice of rose cake (I think it was more for the uneven design on top – there was no rose syrup flavor that I could determine). Espresso to close the feast before heading back home to the chestnut forest.