Silver Lining Chronicles – Balcony concert

Hi, I’m Fran and I assist Gretchen and Judith on Poggio Verde. I’ve been one of the voices of Poggio on Instagram, the Newsletter and sometimes also here on the blog since October. If you have booked a stay in Poggio Verde this year, it’s highly probable that you know me.

On top of being Assistant, I also happen to live in Nothern Italy.

My beloved country has been under the spotlight more than ever due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We at Poggio Verde want to add something to the news everyone has been reading about the Italian lockdown.

Being indoors for such a long time can get to you, but I am amazed by how Italians have been reacting positively to the lockdown. The internet was flooding with practical ideas on how to go shopping, how to get permission to walk the dog or go care for you grandparents and so forth.

But people have understood from the first the importance of a positive mindset to see it through. So we’ve been deluged online with ideas on how to stay positive, by reading, taking up yoga and listening to music. Still, I guess we all missed the feeling of doing something together physically.

Hence was born the biggest party Italy had ever seen.

And that’s how we ended up, from Milan to Naples, on our balconies singing our hearts out. People played the guitar or their tambourines, others took the opportunity to give us an amazing opera performance, and others just started to sing while hanging the laundry out.

It was meant to boost morale, but it didn’t just do that. We felt connected. We felt alive and happy to be here, safe and sound, still capable of appreciating music and company. If this is not silver lining, I don’t know what is.

For once we have a good reasons to be the “loud Italians” we are. Louder than the bad news and louder than sadness.

Gretchen (on the keft) and Fran (on the right) having a meeting.

Gretchen and Fran having their daily meeting to stay in close to our Poggio Verde friends.

Day in Valtellina: Winemaker Aldo Rainoldi

Eric Asimov, the wine writer for the New York Times, wrote an article a few years ago about a lesser-known wine area in Northern Italy called Valtellina. We decided to check it out with one of our food and wine groups (“Taste of Northern Italy“) and have had the pleasure of returning many times since. It’s a bit longer drive from the villa than most of our day trips, almost 1.5 hours, but well worth it, not only for the wine but also for the beauty of the valley, the medieval castle ruins overlooking the valley, the 19th century grocery store and the restaurants we’ve come to know and love there, especially Ristorante Fracia.

 

Valtellina

The beautiful Valtellina looking west from the overlook above Ristorante Fracia in May. Photo by Austin Mann.

Valtellina shares its northern border with Switzerland, and it looks it. How grapes came to be grown, and wine made, in such rugged territory is quite a mystery. The work involved in terracing the steep hillsides to grow grapes is mind-boggling, but wine has been made here since before the Romans arrived (for over 2000 years). Leonardo da Vinci mentioned Valtellina in his Codex Atlanticus, describing the mountains as “fearsome” and the wines made there as “powerful.” Both are still true!

Valtellina

Walking up from Ristorante Fracia in Teglio toward the overlook

The very steep terraces grow excellent grapes, primarily the same grape used for the famous Piemonte wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, etc.). In Valtellina the grape is called “chiavannasca” and in Piemonte it’s known as “nebbiolo.” We’ve visited several producers, including Nino Negri, Sandro Fay, Ar.Pe.Pe and Aldo Rainoldi, but the one we tend to visit for tours (and for purchasing cases to take home or back to the villa for future enjoying) is Aldo Rainoldi. We have come to know the young current owners, who enthusiastically welcome our groups and many other guests we’ve encouraged to visit. We begin with a tour of the cellars…

 

…and continue with a tasting of four or five of the wines. Most of the Rainoldi wines are made with the chiavennasca grape but they do also make a couple of very nice whites and a lovely sparkling wine and then a visit to the boutique to make our selections to ship home or take back with us to the villa.

 

When we return to the villa, we unload the cases to enjoy during the week or to take to the cantina for aging and sharing with future villa guests.

Rainoldi Poggio Verde

 

Albergo Silvio Restaurant (Bellagio)

One of our “Taste of Northern Italy” groups happened to try Albergo Silvio restaurant in the fall of 2018 and we are so delighted we did! The location is a perfect for lunch. It’s situated overlooking Lake Como and is just a 10-minute walk or so down a pretty path to the south entrance of the Giardini Melzi. The after-lunch stroll to the gardens, and then along the lake into Bellagio, is perfect! (See our recent post on the Giardini Melzi).

The dining rooms are lovely and provide a beautiful setting for a leisurely lunch of local specialties at any time of year.

 

The patio is also beautiful!

 

The food is very tasty (and pretty!), the wine list offers plenty of nice options…

 

…and the service is excellent; professional and friendly.

 

Cheers to discovering Silvio with this lovely group and to enjoying this place and this day and this trip with friends and family!

 

Join us on one of our next “Taste” (or other) trips or contact us for this day’s itinerary to do on your own.

Giardini Melzi – Lake Como

The Giardini Melzi, a few minutes’ walk south of the justifiably famous little town of Bellagio, is a perennial favorite of our guests at Poggio Verde Country Villa.

Our “Bellagio Day,” which includes Giardini Melzi, usually begins mid-morning and includes about a 45-minute drive up the western side of Lake Lecco (the other leg of Lake Como) and over the bump into Bellagio, arriving in time for an early lunch.

We’ve enjoyed lunch at several places in Bellagio but one of our current favorites is Albergo Silvio, which is perched above the Melzi garden. The menu offers a very nice selection of local fish, including the traditional lake fish and rice, and has a very decent wine list. An outdoor patio overlooks the lake and the dining room is perfect – all glass! 

 

After lunch we often take an interesting little path on the north side of the restaurant that leads right down to the south entrance of the garden. Don’t forget to look down as well as up as there are always little surprises (see the snail?).

 

We go out under the arch to the little street and turn right toward the entrance of the Giardini (and pass some other nice arches along the way).

 

We pick up our tickets at the entrance and walk south toward the villa. When we have time we take a peak into the tiny little chapel.

 

The villa comes into view. Villa Melzi d’Eril is one of the most important historical landmarks on the shore of Lake Como. It was built between 1808 and 1810 by Francesco Melzi d’Eril, duke of Lodi and vice president of the Italian Republic under Napoleon, who was also a personal friend. The most important architects and artists of the day were involved in the project. The villa’s architect (Canonica) and botanist (Villoresi) also designed the Villa Reale in Monza.

 

The former Orangerie (greenhouse) of the villa is now a museum. (The villa itself is not open to the public). It contains a few historical artifacts from the Napoleonic period and Renaissance frescoes.

 

The terraced gardens allow stunning views of Lake Como from three levels. The gardens are thoroughly enjoyable in all four seasons and in all weather and at all times of day but if you happen to be there on a somewhat cloudy day in the late afternoon you’re in for a special treat.

Photo: Austin Mann

 

The Moorish Pavilion in the garden has lovely views across the lake and four beautiful sculptures, including one of Lodovico Melzi d’Eril. Outside the pavilion is a memorial to the Italian writer Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and his beloved Beatrice.

 

From the gardens it’s a beautiful ten-minute walk along the lake into Bellagio for some wandering and surprisingly good shopping for such a small place. From there it’s about a 15-20 minute taxi boat ride to Villa Balbianello.

 

A Rainy Day in Milan

How can you best spend a rainy day in Milan? There are so many options! 

One of my personal favorites is to visit Milan’s covered shopping center La Galleria, between the Duomo and Piazza Scala.

View from the Marchesi café over Milan’s Galleria

Here are the very ingredients for enjoying the city even when it’s pouring: fun people-watching, comfortable seating and a snack or aperitivo worthy of the name, at Pasticceria Marchesi above the Prada store. 

Waiting for your order at Marchesi

The experience is not cheap, but the pleasure of an hour in a comfortable, unhurried and beautifully-appointed Italian cafè overlooking the shoppers below, is worth it! You’ll discover what the 19th century shopping experience must have been for the well-heeled Milanesi of that era.

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Marchesi dessert display cabinet

The desserts on display at Marchesi are nothing short of perfection, and believe it or not… they taste as good as they look!

This outstanding pastry shop was opened in 1842 by the Marchesi family and has been a beacon of confectionery excellence in the city ever since. 

 

Next time you are in Milan, don’t miss it! Let me know when you go, so I can meet you there.

A Visit to San Vigilio (Bergamo)

We’ve been taking our Poggio Verde Country Villa groups to Bergamo, a beautiful (very) old hilltop city about an hour from the villa for several years. We have been hearing from our wonderful Bergamo guide, Elena Marchesi, and again recently from another friend, that we should visit Castello San Vigilio, which is a walk or funicular ride on up the hill from the Cittá Alta of Bergamo.

So the last couple times we’ve been there we’ve been trying to figure out a way to squeeze it in, with no luck. This time, though, we were quite determined to go so we adjusted a few things and found a new lunch spot in Bergamo, which turned out to be an outstanding restaurant right next to the funicular going up to San Vigilio. (More about that restaurant in another post…) Most of the group was up for an adventure after lunch so we hopped on the funicular and went up.

 

As we departed the funicular and headed toward the exit, we checked out the views to the left, which were wonderful, and then looked around for signs for the Castello, which we easily found. We turned right, following the sign, walked a few minutes up the cobblestone path and rounded the corner to see the walls of the medieval castle. (The first mention of the castle is actually in the 6th century but it’s undergone changes through the centuries, of course.) Our favorite memory of that trip up, though, was when Frank left the main path and disappeared into a doorway in the rock… and didn’t come out. We all followed, maybe to make sure he was okay, maybe not to miss what he was getting to see/do. We found ourselves in a narrow tower with winding stone steps and started up, hoping to find Frank and hoping there was an exit somewhere… and wondering how many more steps there were.

 

Eventually we found ourselves on a gorgeous plateau with views ALL around the countryside (and we found Frank!). Stupendous! 


Exploring and discovering is just the best! We’ve added San Vigilio to our Bergamo itinerary going forward, that’s for sure. 🙂

Joia Restaurant

Ristorante Joia is quite simply my favorite restaurant in Milan for many reasons: the delicious food of course, the calming, quiet atmosphere of the restaurant, the values that underpin the decisions made by Joia’s visionary chef/owner Pietro Leemann and the reasonable prices (especially for a Michelin-starred restaurant).

Joia’s lunch menu has many seasonal and beautiful options but I invariably choose the Piatto Quadro (“Square Meal”), an ingenious invention where lunch diners have the pleasure of trying five of the chef’s newest recipe creations presented on a single square plate. Since the price is so reasonable for such an exceptional place it’s easy to go back again (and again!).

Piatto Quadro (square meal)

Pietro Leemann‘s serious vision for eating well plays out in the use of super-fresh, flavourful ingredients and the satisfying texture and consistency found in each dish. Going to his restaurant means trying whatever is in season in that moment, presented in a creative, attractive yet simple manner. The flavour pairings are occasionally unexpected but always harmonious, and I have never tasted an unsuccessful combination. Pietro enjoys using Lombardy’s local cheeses as well as seeds and other pleasing ingredients that go crunch when you put them in your mouth. It will be an unprecedented flavor experience who will probably leave you satisfied. 

Going to Joia for lunch is one of the pleasures of living in Milan.  The recommendation of a vegetarian restaurant in Milan may be surprising, coming from a carnivore born in Kansas.  Pay Joia a visit, and you will see why. The restaurant is right in the beating heart of Milan’s eclectic district of Porta Nuova, near the Giardini Pubblici, and can be easily reached with the underground.

A Golf Week at Poggio Verde Country Villa

The online travel blog Milanostyle.com, has featured an interview with some of our recent guests who came for a one week golf vacation. They stayed with us for 7 days and played 5 of the best golf courses in Milan and at Lake Como while still having time to enjoy gourmet lunches and relaxing by the pool. 

The article talks not only about how  the guests enjoyed the villa, but also touches on the history of golf in Italy and describes the different golf courses they played and the challenges they faced on the greens.

Willem shared his experience saying, “The Villa Poggio Verde was fantastic! It was close to all the courses, apart from Garda which was a longer drive. There was no need to take highways, we took small scenic roads, there’s beautiful scenery there. The atmosphere at the villa was comfortable and of course the surroundings at the villa, the pool and the gardens – it was absolutely spectacular. When we show pictures to friends, they really want to go and see it. It was really authentic and  we could feel the history. I would recommend it for couples or group of friends.”

Excerpt from “An Italy golf vacation in Milan at Poggio Verde Country Villa”

Many thanks to Willem Verloop and his golf buddies for taking the time to be interviewed and for sharing their experience with milanostyle.com!

Read the full article here: https://milanostyle.com/an-italy-golf-vacation-in-milan-at-poggio-verde-country-villa/

Barzanò market day

At Poggio Verde, we look forward to Thursdays, the Barzanò market day. In Piazza Mercato In the center of town, visitors can enjoy exploring more than 30 stalls of various local products, as well as Italian brands from across the country.

The fresh vegetable stalls are fantastic and inspire us with ideas for what to make for dinner – not an easy choice with all that is on offer this time of year!

Fantastic local salami and goat and cow cheeses, both fresh and seasoned, are offered here by one of the top local producers, Fattoria Selva of nearby Bosisio Parini. Their products are delicious – and the Valsecchi family are wonderful people.

At the La Molinata stall we always pick up the exquisite local honey made in the nearby village of Missaglia: our personal favorite is the lemony “Girasole” – but they are all worth tasting!