By the time we can gather the willpower to leave Monaco for the Autostrada del Fiori it’s sunset, and instead of flowers as the name would suggest, the trucks are back. Lots of them! I take in the incredible views as Mira panics about the trucks and many, many of the highest viaducts and tunnels in Europe along its 160km. Seriously! Have a look!
By midnight we’re in the middle of a huge storm, driving towards massive sheet lightning on the edge of the Italian Alps, having sat for 2 hours in traffic due to an accident. Activities indulged by Mira at this point to entertain herself involve trying to photo the lightning, pretending to be dead, singing, and asking me “Around the World” quiz questions which she continued to make up after the cards had ran out. I think I lost the will after she asked me what the capital of France was.
By 2am I’m running up and down the roadside on my 3rd stop desperately trying to wake myself up as we edge slowly closer to the hotel at lake Como. We finally arrive at 3am in pitch black and very ready for bed.
Over a superb breakfast including delicious home-made jams and olive oil, Livio tells us how the hotel, Agriturismo Crotto di Somana has been converted from a wine cellar by him and his wife, Marianne. This place is full of charm, and the attention to detail very impressive and the personal spa (sauna and candle lit jacuzzi) completes the mountain escape vibe.
We hike into the mountains and meet some locals – one of which is a 90 year old mountain hiker – but unfortunately the lingering fog from the storm prevents the breathtaking views that the lake is famous for.
But what really made our stay was Agriturismo La Selvaggia, which simply is a MUST if you visit Mandello. You can only get a table by booking in advance and everyone eats the same menu at the same time. You need to walk 10 mins up a steep, pitch black mountain path to get there, so take a torch; and ladies opt for comfortable shoes if you can (Mira had flip flops…!) but trust me it is really worth it!
Just as you think there is nothing up the hill, you see the restaurant lights. It just looks like a mountain cabin but when you open the door you’re hit with a room full of people laughing and drinking, the smell bursting from the kitchen fills the room as Angela greets us with a huge smile. There is a huge buzz about this place and it’s infectious.
Not only is the food here homemade, it’s home produced and reared. But not only that, owner Fermino De Marcellis built the place from scratch! And as we eat, the 80 year old former Olympic boxing manager is playing guitar – which then is passed around the guests for a play too.
After 5 courses of insanely good food and 3 bottles (I’m not joking) of wine, our bill of around £40 leaves us in disbelief – in London you’d pay upwards of £100 a head for this kind of experience.
The following morning we’re greeted with Torrential rain which means no hiking and no ferries to Bellagio which is a shame because the beauty in this place is clear even through the fog.
I guess its time to move on. Venice, here we come.