Skip to content

Italian Lakes (Orta, Como, Maggiore) – a photo food tour.

November 5, 2012

A few weeks ago it was our second wedding anniversary. We celebrated by getting a very early, very cheap flight to Milan Bergamo airport, hiring a car and exploring the western Italian lakes for a few days. It was Mr B who suggested I take photos of food related items for the blog – he’s a smart one that one – I quite like him 🙂

Day 1

After getting up at 4.30am we headed straight to a pasticceria (bakery) and wolfed down some lovely bread based goods.

bread pasticceria pizza

Light and airy pizza for Mr B

My sausage roll’s pastry was somewhere between puff pastry, filo and pizza dough and of course, the tomato filling was deep in flavour. All finished off with a sprinkle of rosemary:

italian frankfurter roll

Sausage roll, italian style

Bergamo’s signature desert appears to be Polenta e Osei which is not actually polenta at all, but a cake covered in a yellow sugar mixture to make it look like a fresh mound of polenta being attacked by birds. We didn’t try any as it seemed a bit touristy and didn’t think it could beat the baked goods. I wonder if you’d find anywhere in England making a cake that looks like mashed potato being attacked by …foxes?

Bergamo polenta cake

Polenta e Osei

We drove from Bergamo across to Lake Orta. It’s the smallest of the lakes but it’s utterly stunning. I thoroughly recommend it. We stayed at Restaurant Hotel Giardinetto the view from the breakfast terrace was this:

Lake Orta Hotel


We went for a wander around Orta and grabbed a big hunk of bread filled with figs and dried fruit from a deli to keep us going. Not cheap but perfect for some travellers in need of a boost!

For dinner, we had a lovely meal at the hotel – you know it must have been good because I was too busy eating to take photos.

Amuse Bouche : Gaspacho with burrata and ham

Mains: Grilled sirloin “Bovinus Luxury” beef with salt flakes, onion tarte tatin and fried potato shavings // Chops of suckling pig in hazelnut crumb, tomato and onions

Dessert: Kamut apple cake with dark chocolate shavings. (this was the only disappointing part – the cake was very dry)

and we played Bananagrams late into the night. Competitive? Never.

Day 2

We made a trip to the Alessi factory and outlet centre nearby. They had an impressive display of Kitchen Aids. Drool.

Kitchen Aid colours

A Kitchen Aid rainbow

We stopped off at a supermarket to grab fresh bread and cheese (Fontal Nazionale which tasted very much like Port Salut) to keep us going and it was here that we saw….

Polenta stand mixer

a polenta stand mixer

The “world food” section of the supermarket which contains Heinz baked beans!

Italian world foods

World foods, as seen by Italians

I also bought a box of an Italian raising agent which an colleague bought me a while back. I love it as it doesn’t have the bitter taste of baking powder and doesn’t make cakes sink. It was great to be able to stock up. It was also frustrating to see ’00’ flour very cheap and not be able to bring any home. We did buy a chestnut roasting pan though.

Italian raising agent

Lievito Pane Degli Angeli

chestnut frying pan

Chestnut roasting pan

I was very surprised to see, amongst all the lovely fresh bread, packs of crustless white bread. Why?!

white sliced bread

Plastic bread

For dinner, back to the hotel..

Mains: Mushroom risotto (AMAZING – the dried mushrooms are a local speciality but it was so rich and creamy, never tasted risotto like it) // Buckwheat tagliatelle with pumpkin and mountain cheese (The buckwheat brought a new texture to the pasta and a nutty taste. The smooth sweet pumkin was great with the viciously strong and salty hard mountain cheese. Great dish)

Dessert: thick hot chocolate

Buckweat tagliatelle with pumpkin and  mountain cheese

Buckweat tagliatelle with pumpkin and mountain cheese

Day 3

Breakfast at hotel – as yesterday they had croissants, cake (a chocolate mousse affair), muesli, meats and cheese.

A snack of the left over fig & dried fruit bread. Mr B commented “anything tastes good if you make it into bread”!

Everywhere we went the were food shops and delis with great spreads of oils, honey, breads, meats and lots of chestnut products. Almost every town seemed to have huge fires in the square with big chestnut roasting pans or tombolas.

roasting chestnuts by lake orta

A chestnut roaster in the square at Orta

Hot work, but worth it for these beauties:

La Castagna

Smokey, sooty, crunchy, sweet

Dinner was pizza grabbed en route to the airport, in Lecco. Not bad but not earth shattering.

Well, I hope you enjoyed a little taster of our adventures. There’s plenty I’ve missed out – like sitting by lakes doing the crossword, discovering that we’d got to Switzerland, and bartering for old maps – but those are for team Bland’s memories.


Mr B

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 17, 2012 5:19 pm

    Loved this post – I now feel as if I had been there myself! Love the look of that pizza dough. Of course, I’ve always said that if I lived in England I’d never go anywhere else!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: