Lago di Como & Lombardia
Behold the setting of the most famous classic novel of the Italian 1800s, The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, but also action films such as Ocean's Eleven with performances by Hollywood's biggest stars in the 2000s: the timeless appeal of the Lario - another name for Italy's deepest lake, Lake Como - squeezed in between the Lombard Prealps and imbued with a romantic atmosphere that each year conquers millions of tourists.
Golf is no stranger to this region. The Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club is synonymous with history. Indeed it was founded at the dawn of the 1900s when Lake Como was a popular destination with elite Anglo-Saxon tourism. Don't miss the opportunity to visit this club and enjoy, in addition to its 18 holes, the clubhouse that is warm and welcoming like no other. It is located on the Prealpine slopes just before the central part of the lake where it forks into two branches - one that washes Como, and the other leading to Lecco. The altitude is 455 meters, and the difference in level is notable: there are continuous ups and downs and, as short as it is, the course is quite delicate and demands great precision.
While on the subject of history, visit the Circolo Golf Villa d'Este, protected by the woods of Montorfono and lying 20 minutes south of the Como city shores of the lake. It is the embodiment of elegance, tradition and good taste now more than ever, 90 years after those days in 1926 when English and American tourists began to tread the greens of the 18 holes that the shareholders of Grand Hotel Villa d'Este of Cernobbio decided to build, prompted by the requests of their well-heeled customers. The walls of the clubhouse designed by architect Giuseppe Bergomi - partly destroyed by fire in 1990 but faithfully reconstructed to the original, with hardwood floors fragrant of beeswax, the wood paneling of the bar and the incomparable terrace looking onto the course and the hills - narrate the most wonderful chapters in the history of Italian competitive golf: 12 Italian Opens were played here between 1928 and 1972, 57 editions of the Men's International Championship and 39 editions of the Ladies', to name a few.
Between the end of the 1950s and early 1970s, several courses opened between Milan and Como which would later become landmarks for Italian golf: they are the exclusive Barlassina Country Club, an 18-hole course in Groane Park which peaks in beauty in late spring when the azalea and rhododendron bushes abloom with every shade of pink transform it into a garden of delight; the Golf Club La Pinetina, 70 hectares in the immense Appiano Gentile Pinewood, where the course follows the exceptionally undulating lay of the land offering diverse playing situations; and occasionally, stunning panoramic glimpses of Monte Rosa and the Lombard Prealps open up between the treetops; the Golf Club Monticello, the first club with 36 holes in Italy and also the first to promote, simultaneously with the construction of its courses, an important real estate development project; the Golf Club Carimate opened in 1962 in the heart of Brianza, another ambitious project that was avant-garde and the essence of Italian design in both its undulating course and clubhouse.
But the Lombardy is also a place of mountains. Towards the Swiss border and beyond the Bergamo Alps Park, we find Valtellina, a valley carved out by the Adda River and surrounded by lofty mountains: the Bernina Massif, and the Ortler and Adamello Ranges are the theatrical backdrops of a spectacular area that is also known for its enogastronomic specialties: Bresaola preserved meat, typical cheeses such as Bitto and Casera, pizzoccheri pasta, products found on all Valtellina tables accompanied by premium red wines such as Inferno, produced with Chiavenna grapes. As per golf, there is an 18-hole course at the Valtellina Golf in Caiolo, and the 9-hole course at Bormio Golf in the renowned ski resort at 1250 meters of altitude.
Closer to the Lombardy regional capital, to the north, the Golf Club Milano, 27 holes sculpted out of the Monza Park and host to the last two Italian Opens; to the southwest, the Golf Club Tolcinasco, 27-hole championship course plus a highly technical 9-hole executive course designed by the great champion Arnold Palmer, built around an imposing 16th century castle and its historic courtyard with wide-open spaces that invite players to enjoy the beauty of the countryside. No less than five Italian Opens were played here between 2004 and 2008.
To all this golfing abundance, add an infinite choice of tourism and enogastronomic delights. A boat trip on the lake will allow you to observe up close the gardens of the sumptuous Belle Epoque villas in Cernobbio, Tremezzo, Bellagio and Varenna. For a 360-degree panorama, ride the cable railway up to Brunate, known as "Como's balcony". The strong bond with local traditions is expressed through the variety of monuments and antiquities in sites and museums, as well as historical and religious reenactments all year round, or those simply linked to rituals and the passage of the seasons, such as the Feast of San Giovanni on Comacina Island and the Varenna Lake Festival.
In restaurants on the Lario, lake fish rules supreme. Specialties include missoltini (sun-dried lake shad), Larian-style tench, pike fillets, as well as risotto with river perch or maltagliati pasta squares with whitefish eggs garnished with delicate and rare Protected Destination of Origin extra-virgin olive oil from Lake Como.