Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Silvia Cazzola, a B&B owner, hiker, and sailing enthusiast here to tell us all about Cremia – a lakeside hamlet on Lake Como.
First, tell us about you.
I am 43 years old. I have been living in this wonderful part of the world for 10 years, although I knew the area very well before I moved. My family used to rent a house here for holidays since I was seven.
I like sailing, trekking, skiing, skating, and traveling. But I also like spending the evenings with friends, enjoying a good dinner with good wine.
About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to buy a house that was too big for me. When I saw the house, I immediately understood that it would be a perfect bed and breakfast. Built at the beginning of the 20th century with two or three rooms per floor, big stairs in the middle, and three floors, it is a place where you stay and become part of the family.
If someone is visiting Cremia for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
The churches of San Michele and San Vito are a must, but the whole village is lovely. My best advice is to wear comfortable shoes and go for a walk. For instance, walk along the Antica via Regina or visit San Domenico in the mountains.
What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?
The lakefront is perfect if you like some wind and watching wind- and kite-surfers. That said, there are no dangerous places to stay in Cremia, so just choose the house you like best.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
It’s easy to visit both the north and south of Lake Como from here. From Cremia to Como, the most southern city on the lake, it is less than an hour by car or, even better, a couple of hours by boat (and public transportation is pretty cheap).
In the north, you can visit Dongo, Gravedona, Sorico, and Gera Lario, which are interesting cities with a lot of historical spots. It’s pretty typical Italy: everywhere you turn, you will find 600-year-old buildings, churches, etc.
The north is also known for the Antica Via Regina, a Roman street that used to connect Como (and Milano) with Chiavenna via the Spluga or Maloja passes in Switzerland. Medieval churches are everywhere.
In the south, visit the more modern Menaggio, Tremezzo, Lenno, Argegno, and Laglio. These are some of the places where, at the end of the 19th century, rich families from Milan and other large European cities used to spend their summers. Rich palaces are everywhere. If you have an interest in Medieval history, you’ll love the area.
The bottom line is that no matter which way you go, you’ll find something different and unique. The shape of the coasts, the mountains, the light…they change meter by meter and minute by minute.
If you take a boat across the lake, you can visit Bellano, Dervio, and, in particular, Corenno Plinio, Varenna, and Bellagio. From Cremia, head to Menaggio and from there, head to any of these lovely cities.
Finally, to the west we have the mountains. With every meter you hike into the hills, the lake takes on a new color, a new shape. The views are beautiful and never the same.
In the mountains, you still can find small villages (monti) where farming families used to house their cows in the summer until the early ‘60s. In these places you can find bunches of small houses (mainly one stable with one room on top) that now are being renovated and are used as summer holiday homes. And when you reach the altitude of about 1,000 meters, you have a fantastic view of the lake.
For serious hikers, walk north or south along the Via dei Monti Lariani, a four- to six-day walk along an ancient path that connects the monti.
If you do choose to hike up into the mountains (whether for a day or for six), head to the area of Cremia known as San Domenico (there is a small chapel named after San Domenico here) and take the hiking trails north or south. Or even climb the Monte Bregagno.
Of course, the most important thing is to enjoy the view of the lake, especially at sunset.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
Risotto con persico (risotto with perch fish) is something you cannot miss. Missultin (dried lake fish) is also something you should try. You might also enjoy cheese bought directly from the farmer. Irene and Alex in Cremia (whose shop is called Ezio & Irene, though everyone just knows it as Alex and Irene’s place, and is close to San Michele church) and the Azienda Agricola San Martino in San Siro are wonderful.
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?
I love Ristorante La Baia (on Frazione San Vito) and Ristorante Hotel Lumin (at Via S. Vito 10) in Cremia and La Vecchia Pira, at Via Cassia 3 in Stazzona. If you are interested in family-driven agriturismos in the mountains (not far from Cremia), I recommend San Martino (which has an amazing view, particularly at sunset), Aldora (recently opened) in Montuglio, and Agriturismo Labbio (www.agriturismolabbio.it).
In Cremia, you can walk to Rifugio la Canua (www.rifugiocanua.it) where you can rest during your hiking tours. (They are normally open between June and September, but check before you go.)
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
Having a cappuccino after dinner is strange, but we do not find it rude. You should also know that the restaurants are usually closed before noon and between 2 – 4 p.m.
Why should people make sure to visit Cremia and Lake Como?
It is fantastic mix of nature and culture, sports and traditions, modern architecture and historical buildings, good food and good wine. And Cremia is a very convenient point to start from for visiting Lake Como.
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the area?
The lakefront and the mountains. Also, San Domenico.
Anything else you want us to know?
If you need to know anything else…ask George Clooney.