Located just a 2-hour drive from Milan or 30 minutes from the shores of Lake Como you’ll find the quiet village of Chiavenna. It’s a hidden gem steps away from tourist packed Lake Como nestled in a valley on the northern edge of the region of Lombardy. Chiavenna is rich with mountain views and you’ll enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures in the summer months being so close to Switzerland.
What to Do in Chiavenna
While not technically a castle, the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi is located just one mile outside the town of Chiavenna. Built in the 16th century by one of the richest families in the area, the palace is masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. In 1618 the palace was the only building in town to survive a massive a mudslide that wiped out the area.
One of my favorite features was the walled in vineyard. It’s great to know if your palace is under siege you can still get to your grapes to make wine. Allegedly it is the only walled-in vineyard in the province of Lombardy.
My favorite feature of the palace was the ceilings. Each room had a different, intricate hand-crafted wood design. One room took three generations of craftsman from the local village to complete.
What to Eat
My favorite thing about Chiavenna are the crotti (natural caves). These crotti are situated along the hills that line the town and are caves that have a large amount of cool air that passes through them. The villagers learned long ago that these caves are the perfect temperature for preserving meat and cheese. A few of them have now turned into restaurants, but many are still owned and passed down from generation to generation.
We visited Crotto Ombra to try out some of the Chiavenna cheeses as well as the local Bresaola della Valchiavenna. Bresaola is the most famous product of Valtellina and Chiavenna and is made by salting and aging different cuts of beef.
Bresaola della Valtellina PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) is a protected food that can’t be copied by other regions. It ensures the Bresaola is prepared to the same strict standards that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Crotto Ombra also had a good selection of local products available for purchase. Be sure to ask to see the crotto and savor in the smells of hundreds of wheels of cheese aging to perfection.
When to Go
While Chiavenna is a destination fit for any season the best time to go is during the Sagra dei Crotti festival. Each year in mid-September the town puts on a festival to showcase the different crotti. Many of them are owned by private families so the only time to be able to see them is during the festival. The whole town gets involved and you’ll even find the mayor preparing local dishes at a crotto. You pay for your ticket, are given a wine glass and neck holder and then pick a route to eat and drink your way along.
Each route is marked on the map with the different crotti along the way. You get an appetizer at one, a first course at another and so on. The local Chiavannasca (aka Nebbiolo) wine or the Vertemate Passito, which is a slightly sweet wine made from the walled-in vineyard at Palazzo Vertemate Franchi, are paired with the various courses along your chosen route. You won’t find a better or more authentic festival than the Sagra dei Crotti.
My trip was provided by inLombardia365 as part of the #InLombardy365 campaign in cooperation with iambassador in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.