This article features a personal selection of gifts that lovers of Lake Como may well appreciate. Those of us lucky to live nearby cannot help but to love the lake’s evocative and dramatic landscape. It also retains a lasting impression on the memories of past visitors as well as projecting an enticing image for those yet to come. So much so that many people may well be delighted to receive a present closely linked to this charmed corner of the world.
The range of items selected below can all claim such a close association and might just, in their different ways, pass on something of the unique spirit derived from their place of origin. However this selection is far from complete and some of them may be difficult to purchase if intended for delivery outside of Italy or Europe. If you have set your heart on one of these items but require more information, do not hesitate to make contact directly with the supplier. Personal contact still counts for so much in Italy,
The range of products featured reflect the main economic activities around the lake, namely silk production, tourism and local foods but with some surprising and somewhat eccentric additions. What I regret not being able to include are those items produced by the very many individual artists, artisans or small enterprises who take inspiration from our glorious natural setting. Refer to this article by fellow blogger ‘Lake Addicted’ who has some further suggestions in this category (article in Italian).
Acqua del Lario
Lario is the original Roman name for Lake Como, and this company seek somehow to capture the essence of the lake within perfumes and scented candles – presumably in the same way that the better-known Acqua di Parma does for that agro-industrial town in Emilia Romagna.
Acqua del Lario describe themselves in the following typically overblown terms:
Acqua del Lario is born out of a harmonious combination of love for perfume and a passion for the landscape and traditions of Lake Como.
Based on creativity and professionalism, the brand is dedicated to producing fragrances for people and the home, scented burners and candles, using high quality ingredients and craftsmanship to create products distinguished by their uniqueness and exclusivity.
Undoubtedly exclusivity does form part of Lake Como’s reality but for the very few. In this sense, achieving exclusivity through the purchase of a perfume or candle will cost much less than gaining the same by spending a night at Torno’s Villa Pliniana.
Outlets: Acqua del Lario have a shop off the Piazza San Fedele in the centre of Como and another in Torno open during the summer months. You can also purchase online from their website. Contact them on +390315007988 for any queries and for more information on transportation costs.
Other Products: They also offer scarves and foulards with designs inspired by Lake Como on silk printed and finished here.
Acqua del Lago di Como
This is another company producing perfumes that attempt to recreate the essence of the lake and which are marketed under the slogan ‘The Classy Souvenir’. They do not have their own outlet but their website describes their range of products and a price list. You can always contact them on +390315007988 for further information.
Lake Como does actually have its own brand of bottled natural water called Chiarella. A bottle of Chiarella will cost a very small fraction of the other Como ‘acquas’ and you can be assured that it is a genuine Lake Como product bottled and distributed from its spring above Menaggio.
By the way, there is nothing ‘exclusive’ about the attractions or the essence of Lake Como. Its charms are immediately accessible to anyone visiting by just looking out on the scenery. In fact, in my experience, those seeking or requiring exclusivity are by definition excluding themselves from the full reality and joys of the location and its local culture.
If Acqua del Lario or Del Lago di Como seek metaphorically to represent the essence of the lake, Riva Gin captures these essences literally through foraging on the mountainsides for the local herbs to incorporate into their artisan gin. To quote in their own words from their website:
‘For centuries, local women have scoured the mountainside meadows for herbs and flowers to prepare medicines and remedies. While some may have considered them witches we see them as pioneers of herbal medicine. And it is the theme of magic that inspired our packaging and labelling.Crisscrossing geometrical lines create abstract interpretations of the two key elements of Lake Como’s geography: the mountains and the waves.
Outlets: Rivo Gin is available in local wine shops and also on Amazon.it. If in the UK, try purchasing from hedonism.co.uk to avoid excessive delivery costs. More information is available on their own website.
Nero di Como
Strong liquor can induce ‘a carefree happiness’ as is suggested in the description of this liquor’s origins taken from their website:
‘It was right during one of these party nights that the finest Calabrian licorice, vintage Carribean rum and local honey were mixed. It came out a delicious liquor, dark and mysterious as a night without the moon. The creator, obviously, called it Nero di Como and soon It became a cult between all the guests of these exclusive soirées by the lake. The word-of-mouth was unstoppable and everyone tried to be invited to taste the particular aroma of Nero di Como, which light up the night and give a carefree happiness. Time seems stopped, because today, just like yesterday, the night lights up with Nero di Como.’
Even if the only truly local ingredient of this liquor happens to be honey, we might cynically add that the lake now shares a less desirable link with Calabria beyond liquorice – the unwanted attentions of the ‘ndrangheta, Calabria’s version of the Mafia now undeniably active in many parts of Lombardy and the Province of Como. Yet this should not detract from this liquor’s capacity to light up the night in spite of yet another claim to the spurious and dubious suggestions of exclusivity. I fondly look forward to the day when marketeers flip to extolling the virtues of ‘inclusivity’.
The mass production of wine around Lake Como never recovered after the last war following the effects of disease and a general migration off the land even though vineyards just across the border in Ticino continue to thrive. That wine was never of the highest quality and in fact was used to dilute stronger wines from the south. However more recently wine production has started up again particularly on the western shores of Lake Como around Domaso. There are two main vineyards in this area, Sorsasso and Cantine Angelinetta and they both produce wines of quality with the Cantine Angelinetta in particular picking up prestigious awards for their barrel-matured Sauvignon called Occhi Blu. Cantine Angelinetta state that the area of Domaso is best suited to the production of high quality white wine as opposed to the predominance of red wine from the neighbouring Valtellina. One of the white wines they produce is made 100% from a grape variety to be found exclusively on Lake Como, namely Verdese. Now this is a genuine bit of Lake Como exclusivity unrelated to marketing hype and thus also beyond any form of reproach.
Outlets: Sorsasso wines are freely available in local wine shops or by purchasing directly from the vineyard. Cantine Angelinetta wines are produced in reduced quantity and are not so easy to find particularly the much-prized Occhi Blu but they can be tasted and purchased directly from the vineyard.
Contact Sorsasso on +39 0344 910022 or Silvia who speaks English on +39 333.9061392. Contact Cantine Angelinetta on +39 0344.490095.
Rivo Gin’s foragers collect mediterranean herbs that flourish on the lake’s mountainsides thanks to the particular microclimate – the same conditions that have for many years also favoured the production of olive oil in one of its most northerly outposts. The area around Lenno in particular is well known for the production of a highly valued oil and the largest commercial producer there is Osvaldo Vanini. Vanini olive oil is not cheap since production is limited. Also due to its high reputation, Lake Como’s olive oil is commonly faked. So be sure to buy from a reputable producer such as Vanini.
Olive groves were planted right at the start of the Roman colonisation of the lake when introduced and managed by Greek slaves. It was apprised by none other than the Lombard Queen Teodolinda who lived from 570 CE to 627 CE and so olive oil has the longest history of any Lake Como product.
Outlets: Check out Vanini’s website for a list of prices and compare these with what is being asked in local shops such as the Enoteca Castiglioni or the Enosalumeria del Centro, both in the centre of Como. The oil is also available in the UK via Amazon. The Enosalumeria state they can supply worldwide so contact them via their website or by calling +39 031 273174 for further information and details of delivery charges.
The silk industry remains as important to the local economy of Como as is tourism. And while little silk weaving is now done here, quality silks are brought to local factories by many of the world’s major fashion houses for printing and finishing. Locally produced silk products are available from the major retail outlet in Piazza Cavour or the shop in Via Vittorio Emanuele. The major producers Mantero and Ratti both have discount outlets connected to their factories on the edges of Como accessible for those living locally. Otherwise Incomo offer online purchase with shipping worldwide.
Outlets: Incomo’s website for online purchases. Contact them on +39 031 505000 for further information. The Mantero factory outlet is on Via Riccardo Mantero 4, Grandate and Ratti is on Via Madonna 32, Guanzate.
One of the most pleasurable ways of retaining the essence of Lake Como is by purchasing artwork which captures in a personal way those aspects of the landscape most memorable to us. We have featured a number of local artists in the past who take inspiration from our inimitable landscape. The area seems to favour both fine artists and illustrators irrespective of whether or not they take inspiration from the lake itself. While all these artists are deserving of attention and patronage, I would single out Ester Negretti working in her studio on Via Borgo Vico not just because she produces magnificent landscapes but also due to the range of options she offers for presents. These include providing signed prints of any works from her catalogue as well as incorporating her images on silk scarves, foulards or even on cotton covers. Go to her website to review her catalogue and also to see the various ways she reproduces her work on different mediums. You can also contact her via the website for more information on costs and shipping.
There are many beautiful books available describing Lake Como with marvellous illustrations. Last year I was gifted ‘Italian Gardens of Lake Como’ by Lucia Impelluso and published by Electra. This is just one example of the many beautifully illustrated volumes that capture the beauty of the area and no doubt can easily be found online. There is also a local publishing house called ‘Editrice Lariologo’ who publish a whole range of materials referring to Lake Como ranging from greetings cards to fridge magnets, jigsaw puzzles and board games. It was this latter item that attracted my attention with their ‘Gioco del Oca’ in particular.
This is a very simple board game without any complex rules which transports the players around the entire borders of the lake from Como or Lecco up to Colico. It too may be one way of recording times spent on Lake Como or for considering which other parts of the lake remain to be discovered.
Outlet: Editrice Lariologo’s products are available from a large range of bookshops around Lake Como but also from their online store which also arranges delivery within and beyond Italy.
If you wanted to follow up within this blog on any of the themes associated with the products highlighted in the article, select any of the following links.
- Rivo Gin mention how the ancient knowledge of local herbs was often associated with witchcraft. Our article Como’s Train Station, Witches and the Inquisition describes how Como became renowned for the very high numbers of women accused of witchcraft throughout the Middle Ages.
- Calabria has, among its many qualities, gifted liquorice root to the making of Nero di Como but the one tragic export from that area has been the increased influence of the ‘ndrangheta in Lombardy and beyond. Our article Don’t Mention the Mafia! describes the results of recent investigation into this regrettable phenomenon.
- I regret the marketing appeal to exclusivity in the presentation of products like Nero di Como and Acqua del Lario. Our article Tourism on Lake Como – Then and Now includes the Villa Pliniana – one of the most exclusive and expensive destinations for visitors to the lake.
- We have written various articles on local artists including Ester Negretti. Ester Maria Negretti – Como’s’Traditional’ Contemporary Artist includes an interview with the artist in which she describes her approach to her art. Other artists featured in our blog include Sonja Christoph, Sarah Aller, Irma Kennaway and Adriano Caverzasio in addition to the internationally renowned group of artists known as the Astrattisti Comaschi.
- The silk industry is central to Como’s recent history and, in my opinion, is a key factor in producing such a strong artistic tradition in and around the city. Our interview with Irma Kennaway in Como Silk – Memoirs of a Textile Designer looks into that history and describes what it was like working as a designer for one of Como’s leading silk producers.
- This year the city of Como will not have the glorious illuminations usually provided by the Citta dei Balocchi. This gallery of photos is a reminder of what Como would look like during the holiday period in any normal year.