The spirit of the Italian Lakes
Some people treat the drive up the winding roads that lead north, to the nearby Swiss border and Alpine end of Lake Como, as a further exercise in gawping. On one side is a villa owned by Richard Branson; on the other, Gianni Versace’s former pile, now in the hands of a Russian oligarch. And a short drive south of the beautiful village of Bellagio are two colossal mansions that once belonged to a former king of Saudi Arabia – ‘with an atomic bunker beneath both of them,’ a local restaurateur tells me. Which should prove very useful, no doubt, should anyone ever nuke Switzerland. At the northern end of the lake, cool air floats down from the Alps and somehow the whole atmosphere seems to relax. Fewer celebrities make their way up here, and something more closely resembling a traditional way of life is thriving. Above the terracotta roofs of the commune of Domaso, terraces have been cut into the steep slope amid clumps of wild asparagus, trails of ivy and fresh-scented mint bushes. Gnarled vines curl around simple wooden frames. Daniele Travi’s family has tended this Domasino estate for more than 200 years. Though he is now of retirement age, he scrambles up the hillside like a teenager, eager to show off the oldest vines. Some, dating back centuries, have grown as thick as a person’s thigh. ‘I started this as a hobby,’ says Daniele. ‘I’m a metallurgist by trade. But now the wine has turned into a company.’ As a child, Daniele would trample grapes with his grandfather. Production methods are mechanised today, but he is still focused on tradition. ‘We are reintroducing the rosseia – an old, rare grape variety,’ Daniele says. ‘It has a long history. famous local writer of classical times, Pliny the Elder, mentioned it. Yet with industrialisation in the 1960s it almost disappeared.’ He laughs and gestures at the abundant vines. ‘Now we are recovering.’
Daniele Travi hosts wine tasting evenings by appointment only at Cantine Sorsasso (the Domasino Estate, Via Gaggio 1, Bis 22013, Domaso).