Hiking in Parre (Bergamo) and its famous Scarpinocc
We're expanding our horizons (and stomachs) to include the province of Bergamo, specifically the mountains and valleys up north where cheese, pasta, polenta and even the language take on a flavor all its own. From what we've experienced, the vast Bergamo Alps is still largely untouched by foreign tourists as most everyone heads directly to Lake Como from Milan. Depending on your view that may be seen as a good or bad thing, but we hope to reveal some of the beauty on these pages. But first, what is this scarpinocc? I can't recall exactly how I first heard of them, but when the MotH and I walked into a pasta shop and asked if they had any to sell, we were told that the best place to go would be in the village in which they were made famous - Parre. Scarpinocc are a filled pasta (grana, bread crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg) that resemble those medieval, pointed shoes worn long before rubbah slippahs and sneakers were conceived - think elf footwear and you should have an idea. It is supposed to be the leaner version to Bergamo's meat-filled casoncelli. Well, leaner in theory perhaps, but certainly not when it comes swimming in a pool of browned butter and doused with more grated grana cheese! I believe that Julia Child would have loved this.
For a better look at the pre-boiling stage, see this great image from a flickr user.
It was pure luck that the restaurant in Hotel Belvedere (Via Roma, 35) was still serving at 1:30pm because we were so hungry after that 1600+ foot climb that I could've eaten a horse and a half! Here's another dish that I had never heard of - capu - tiny cabbage rolls in tomato sauce on polenta (they don't look like cabbage leaves but that's what the waitress said) filled with bread crumbs, cheese and herbs. Delicious. As a starter we both shared a plate of the house special - a smorgasbord of crunchy, creamy, salty and tangy tastes from land and sea.
Albergo Ristorante Belvedere, Via Roma 35, Parre BG
The 496 meter / 1627 foot climb to Sant’Antonio
From the church on via Monterosso at the upper part of Parre (there's a small parking area behind the church), continue along to via Monterosso 6 until you see an arched passage with a large fresco painting above. Walk under the arch and veer left - almost immediately after that there will be a rock path on the right that leads through the woods. Follow this path and continue forward and upward until you reach a parking area and fountain. From here the trail is on paved cement that continues downward to a hairpin bend. Continue on the pavement for a short distance until you see a trail on the left with indications to Rifugio Vaccaro. From here on the thigh-burning begins. There will be 2 crossroads along the way, both with large stables to the right (beware the cow turds). Keep moving forward and upwards, where finally you'll reach an asphalt road that leads to Sant'Antonio as shown below. It took us 90 minutes on the walk up, and 60 on the return. I suggest hiking poles for this because it'll really be tough on the knees getting back.