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Italy's Ancient Stone Villages

WHERE TO EAT Traditional Treats Pork cutlets and potatoes served in a pan are the specialty at Al Cenacolo (16 Via Pedretti, Chiavenna; 39-0343/32123; dinner for two $78), a stylishly renovated restaurant with a small terrace overlooking the river. Alternatively, try the taróz, a comforting mix of mashed potatoes, vegetables, butter, and cheese. Upstairs, owner Silvano Scinetti organizes exhibitions of cutting-edge Swiss and Italian art. • Feminists take note: service at Passerini (128 Via Dolzino, Chiavenna; 39-0343/36166; dinner for two $104) is old-fashioned; female guests receive menus without prices. Still, it's worth swallowing your principles for the heavenly bread, flavored with squid ink and almonds or onions and bell peppers. The Next Generation Brothers Andrea and Antonio Tonola opened Lanterna Verde (7 Frazione San Barnaba, Villa di Chiavenna; 39-0343/38588; dinner for two $117), close to their father's renowned fish farm, in 1982. Their trout menu—featuring a mousse, a ravioli, and a whole fish cooked on the local pietra ollare stone—helped win the restaurant a Michelin star. Other popular dishes include chestnut pasta with chamomile flowers and ravioli with polenta and minced hare. • You'll find two restaurants in one at Crotasc (67 Via Don Primo Lucchinetti, Mese; 39-0343/41003; dinner for two $84), under the savvy management of Michela Prevostini, whose grandmother founded the place in 1928. Today, families head for the 18th-century dining room (stone slab floors, copper pans above a blazing log fire), while young couples prefer the designer salon (blond wood fittings,jazzy sound track). The creative menu—under award-winning chef Marino Lanfredini—is the same in both rooms. Try chickpea soup, Alpine ricotta, and wines made by Michela's brothers, Mamete and Paolo Prevostini.

WHERE TO SHOP Food Wander through the 164-foot-long cave at Crotto Ombra (14 Viale Pratogiano, Chiavenna; 39-0343/33403) to view 4,500 giant wheels of pungent cow's milk cheese. • Sisters Monica and Simonetta Del Curto are the latest keepers of a secret 17th-century biscuit recipe for biscottini di Prosto that has been handed down through their family for generations. Head to their bakery, Simonetta Del Curto (3 Via alla Chiesa, Prosto di Piuro; 39-0343/32733), and attempt to work out exactly what combination of wheat flour, sugar, and butter could produce such amazing results. • Whenever Valchiavenna's grandmothers suffer a bout of indigestion, they whip up a pot of tea brewed from erba iva, which grows high in the Alps. For a pack of the freshly gathered herbs, drop by Erboristeria I Naturali (10 Via Bossi, Chiavenna; 39-0343/35569), where owner Annamaria Perrone mixes tisanes from 200 kinds of dried plants. Beer and Wine Below Crotasc, his family's restaurant, Mamete Prevostini (63 Via Don Primo Lucchinetti, Mese; 39-0343/41003) matures his wine the old-fashioned way: in a natural cave. He is best known for Sassella reds, but he has had recent success with his Opera Chardonnay. • In the 1800's, Valchiavenna was home to nine breweries—which also used the valley's caves, as a cooling system—but all of them closed when modern refrigeration was introduced. Recently, two young artisans have revived the tradition, incorporating fresh spring water in the process. At Giandomenico Marrocchi's Birrificio Spluga (12 Via degli Emigranti, Gordona; 39-0343/41397), you'll find a collection of beer-related memorabilia and an osteria serving pasta alongside the delicious unpasteurized brews. Try the beer flavored with honey. • Davide Viale began making his unfiltered beers for Arte Giana (66 Via Spluga, San Cassiano-Prata; 39-0343/20458) in 1999. Step inside this modern building near Chiavenna for tastings of spicy double-malt bitter and creamy black stout. Housewares Popes and politicos have been among the proud owners of stone-and-copper cooking pots by Roberto Lucchinetti (5 Via alla Chiesa, Prosto di Piuro; 39-0343/35905). "Until the eighteenth century, there were hundreds of artisans making stone pans around Chiavenna," says the self-taught Lucchinetti. "Now I'm the only one left." Another must-have item from his orderly workshop is a carved stone chalice ($110). His atelier is also a mini museum: Ask to see the 1,000-year-old rock watch, one of only three pocket sundials from this era in Italy. Next door, Lucchinetti's wife, Paola De Pedrini, weaves scarves and hats from homegrown linen; later this year, the enterprising couple is opening a four-room B&B. Antiques For an instant history lesson on the Valchiavenna, flick through the stacks of prints at Il Tarlo (42 Via Pedretti, Chiavenna; 39-0343/32109). You may find a picture of Piuro's 1618 landslide.

WHAT TO SEE Wood-carved ceilings, frescoes of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and terraced gardens are among the attractions at the Renaissance Palazzo Vertemate Franchi (Località Cortinaccio, Prosto di Piuro; 39-0343/36384). The museum also has a portrait of Aloiso Vertemate de Franchi, a Don Giovanni type said to haunt the place. • Museo del Tesoro di San Lorenzo (3 Piazza Bormetti, Chiavenna; 39-0343/37152) is home to La Pace, one of the world's best pieces of medieval goldsmithery: the 955-year-old wood-and-gold Bible is encrusted with 94 pearls and 97 gemstones.

VALERIE WATERHOUSE is the Italy correspondent for Travel + Leisure.


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