I’m planning a pilgrimage to the home of amaretto liqueur, the ancient town of Saronno in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. There’s a reason why I have an almost religious feeling for the place where they’ve been making amaretto liqueur for almost five hundred years. Several years ago, as my working career was ending, I looked forward to my sunshine years. However, the sunny days were too often followed by sleepless nights. Medications didn’t work, but I found that half a shot glass of amaretto each night proved to be my ticket to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. This natural cure made me look into the history of this spirit and plan a trip to Italy to visit the source.
What Is Amaretto?
The word in Italian means slightly bitter, but the drink is actually an almond-tasting, distilled combination of apricot pit oil, caramelized sugar and the essence of various fruits and herbs. According to history, the liqueur was first made in the mid-16th Century, and has been popular in Italy and throughout the world ever since.
The home of amaretto is Saronno, a town in Northern Italy about 30 minutes by train from Milan. The most popular brand of amaretto, Disaronno, has a name that means “from Saronno”. The Disaronno factory is not open to the public but many small, local distilleries can be visited.
A local producer, Garbini (Via Silvio Pellico 10, Samarate), makes a range of liqueurs and distilled spirits including amaretto. They have a small store and are happy to invite visitors into the factory. Garbini is in Samarate, about 10 minutes east of Saronno. The store is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Branca Brothers Distillery Museum
The Fratelli Branca (Branca Brothers) distillery (Via Resegone 2, Milan) was built in 1908 and the company continues to produce a range of distilled wines and spirits. Located in Milan and still an active distillery, the site also houses a museum dedicated to the history of making Italian spirits. The Branca Collection and museum is open for free tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Where to Eat
Located in Saronno, the Locanda d’Autore (Via Giuseppe Frua 50, Saronno) offers some great cuisine with many dishes featuring amaretto (especially the desserts). Our son visited the Lombardy region and couldn’t stop talking about this classic Italian dining destination. With emphasis on raw and elegantly cooked seafood, the upscale restaurant’s prices for dinner and wine are about $75 for two people.
Where to Stay
With a piano bar in a medieval tower overlooking a lake, the Villa Fiordaliso is worth the hour and a half drive from Saronno. Part of the luxury Relais & Chateaux group, the elegant property, a former mansion, sits on the shore of Lake Garda. Rates start at $475 per night and there is a gourmet restaurant and spa on site. The property is closed from November 1st through March 1st.
Ted Sherman has spent a lifetime traveling. With journeys to every continent, almost 100 cruises, and multiple group tours, he enjoys sharing his travel experiences and knowledge with others. Follow Ted on Twitter @travel4seniors and on his travel blog, travel4seniors.com.
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