We parked in Colzate and from the main street of the village took the clearly-marked “Sentiero di Honio” up an old cobbled road, that, like a magic doorway, took us immediately out of the the houses, factories and roads of the Val Seriana: away in space with a feeling of also away in time. This is the fine old road going up to San Patrizio. Before too long I noticed a few crocuses, then some more, then they were dotted about everywhere, even between the stones of the road – shooting pale lavender colour into the air and revealing their bright yellow-orange centre. It was 1 February, the sun was out and here were the first spring flowers!
After San Patrizio (the fortress-monastery perched above the valley), the path becomes narrower and finally reaches a wayside shrine and then a farmhouse and a broad field called Ünì – this was the meeting place of the associated communes of Gazzaniga-Vertova-Colzate (the name of the latter derives from ‘terre colligiate’, associated territories). We wondered whether ‘Honio’ was some Latinate form of Ünì. Then we followed the track above the snow line and some way towards the top of Cima Cavlera, before returning to the car and driving the short distance to Vertova.
Entering Vertova (Èrfa in dialect, so the road sign said), we drove to Via Cereti, with signs to Monte Cavlera and the Trattoria Costa, situated about a kilometer up the rising road. You reach a rather ill-designed war memorial with a couple of small artillery pieces and the first right after that is to the trattoria. As we approached we saw a number of parked vans and we knew we were at a popular lunch place. This was confirmed when we got inside – it was almost full and there was that low murmur of people enjoying a good meal. The offer was very good: €9 for first course, salad from the buffet and a dessert too (plus water, wine and coffee). I had orecchiette with ‘cima di rape’ – excellent. The salad was varied and well presented. The dessert was a wonderful chocolate cake – the kind with subtle extra flavours which make you pause, fork in hand, as you try vainly to identify them. The waiter told us that he’d spent ten years in London, latterly in Brick Lane, where it was ‘Saturday night every evening’, but followed his girlfriend back to much quieter Vertova. I looked out of the window and saw the the green valley-side – indeed, very different from Brick Lane. The Trattoria Costa gets my vote as the very best lunch deal in the Val Seriana.