I really don’t know where to start talking about Limone, a charming village tucked away on the western shore of Lake Garda. We could begin with the beautiful, relaxed setting framed by the mountains towering above…
Or I could tell you about the luscious, tangy, smooth, simple Tagliatelle al Limone I thoroughly enjoyed at a restaurant on the lakefront. Which goes exceptionally well with Lake Garda Lemon Tart for dessert I might add. (At the end of this post is the Pasta with Lemon recipe – it’s simple, easy and very light. Make sure to add lots of cracked pepper and be generous with the Parmigiano cheese.)
Let’s start with a bit about the pretty town of Limone, which until the 1930’s, was only reachable by boat or over the mountains. Limone is named after lemons, actually one lemon, the plural is limoni (see, I listen in Italian class, Signora Orzano). With a history covering several centuries and a population of about 1,100 residents, the economy was primarily based on fishing, olive oil and lemons. Tourism has now become the main economic resource. Although I would hardly consider it a busy tourist spot as it has a breezy, calm way about it. And even if no longer in economic first place, you can still enjoy the local fish, flavorful olive oil and tangy lemons that sustained it for so long. The shops are filled with everything lemon including marmalade, soaps, cookies and of course limoncello.
The lemons were grown, and some still are, in limonaia (lemon houses) that from a distant glance appear to be the ruins of a construction site. The limonaia were first built in the 15th century and Lake Garda is the northernmost area of the world where lemons are cultivated. Composed of high pillars in rows with white walls that enclose them on 3 sides, the limonaia are now open to the sky. Established lemon trees can produce fruit for more than a century.
But perhaps one of the most fascinating things about Limone is the discovery of a special protein in a number of the inhabitants’ blood that removes fat from the arteries and eliminates cholesterol. Discovered in 1974 in a railway worker, the Apoliprotein A-1 Milano, as the protein is named, is hereditary and when all the residents had their blood tested, it was found that a fourth of the people had the cardiovascular advantages while only a few dozen were actual carriers. An investigation of local church and town hall records reconstructed the genealogical tree and found that all carriers were descendants of a couple who married around 1780.
Several institutions, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, continue the research on Apo A-1 Milano including gene therapy. The study at Cedars-Sinai is also testing the idea that in addition to reversing arterial plaque, the protein may help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. All fascinating and compelling medical information that started with a small Italian lakeside town.
I suppose there’s really no need to choose what’s the most intriguing thing about Limone, and if you come with us to Lake Garda in April, you can decide for yourself.
- 1 lb. linguine, tagliatelle or fettucine
- 4 T. butter
- 2 T. olive oil
- ¼ grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
- strips of lemon zest from 1 lemon
- ¼ tsp. salt
- freshly ground pepper
- ⅓ c. grated parmigiano cheese
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente.
- Melt butter over low heat in large skillet.
- Add olive oil.
- Add lemon zest, lemon strips and salt and heat 1-2 minutes, making sure not to boil.
- Drain pasta, add to pan and heat another minute. Add lots of freshly cracked pepper.
- Toss with grated cheese and serve.