This past weekend I visited Verona, Italy. I hope you don’t mind if I share, share, share. When most people hear of Verona their minds turn to love, Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare’s infamous play. However, I am here to tell you that the famous balcony is the sneaky hook the Veronese use to bring us to this enchanting, ancient and lovely city.
Honestly, I’m so glad they do this because discovering and investigating outside the norm is in my blood now and I’m hooked. It seems that most people come to Verona for just a pit stop or a day trip and if you did this, you would be missing so much. Truly.
One of the best things you can do when visiting a major city in Italy is to stay local. My friend, Ellen, stayed in Verona last year at the lovely B&B Agli Scalegeri right near the city center and developed a relationship with the owners, Nadia and Mario. She knew right away we would need to bring a group here to visit and tour.
Nadia and Mario brought us into their home and instantly made us feel like family. On our first night we were greeted with spritzers and appetizers, followed by Osso Bucco with two different types of risotto! Mario, a restaurateur, impressed us immediately with his flair and suave culinary skills. Our rooms were beautiful, the internet was fast and we were within walking distance from all the major attractions.
Every morning our breakfast was superb with an egg frittata made with prosciutto, salads and yogurts. One morning to our delight, Mario served Tiramisu. What’s not to love?
Touring the City
Our first full day in Verona included a tour with Daniel from Veronaround Tours and Workshops. Daniel was very accommodating on our tour, while walking around the city to see all the major sites, he stopped to let us grab a cappuccino or espresso at one of his favorite spots near the oldest entrance gate to the city.
We also visited the ancient arena (the second largest in the Roman Empire), Piazza Bra, Bridges of the River Adige, and learned all about the powerful family, Scalegeri family who ruled for over 100 years in Verona. Although a democratic republic, Verona fell under Venetian rule which was also a republic.
One of our favorite stops of course, included shopping we visited the oldest market in Verona that use to be a daily market for artisans, meats, fruits and vegetables. Today, because of proximity I think, it is a souvenir market. Although the market is set in a beautiful architectural backdrop, you’ll find inexpensive take-aways here.
All over the city you will find statues and symbols of a Venetian lion. Daniel shared a wonderful story of Verona being conquered peacefully without fighting so you will see a lion with an open book (Bible.) However, when Napoleon came in for his short occupation many of the lions were destroyed.
On our four hour tour Daniel also introduced us to the Cheese and Salami Gronde store along the River Adige near the Ponte Pietra bridge. There is no experience comparable for me when you can enjoy some red wine, cheese and salami with friends while overlooking Italian mountain terraces filled with ancient ruins and buildings. Nothing.
Daniel did such a great job on his tour and we did indeed only see some highlights and learned a great deal about Verona, but I have a feeling there is much more to discover.
Olive oil, Salami and Wine
On our second day of this journey, Nadia, Mario and son, Iacopo took us on a joy ride through the valleys of Valpolicello to visit a few friends and merchants. This was one of the biggest highlights of our whole trip.
Our first stop was to visit a beautiful hotel just outside of Verona, the Byblos Art Hotel, this amazing villa that once was home to a vintner is now an authentic, original art-centric hotel and spa. Breathtaking and decorated with an abundance of colorful pieces it was hard to be pulled away.
However, we were heading to the Guglielmi Fumane Olive Oil manufacturer in Fumane, a small family oil producer since the 70’s. After a short tour of the factory, we enjoyed a lovely olive oil tasting. Veronese olive oil is lighter and sweeter than the richer, robust of Tuscany. These oils are best for cheeses, light fish, chicken and salads. We learned many interesting facts about olives and olive oil like this unforgettable tip.
**TIP: True EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive oil- Rachael Ray would be proud) should be served warm but not too warm.
Our next stop was Caprini Salami in Negrar. True friends of Mario and Nadia, third generation butcher, Tomasso, gave us an in-depth tour of the manufacturing, production and retail of this nationally famous salami and sausages. We entered his lovely store for a tasting and instantly were in love with these all-natural, perfectly seasoned meats. The bouquet of proscuitto, pancetta, porchetta and cheeses permeate the building. One tip we learned about salami is that it needs to be cut at a slanted angle rather than straight on, I’m not sure why this is, but I trust this very tall Italian man with a knife.
After a full belly of meats and cheeses we loaded in the cars to visit, Piccoli Vini della Valpolicella where we all knew a sip of the famous Amarone would taste perfect right about now. This region is know for Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto, each wine has their own distinction for everyone and in our little group, everyone had their own favorites.
The Amarone was my favorite.
It almost makes me grin a little when I find out my favorite wine tends to be the most expensive and have an interesting story. The production of the Amarone wine was by accident by a farmer and a combination of three different grapes. Hmmm, an accident and complicated, sounds about right.
After our full day, we came back to settle into our lovely B&B and rest for yet another day in this beautiful town. I am looking forward to my return visit in June to visit my new Italian family and give them plenty of hugs. If Verona is on your “bucket list” please consider visiting for more than just a pop-in, you would do yourself a disservice. Truly, a charming town that will have you hooked from it’s first embrace.