This past weekend I visited Italy, and I am hooked on Verona. I hope you don’t mind if I share, share, share. When most people think, Verona their minds turn to love, Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare’s famous play. However, I am here to tell you that the famous balcony is the sneaky hook the Veronese uses 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 we walked 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 takeaways 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 Grande store along the River Adige. There is no experience comparable to me when you can enjoy some red wine, cheese, and salami with friends. Our restful stop included an overlook of the Italian mountain terraces filled with ancient ruins and buildings. Nothing.
Daniel did such a great job on his tour and we saw some highlights and learned a great deal of Verona, but I have a feeling there is much more to discover.
Olive oil, Salami, and Wine
On our second day, Nadia, Mario, and son, Iacopo took us on a joy ride through the valleys of Valpolicella. This was one of the biggest highlights of our 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 ’70s. 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 trip.
**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, Tomasso, a third-generation butcher, gave us an in-depth tour of his retail shop. 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 was that 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 known for Ripasso, Amarone, and Recioto wines. Each wine has its own distinction for everyone and in our little group, everyone had their own favorites.
Amarone was my favorite.
It makes me grin a little when I find out my favorite wine is the most expensive and has 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 look forward to my return visit in June to visit my new Italian family. If Verona is on your “bucket list,” 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 its first embrace.
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!