HOOKED on Verona!

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.

Love all around!

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.

TWW - Verona arena

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.

TWW - shopping market - Verona

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.

TWW - Tour with Daniel

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.

TWW - Verona Valopocelli valley

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.

TWW - Guglielemi Claudio.jpg

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.

SALAMI

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.

WINE

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.

TWW - Verona at night.jpg

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!

 

Lively Leipzig

For a last-minute Valentine’s get-away with my hubby,  we tried our first Blindbooking trip with Eurowings. Now, I hope we have many more to come… this time it was lively Leipzig, Germany. If you haven’t taken a BLINDBOOKING trip yet, do it! The excitement itself in waiting to find out your destination is quite a thrill. If you are a cavalier traveler, like me, it won’t matter anyway. I had no idea about Leipzig, so this was a trip of faith.

Leipzig airport

Leipzig airport – we easily caught the train and made our way to the city

The way Blindbooking works:

  • Visit the site – Eurowings blind booking
  • Pick a departure destination (depending on your departure city, destinations change)
  • Pick a “type” of trip example include, party, culture, metropolitan, etc.

We were able to get our flights for about €120. Additionally, we paid €39 extra for larger luggage. **NOTE** we were allowed one small carry-on with this ticket. We could have easily taken our little luggage for overhead and been fine without the extra cost. We flew right into Leipzig and took the train to Zentrum (city center.)

Last-minute Accommodations

Sometimes when I book the last minute I can find good deals. First, we tried a few search engines, but when the hotel rooms were over €130/night, I knew I could do better. We sure did! This time of year is not a high tourist season either, so I knew we could find something a little better. We booked through Airbnb.com and found an apartment right in the heart of the city for about €100/night, with a kitchen, internet, huge living room, and bathroom. Plus, our views were amazing. We were able to take a short walk, just a few blocks from the train station to our apartment. We arrived around 8 a.m., so we stowed our luggage in a locker at the train station for €5/day. This is a great service since most train stations (Hauptbahnhof) are centrally located.

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Train station in Leipzig - Hauptbahnhof

The main train station in Leipzig

WALK THE CITY

We had a few hours to kill before check-in, we decided to walk the city. After finding our apartment, we discovered St. Nicholai’s church was right around the corner from our place. Opened to the public, we found a Leipzig Tourist Book (€5), “Leipzig, in a Day,” which was great and had a detachable walking map included. These are a few shots we discovered in just a few short hours of walking. By the way, we earned 17,000+ steps on our FitBit’s on our first day.

Leipzig is famous for its “Passages.” These walkways through the old-time buildings are unique with shops and courtyards and vaulted gothic decor. One of the famous passages, the Mädler Passage was built between 1912 and 1914 as a passageway for a fair trade manufacturing house. Today, it is one of Leipzig’s noblest shopping malls, this is where we found Auerbach’s Keller, the oldest winestübe and cellar in the city.

The decorations and setting are amazing before you head downstairs to the cellar, you’ll pass two bronze statues from a Goethe play depicting one of the scenes from the “Faust.” They were pretty funny. Our food and service were spectacular and we enjoyed one of Leipzig’s famous dishes the “roulade with red cabbage.”

St. Nicholas Marktplatz - historical site of change

ST. NICOLAI AND ST. THOMAS CHURCHES (KIRCHE)

One of our favorite spots was St. Nicolai’s church built-in 1165 this revolutionary church was the beginning of the peaceful revolution that helped bring “the wall” down. Beginning in 1982, a small prayer group gathered to begin praying for peace with the nuclear arms race. However,  over time the prayer meetings began to focus on human rights and eventually led to prayers for peace ending with a bishop’s blessing and urgent call for non-violence.

Every Saturday night at 5:00 p.m. St. Nicolai’s Church hosts an organ concert for a few Euro donation. I can’t describe this awe-inspiring experience with words, but it was heavenly. We were able to be in a church where Johannes Sebastian Bach played and where the peaceful revolution for the downfall of the Berlin wall began. It just gave me goose-bumps.

St. Thomas Church (Kirche)

The church of St. Thomas is probably the most notable in Leipzig because this is where J.S.Bach was the music cantor for over 20 years, taking turns between here and St. Nicolai. This beautiful church was astonishing. There is a €1/person fee and taking pictures inside is permitted as well as touring the grounds. The Bach Museum is right next door and only €8/person and definitely worth seeing, the life and works of this incredible composer musician.

Where to eat

A special note to Leipzig about dining out. Saturday morning we woke up to find very few bakeries or restaurants open. Most didn’t open until 9 a.m. so we headed over to Starbucks. Luckily, we met an American couple teaching here at the International school. It’s always great bumping into ExPATs who love to share especially when they are from Texas and us, Alabama. Gwen shared some great tips about dining in Leipzig.

#1) Make a reservation – we learned this the hard way (even in the offseason) restaurants tend to over reserve so even if you see empty tables, they won’t seat you if it’s taken for 30 minutes away.

#2) Menu research – Depending on your cuisine preference do a little research ahead of time. We saw no doner kiosks but plenty of pizza and curry stands (wurst and sauce). TripAdvisor can help with this…if you’ve followed me before you know I think Yelp is useless in Europe.

#3) Breakfast and buffets –  our favorite for breakfast was Café Riquet, simple breakfast and what looked like beautiful cakes for later. We also ate at the Stein Cafe on the Marktplatz Sunday morning. They had a great buffet, with meats, cheeses, bread, yogurt, eggs, and apple pie! They were able to seat us even though we had no reservation but we did see them turn others away.

#4)Even with a reservation – so one of the experiences that were a little let-down was the Panorama restaurant. The Panorama building is architectural amazement and we had reservations for Valentine’s Dinner. A set menu with what was supposed to be an unparalleled view of Leipzig. Unfortunately, there were only a few seats that got that view and the dining room was awkwardly set. Our food was great, however, but the restaurant was understaffed for a full house. At €120 for two for dinner, I just think expectations didn’t meet reality. We also didn’t find out about the upper deck until afterward, it turned out we could’ve seen Leipziger views that were included in being restaurant customers. So although it was neat to mark off, I think next time we’ll pay the €3 and just go to the upper deck.

Downtown Leipzig

Thanks for joining my journey. Been to Leipzig? Want to go? Leave your comments and questions below~

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!

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Come travel with me!

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Wendy and I love to travel and share.  I created this a blog to help people connect, chat and share their experiences and as we learn travel tips together.

I have been traveling my whole life! I have visited over 36 countries and I’m still counting. I have had a ball! I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management and Travel & Tourism from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. I’m so old our mascot was a griffin, now it’s Willie the Wildcat. Still proud of my alma mater.

IMG_4401This blog will be a collection of travel resources, local reviews, and tips, hiking (because we love to hike) spots and conversations. On each of the pages, you’ll have an opportunity to comment to help others and sometimes help me amend a blog with more details.

This year I will be traveling to France, Italy, Spain, America, Scotland, Albania and Denmark to name a few. I will also be hiking in Italy and trekking through parts of France too!

Why travel with Wendy?

I am designing a travel tour company that focuses on promoting small tourism businesses around the world. I hope to connect small businesses with individuals. I feel this type of tourism is in jeopardy of extinction. I am all about human connection and authentic experiences. Want to know more?

Remember to use the SEARCH BAR on the website or the BLOGS by COUNTRY if you are searching for a particular destination.  I will be on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube… for up-to-the-moment information.

IMG_0280Around Stuttgart

In my blog, I will also concentrate on helpful tips and information for businesses, activities, restaurant reviews and fests. I hope this page provides as much information as possible on “what’s happening” in our local Stuttgart and Baden-Württemberg area. I have a Welcome to Germany page as well.

We have several fests(festivals) a year beginning in February with Fasching and Fastnet. We end the year with Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas) markets. I will have information referencing what, when, where and what you should expect for all the activities of around Germany and more.

Around Huntsville

As of 2019, I have relocated to Huntsville, Alabama. Check out for my new local page if you are in the southern U.S. I also have separate Facebook group ~ Huntsville Daytrippers if you are located in the area. Stay tuned for new and exciting American Destinations coming in 2020.

Hiking

We love hiking. Especially my daughter, Katy, and I. Germany is plush with hiking trails that are easily marked, beautifully cared for, and usually ends with a “food and beer hut” somewhere on the trail. What’s not to love? We have discovered many trails in the Black Forest and SwabianAlb. On this page, I will share sites I use to trek the trails and my take on a particular trail as well as coordinates, skill level, and trail information.

I’m hoping hikers and trekkers will hop on this page and share their favorite trails too. How about it, do you have a favorite hike in your pocket, you would like to share?

 

Last but not least I hope you will come travel with me and together we will discover authentic travel experiences throughout Europe as we share, chat and grow. Please feel free to CONTACT me with your suggestions and insights. I eagerly await your input.

Wendy

 

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