Road book • Verona and the wines
Verona and Valpolicella wine • Road book content
A intense trip that allows to appreciate the wines with all your senses, directly by the producer by smelling and tasting the wine and feeling the terroir directly on your skin cycling among the vineyards, the colours of the countryside in your eyes and the perfume of the fields and the blooming trees in your nose.
Three easy itineraries, away from the car traffic as much as possible to discover three great wines: Valpolicella (with its older versione of Amarone della Valpolicella), Soave and Bardolino and the beautiful landscapes of Valpolicella, the eastern valleys and Lake Garda.
The wineries are carefully selected basing on the quality of their wines and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Verona, a 2000-year-old city, is not just the city of Romeo and Juliet and the Arena! It can offer masterpieces from any age: it’s called “Little Rome” thanks to the many Roman remains, it features romanesque and gothic churches full of pieces of art, renaissance and baroques buildings, medieval, Venetian and Austrian walls and fortresses. Its typical squares, full of life, are the perfect location for some Valpolicella or Soave wine tasting, while the Torricelle, the hills that overlook the city, are a fresh escapade from the city centre, with romantic views over the city and the river Adige. Its position on the crossroad of main roads from north Europe to Rome and from Turin to the East made Verona strategically import in the past and nowadays.
The first settlement of the city dates back the New Stone Age in the area of San Peter Castle, a strategical spot close to a ford over the river Adige and the hills. After the invasions of Cisalpine Gauls and Veneti people, the Romans founded a new city in the bight of river Adige and it became a Municipium, one of the most important cities in northern Italy. During the Roman time Verona grew a lot and reached 25.000 inhabitants: during that time the majestic Arena was built. Since the end of II century barbarians started to invade the area and sieged Verona: because of that great walls that also included the Arena were built.
After the definitive fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Verona was taken by many invaders: among them, Theodoric the Great, that started the Gothic domination of Italy, the Lombards in VI century and Charlemagne in IX century. In 1117 Verona was partly destroyed by a great earthquake, the external ring of the Arena collapsed because of that, and in 1135 it was organised as a free commune, followed by fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines.
In XIII a important family raised and started to reign over Verona, the Scaligeri. Cangrande I is remembered as a great warrior, prince and patron of the arts (he protected Dante, Petrarch and Giotto) and Mastino II as a conquerer, as during its reign Verona purchased lands such as Parma and Lucca. Their family was so important that Veronese people are still called the Scaligeri.
The Scaligeri fell at the end of XIV century, defeated by the Visconti of Milan, then Verona was ruled by the Carraresi of Padua and finally the city was submitted to Venice in 1405. Venice ruled over the city for many centuries with a short break between 1490 and 1516, when it was in the power of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Venetian time Verona didn’t suffer any war for three centuries, the city was embellished by palaces and churches and became a great stronghold thanks of the fortifications designed by the architect Michele Sammicheli. In the first years of XVII century the population rose to 55.000 but a terrible plague in 1630 reduced it to 20.000.
The Venetian power ended in 1796, when Napoleon occupied north Italy, and in the following years Verona was divided between Austrian empire and France. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, Austria ruled over Verona for 50 years and in 1866 it finally became Italian.
Nowadays, with a population of about 250.000 inhabitants, Verona is one of the most important cities of north Italy and has a strong economy, based on wine and fruit export, marble extraction and processing, industries and tourism: it’s the fifth most visited city in Italy.
Situated in the large Piazza Bra, the Arena is Roman amphitheatre built in the I century AD: probably, it was built before the famous Colosseum in Rome. In ancient times it could host more then 30.000 spectators, almost the same population of Verona, and it was used for shows and games, even naval battles! The great outer ring was destroyed by a earthquake in 1117 except for the so-called ala (wing): after that its stones were used for building houses and palaces in the city. The Arena was restored by the Venetian and Napoleon and in 1913 it started to host the opera: the world’s most notable opera singers has been singing here for more then one century. The capacity of the amphitheatre is now reduced to 15.000 spectators. Nowadays the Arena is also used for rock concerts and festivals: it hosted Frank Sinastra, Pink Floyd,, Elton John, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney and many others.
Castel San Pietro
It’s the most romantic viewpoint in Verona: all young local lovers come here for their first date! You can reach it walking on a picturesque staircase from where you can even enjoy the shows in the Roman Theater, whereas the lazier ones can reach without effort the panoramic balcony overlooking the city thanks to a modern cablecar. Even if it’s called Castel San Pietro, the great building on the top of the hill is not a castle but a barrack built during the Austrian occupation: in the past there was a castle, built by the Visconti family and then destroyed by Napoleon: the ruins are right behind the barrack.
San Zeno Church
The perfect Romanesque style. The church stands out thanks to its large and bright facade featuring a big rose and flanked by a high bell-tower. Inside, the church is enhanced by beautiful frescoes from different ages and the famous Pala by Mantegna, while its beautiful cloister will make any photographer happy. And… did you know that this is the church where Romeo and Juliet got married? The square in front of the church is locally considered really important because there is where the Carnival of Verona was born: don’t miss a visit of the square during the election of Papà del Gnocco (the main mask of Veronese carnival): you can get the chance of tasting a plate of gnocchi!
Piazza dei Signori
The noblest and richest square in Verona, the centre of the power of Scaligeri family. Elegant buildings from different ages enclose the square, which center is dominated by the statue of Dante Alighieri. Close to Piazza dei Signori is the little square of Cortile Mercato Vecchio, featuring one of the best staircases in Verona, the Scala della Ragione, and Piazza Erbe, the ancient Roman forum and the market square.
Veronetta, the “less-known Verona” on the left side of river Adige, is a ever-changing and full-of-life neighborhood. Beautiful monuments, such as San Giovanni in Valle and Santa Maria in Organo churches, the XVI century Giardino Giusti (a Italian style garden), the walls on the hills and traditional osteria and restaurants, where to drink a glass of Valpolicella or taste some typical food with the locals.
Besides of Valpolicella, Soave and Bardolino, whose tasting are included in this tour, other wines are produced in this province. The most important are the white wines Lugana and Custoza, produced in Lake Garda area, Arcole, red and white wines from the east, Durello, a volcanic sparkling wine produced on the hills and mountains of the east and Valdadige/Terra dei Forti wines, produced in Adige Valley area.
Lesso con la pearà
Various boiled meat (chicken, pork and beef) accompanied with pearà sauce, a sauce made of broth, crumbled bread, marrow and black pepper. Some people add some Parmigiano cheese, that’s a big deal among the families that discuss about how to produce the perfect pearà! Lesso can be accompanied also with cren (horseradish sauce) and green sauce (made with parsley).
Risotto is a big thing in Verona as there are a lot of producer in the south of the province. The most notable variety of rice here produced is the Vialone Nano. The most typical risotto are with tastasal, a mixture of pork, salt and black pepper, with Amarone red wine and all’Isolana, with veal, pork, rosemary and cinnamon.
Pastisada de caval
It’s actually a horse stew. No panic, it’s delicious and healthy, better then many other meats. The recipe comes from a legend: after a big battle between Odoacer and Theodoric in 489 d.C. at the gates of Verona, the fields were covered with dead bodies, including horses. As people was starving, they preserved the horse meat in wine, spices and onions, and it’s more or less still the way it’s cooked for many hours over low heat. To be served with bigoli or polenta.
During Christmas time Milan has Panettone, Verona has Pandoro! It’s the evolution of another typical Christmas sweet bread, the Nadalin. Nowadays you can find Pandoro everywhere and it’s industrially produced but the best versions are the ones you can find in the pastry shops. It’s traditionally shaped like a frustum with an eight-pointed star section and it’s covered with icy sugar.It’s shape was designed by the painter Angelo dall’Oca Bianca and the original recipe was created by Domenico Melegatti. It’s first pastry shops is in Corso Portoni Borsari, 21: look up, you can still see a few stone-made pandoro on the top of the building!
Risino is unmissable in the local pastries. If you are on a rush, just ask for a espresso and a risino, a small basket (5 cm) made of shortcrust pastry filled with boiled rice mixed with custard.
50 km; +300 mt
In this tour we explore the classic area of production of Valpolicella wine. We leave the city behind cycling on a beautiful bike path that flanks a canal, then we head towards the hills of Valpolicella.
We follow country roads through the vineyards, passing close to ancient rural house and elegant Venetian Villas: some of them are nowadays prestigious wineries and the visit of one of them is a great wine and cultural experience. We cross the villages of San Pietro In Cariano and Fumane, in the heart of the classic Valpolicella, cycling at the bottom of beautiful terraced hills, where vines, olive groves and cherry trees grow strong. We cycle back to Verona following the course of the river Adige.
Valpolicella is a hilly region located between Verona and Lake Garda that borders with Lessini mountains in the north, river Adige in the east and south and Verona hills in the west.
There are two possible origins of the name Valpolicella: the “romantic” version says that it comes from Val Polis Cellae, the “valley with many cellars” in ancient Latin, to remark the importance of this wine region since the Roman time, but probably the true etymology is likely from the Latin vallis pulicalae, “valley of river deposits”… way less romantic!
Valpolicella has been inhabited since the Stone Age: some important archeological finds has been discovered close to the village of Fumane and during all Prehistory Valpolicella has been producing and trading flint. Before Roman time the area was inhabited by the Arusnati, people of Etruscan origin, that were already growing vines. The Romans continued with the production of wine and considered the area as a great place for vacations: precious Roman villas have been discovered in the territory in recent times, like the one in Negrar, that features beautiful mosaics. The Romans also developed the stone quarrying: many monuments in Verona and surroundings are built with this stone, such as the Arena, that was transported on the river Adige.
The region began to enjoy a certain degree of autonomy, which brought some richness in medieval time. After the domination of Della Scala family, the city passed under the domination of Venice, that confirmed its autonomy, rights and privileges: during its domination many beautiful villas were built in Valpolicella, that showed the richness and power of these noble families.
After a period of depopulation until World War II, Valpolicella became again a rich area, thanks to the wine and marble production that made Valpolicella famous all over the world. Nowadays Valpolicella is an area almost completely dedicated to agricolture, where beautiful terraced and cultivated hills are spotted with Venetian Villas, rural stone-made houses, dry-stone walls, ancient fountains, court houses, olive groves, cherry trees and immense vineyards.
Castelrotto is a small hilltop hamlet from where to enjoy a great view over Valpolicella and the mountains. The center of the hamlet features a church, a few villas, a bar and, on the top of it, an old ruined castle (destroyed in 1404): nowadays the main court of the castle, surrounded by the ancient walls, host a tamburello field. Tamburello (tambourine in English) is a really popular game in Valpolicella, similar to tennis and played with a tambourine.
Villa Pullè, Monga, Galtarossa
This Venetian Villa was built in XVII century and is nowadays a private residence and a farm. It is characterized by a long and beautiful entrance avenue flanked by high and old cypresses.
Close to Villa Pullè, Villa Costanza in a beautiful building dating XVII century. Besides of the beauty of the villa itself, unfortunately now abandoned, rumors say that in 2010 this villa was purchased by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and it is now on sale: anyone interested in living in a beautiful house in Valpolicella?
San Pietro in Cariano
San Pietro in Cariano is one of the five municipalities of the Classic Valpolicella. It has been inhabited since the V century BC by the Arusnati, the ancient people of Valpolicella, and then by the Romans. With the coming of the Venetians, rich merchants and noblemen started to build many villas in its territory. Its tiny centre, built on the top of a small hill, features some beautiful villas, some of those still inhabited or converted in tourist accommodations.
Villa della Torre
This Venetian Villa is one of the most impressive in Valpolicella area. The villa was commissioned by Della Torre family, one of the most important families of the region, and was probably designed by Giulio Romano or Michele Sammicheli, two of the best architects of the time. The building was finished in 1560 following the style of the Roman domus and, besides of the farming purposes, it was the summer residence of the family and it is full of symbols and allegories. The highlights of the villa are four great fireplaces that represent a lion, a demon and two marine monsters, that have a symbolic meaning.
The villa is nowadays the seat of Allegrini winery, one of the most important in Valpolicella: it is possible to visit the villa and tasting some great wine.
The territory of Fumane has been inhabited since the Paleolithic. Riparo Solinas, located close to the village, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe: it is a dolomite cave that contains rich evidence of three prehistoric hominid cultures, with cave pantings and human remains. Besides of some villas in its territory, including Villa della Torre, the most striking monument in Fumane is Santuario de la Salette. This small church is located in a panoramic position over the village and Fumane valley and is surrounded by high cypresses: it is reachable with a short walk from the village or a short but hard bike ride. It was built in 1860 in order to worship Virgin Mary to ask her to help the villagers to solve the problems with phylloxera, an insect pest that destroyed most of the vineyards.
Pieve di San Floriano
This church, located in the hamlet of San Floriano, is one of the most beautiful and important churches in Romanesque style in in Valpolicella. The church was built in X century over the rests of a Roman graveyard and close to the roman temple dedicated to the goddess Flora: have a look at the facade, you can still see some funerary stones! The interior of the church has been remodeled over the centuries and it is really different from the style of the facade. The church also features a XVII century cloister and a massive bellower.
Villa Ottolini Lebrecht
Villa Lebrecth is a Venetian Villa located in San Floriano and built in XVI century, then renovated in XIX century. It is possible to visit its park, a great place where to relax under the shade of the trees. Nowadays the villa hosts the faculty of enology of Verona, where students learn the basis of the production of wine. Where if not in the center of Valpolicella?
This villa is a beautiful building built in XV century. It was built as a fortress house for defending the lands of the Giona family, then it was embellished with a beautiful facade, two colonnades, an Italian-style garden and romantic English-style garden. Nowadays it is a 4-stars hotel.
Parona is the last neighborhood in the west side of Verona, before Valpolicella. Historically, Parona was an important port, as it lies on the right side of river Adige, where the boats had to stop when it was not possible to navigate through Verona. Some people from north Europe could pay for services only with the goods they were transporting and often the goods were salted herrings. That’s why in Parona there is a big tradition about cooking herrings with olive oil: on the main road there is still a shop that sells herring-based products.
Valpolicella wines are among the most prestigious red wines produced in Italy.
Wine has been produced in this region since Roman and pre-Roman time and was called retico, like the name of the people that were living here together with the Arusnati, the Rhaetinas. Valpolicella is a wine mainly produced with Corvina, a local grape variety, and include also Rondinella, Corvinone, Molinara and Oseleta grapes.
The classic Valpolicella wines are Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Superiore DOC, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, Amarone DOGC and Recioto DOCG.
Valpolicella DOC is the easiest of these wines, is made of freshly smashed-up grapes, doesn’t need any aging and is light-bodied. Valpolicella Superiore DOC needs an aging of at least of 12 months in barrels.
Historically, the main wine of Valpolicella was Recioto DOCG, a sweet red dessert wine: the grapes need to be taken to special drying rooms where they are allowed to desiccate for about 100 days, concentrating the sugar inside the grape. After that, the grapes are crushed and the wine fermentation is interrupted in order to have a sweet wine.
Amarone DOCG is made with the same technique of Recioto but here the yeast ferments the high levels of sugars in the wine completely into alcohol: probably, Amarone was created unintentionally by forgetting some batches of wine destined for Recioto. Amarone age in barrels for a period of at least 2 years.
Finally, Ripasso DOC is made with another technique related with the production of Amarone: the pomace of leftover grape skins and seeds from the fermentation of Amarone are added to Valpolicella for a period of extended maceration: it boosts the alcohol level and body of the wine.
Risotto all’Amarone is the unmissable typical plate in every restaurant in Valpolicella. The topical moment during the preparation of this risotto is simmering with a big glass of Amarone until reduces. The final result is a dark red creamy risotto, unforgettable!
Polenta con la renga
Everybody knows polenta, but who knows renga? This fish, the herring, has to be grilled, cleaned from skin and fishbones, then added to chopped vegetables and soaked with oil for a period of 40 days. After that period, serve on top of polenta and enjoy! This plate is really typical in Parona and is eaten on the first Wednesday of Lent.
Dry cakes with Recioto
The happy ending of every meal in Valpolicella is pairing a dry cake (or cookies) with Recioto sweet wine. The dry cake, such as sbrisolona or torta frolla, has to be immersed into a glass of Recioto, that will make the cake softer and sweeter.
46 km; +350 mt
The countryside is just a few minutes far from the city centre of Verona. After crossing the city centre we follow country roads that flank small streams of clear water, until we get to the green valleys in the eastern side of Verona. Here, among rolling hills and small villages, we cycle through vineyards that produce Valpolicella and Soave wines: in the middle of a green valley the village of Illasi lies, where we can visit a few noble and elegant Venetian Villas.
After a few easy and panoramic climb we finally get to Soave, an ancient village surrounded by majestic medieval walls and overlooked by a castle.
Eventually, the route reaches San Bonifacio, where we will take the train back to Verona (about 20 minutes).
Montorio is a charming little village in the outskirts of Verona, surrounded by green hills and vineyards. The village is characterized by a system of small canals and little lakes of spring water: the water is clear and pure and has been brought to Verona in aqueducts since Roman time. The village is overlooked by a hill with two military buildings. The most impressive is the Castle of Montorio, probably built in X century and now partly destroyed and abandoned. Fort Werk John lies close to the castle and is an Austrian fortress built in the second half of XIX century: from both buildings there is a nice view over the countryside.
San Martino Buon Albergo
San Martino Buon Albergo is a big village that lies at the bottom of the hills. The village itself is not particularly charming, but there is a nice story behind its name. “Buon Albergo” means something like “good hotel”. The area was crossed since Roman time by the important Via Postumia and other minor roads and there was a station destined to change horses ad for travelers’s hospitality. This tradition continued during the centuries and that’s why the village gained this appellation: even Napoleon slept here!
Val di Mezzane e Val d’illasi
After San Martino Buon Albergo, the itinerary crosses the bottom of two wide valleys, Val di Mezzane and Val d’Illasi. Val di Mezzane is the smallest of the two, is a green and fertile valley covered with immense vineyards, olive groves and cherry trees. The valley only hosts a few tiny villages, such as the authentic Mezzane di Sotto, located at the bottom of the hills, some nice Venetian Villas and many wineries. Val d’Illasi is the widest and largest and also more populated. The valley is crossed by all is length by a stream, called Progno, that for most time of the year is dry and looks like a stony moony landscape: only when it rains for some days in a row it is a proper stream. Looking North, the valley ends with some high peaks: that’s the Carega group, which top reaches 2.259 mt altitude, mountains made of Dolomia rock, the same of the Dolomites. The marine origin of these mountains can be seen in the little village of Bolca, situated oat 800 mt altitude, where many marine fossils have been found throughout the years, including moonfish, batfish, spadefish and angelfish. The bottom of the valley is spotted with beautiful court houses, Venetian Villas and farms, and medium size villages such as Colognola ai Colli, Illasi and Tregnago. Val d’Illasi is a great place where to produce wine as in the area 3 DOC wines can be produced: Valpolicella, Soave and Durello, the local sparkling wine.
Illasi is a village at the bottom of Illasi Valley. Illasi is a quiet village surrounded by vineyards and hills whose centre is nice and pleasant, great for a short break or a glass of wine. The village center features a few interesting villas and a nice square overlooked by the facades of the church and the town hall, built in new-gothic style.
What to see:
– Illasi castle
The village of Illasi is overlooked by a castle built on the top of a hill. The castle is now abandoned and is included in a private property, but some beautiful paths get close to this beautiful building. The castle was built during X century and had a strategical importance until the time of the Scaligeri family. During the domination of Venice the castle lost importance and was given to the brave warlord Girolamo Pompei, that transferred his residence in the castle. There is a creepy story about the castle and Girolamo Pompei. The legend says that Girolamo married a woman, Ginevra Serego Alighieri (poet Dante’s descendant), that spent long periods alone, as Girolamo was often in war. During his absence, she met the governor of Verona, Virginio Orsini, and the two became lovers, keeping this relationship secret but not to her servant. Once back from the war, Girolamo got to know about this story somehow and killed the servant. Virginio Orsini escaped to Rome and the Republic of Venice started a process against him: eventually, Virginio was beheaded by the Pope’s troops. In the meanwhile, Ginevra disappeared and nobody new where she was: rumors said that she was walled up alive. At the beginning of XIX century the skeleton of a woman was found: nobody knows if those bones are Ginevra’s bones, also because a glass urn containing bones and chains was found in a dark room in Palazzo Perez Pompei… now we have two secrets!
– Villa Perez Pompei – Sagramoso
The family of Girolamo Pompei moved from the castle to this villa during XVII century. This beautiful palace was started in 1685 and replaced a rural house: the whole area was given to Pompei family by the Republic of Venice as recognition of military merits, giving them also the appellation of Counts of Illasi. The palace has a main building flanked by two elegant colonnades and stables. The rooms are richly painted and the building is surrounded by a beautiful 60-hectares large park featuring an Italian-style garden. It is possibile to visit the villa with groups of minimum 10 people: in the villa there is also an elegant restaurant, owned by the Sagramoso family.
– Villa Pompei Carlotti
This majestic villa lies in the centre of Illasi and stands out with its magnificent facade. It was built in XVIII century and was owned by the Pompei family, nowadays is owned by the marquis Carlotti. The main building is majestic, with beautiful columns and a gable that remind a Greek temple, the interiors are well painted and on the back of the building there is an elegant Italian-style garden. The villa is private but it is possible to admire it from the road.
Soave is a beautiful village that lies at the bottom of a hill at the end of Tramigna Valley. Besides of the beauty of the village itself, the landscape that surrounds Soave is the true value added. The hills are gentle and covered with vineyards, the valley is also famous for the cherry trees that in springtime paint the valley with beautiful colors: unfortunately, like other parts of the province, many cherry trees have been replaced with vineyards, but in this valley many trees still exist.
The village of Soave owes its fame mainly to the castle and the wine. Located close to the Via Postumia, important ancient Roman road, the village had a certain importance during Roman time and probably the first fortified building was built during that time, but it became an important center from VI century, when a Swabian tribe established here: the name Soave probably comes from the Swabian people. The village and the castle increased its importance during the Scaligeri domination but then, the castle lost importance during Venetian time: its architecture was too “old” for the modern wars, but the village kept a certain importance thanks to its position and the production on quality wine.
Nowadays Soave still keep its medieval charme, its center is still surrounded by massive walls overlooked by the castle: you can breathe a great medieval atmosphere during the local festivals, such as the Medieval Festival of White Wine in May. The main avenue features some nice buildings such as the Palace of Justice, and, almost at the end of it, Zanella park, a perfect place where to relax.
What to see
– Soave castle
The castle is the main attraction of the village and its symbol. The castle is reachable from the village center walking on a long staircase that goes up to the hill: a little tiring, but from the top entrance of the castle the view is amazing. The walls embrace the whole village and are well preserved. The castle became extremely important during the Scaligeri domination: they renovated the building and built the village walls. The castle lost importance during the Venetian domination and eventually became a farm and finally fell abandoned. In 1890 former Verona major Giulio Camuzzoni bought the castle and restored it. The castle features a drawbridge, a few courtyards and rooms with frescoes, paintings and forniture: the view from the main tower is stunning. The castle is visitable, check the opening time online!
The surroundings of Soave are perfect for hiking. The most famous hike is called “Percorso dei 10 capitelli”, the 10 Shrines path. It is about 10 km long and goes over the hills until the village of Monteforte d’Alpone and back: the path is pretty easy and really panoramic!
This tour ends in San Bonifacio, a small town where to take the train back to Verona. San Bonifacio itself is not really charming as in its territory many industries developed since the end of WWII. Anyway, the town center is lively and it is nice to walk on the main avenue, Viale Venezia. The main attraction of San Bonifacio is the Abbey of Saint Peter of Villanova, a beautiful Romanesque-style church built at the end of VIII century.
Soave is one of the most famous Italian white wines. This wine is mainly produced with Garganega (minimum 70%) and Trebbiano di Soave, two indigenous grapes, in the eastern side of the province of Verona. The area of production of this wine include hills and flatlands of volcanic origin and limestone composition, so the wines produced in these different areas are pretty unique. There are three different typologies of Soave. Soave classico DOC is produced in the classic area, in the area of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone, with a soil that is mainly basaltic and calcareous, Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC, the most recent typology, produced on the hills of the western side of Soave, and Soave DOC, mainly produced in the flatlands. Soave can be Superiore DOCG, produced with the grapes of the best vineyards, and Riserva, that need 2 years of aging. Finally, the production of Recioto di Soave DOCG is similar to the one of Recioto della Valpolicella as the grapes need a time of drying process of about 4-6 months.
Risotto con Durello and Risi e Bisi
Durello is an interesting sparkling volcanic wine produced in the hills and mountains in the east of Verona. Durello can be used like Amarone in the simmering, the final result is a great risotto, to be whisked with Monte Veronese cheese. The local recipe of Risi e Bisi (rice and peas), famous all over the Veneto region, adds Pisello Verdone Nano, the local variety of peas produced in Colognola ai Colli.
Bogoni di Sant’Andrea
The village of Sant’Andrea lies at the bottom of Illasi valley, when it gets narrow and surrounded by high mountains. Sant’Andrea is famous for a peculiar festival, the “Sagra dei Bogoni”, dedicated to the snails. This festival is one of the most ancient in Italy as it dates back the XIII century, where snails were sold together with sheeps, cows and pigs, early in the morning in order to avoid the collectors. Snail are prepared in different ways and these plates can be found on the most typical restaurants of the area.
Rufioi di Costeggiola
Rufioi is the typical pastry of Costeggiola, little hamlet close to Soave. Rufioi look like ravioli, filled with pine nuts, amaretto, liquor, almonds, plum jam and candied citron and finally fired. They are typically prepared during Carnival.
51 km; +350 mt
We leave the city behind cycling along a safe bike path that heads towards the countryside, cultivated with large fields of peach and kiwi trees. The bike path gains altitude and reaches the lively village of Bussolengo, from where we can enjoy a beautiful views over Valpolicella and the mountains. Then, the route goes towards the hills and follows country roads flanked by cypresses and surrounded by large vineyards and ancient olive trees.
The itinerary goes downhill until it reaches Lake Garda and Bardolino, a lively village famous for its homonymous red wine. We suggest to do a little detour to the village of Garda, to the north, it’s just 3 km far from Bardolino.
After visiting Bardolino, the route heads south flanking Lake Garda, crosses the charming village of Lazise and finally reaches Peschiera del Garda.
Going back to Verona is easy: Lake Garda and Verona are just 15 minutes far by train!
One of the first neighbourhoods in the west of Verona is Chievo. For many people this name doesn’t say anything, but football lovers link this name with the Chievo Verona team. This little team (the neighbourhoods counts less then 5.000 inhabitants) played in the Serie A for many years (the Italian Premier League) and in Champions League in 2007: a little football miracle!
Bussolengo is a town on the way to Lake Garda, crossed by the Ciclopista del Sole. The city centre is lively, especially during the large weekly Thursday market where it’s possible to find fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and local products: there are also a few great spots for good pastries and coffee. A stop at the panoramic terrace by the war memorial is suggested: it’s a good place where to take pictures over Valpolicella and the mountains.
Lake Garda is 368 mt² large and it is the biggest Italian lake. It has a glacial origin, the northern side is surrounded by high mountains (the highest is Monte Baldo, 2.218 mt) and the southern side is surrounded by rolling moraine hills, where there is a predominant mediterranean climate and vegetation.
Lake Garda is also known as lake Benaco, from the latin word Benacus: this word comes from the ancient Celt word bennach, that means with many promontories, as the shape of the lake. The current name Garda is from the Langobard time (VI-VIII century), when many forts and watchtowers – called warda – were built.
The lake has just a big tributary river in the northern side, river Sarca, and one big emissary river, river Mincio. A curiosity: the small tributary river Aril, just 175 mt long, is considered the shortest in Italy. There are 5 islands: the largest one is Isola del Garda, where Saint Francis of Assisi founded a monastery in 1220.
The area of Lake Garda has always been strategically important and many people lived by its shores. Many prehistoric pile dwellings from Bronze Age were found close to the shores and now they are included among the UNESCO heritage sites.
The Romans also lived by the lake and still nowadays we can visit the roman villas in Sirmione (Grotte di Catullo) and Desenzano, and the houses in Peschiera del Garda. After the Longbard invasions, the Roman Sacred Empire ruled over the area: the village of Lazise was the first independent comune in Italy.
The Scaligeri family from Verona ruled over the eastern Lake Garda during medieval time: they fortified many villages and built lots of castles. After the fall of the Scaligeri, Lake Garda was contended by the Visconti family (Milano) and Venice. Venice dominated the area until the came of Napoleon in 1796.
The lands passed to the Austrian in 1815 and their domination lasted until 1866, when the area of Lake Garda (but not the north side) was included into the Reign of Italy. Some of the most important battles were fought in its territory, in Santa Lucia, Solferino and San Martino, where it is still possible to find many celebratory monuments of the independence.
Lively village on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, Bardolino is famous for the production of red wine and extravirgin olive oil. The area has been constantly inhabited since the III millennium b.C.: in its territory it is possible to find traces of a pile-dwelling civilization, but the most ancient remains that one can find in the village are dated back to the medieval time (from Lombard to Scaligeri time): there are still some sections of the ancient walls that used to surround the village. Very important for the development of the village were the Colombaniani monks, that evangelized the area and improved the agricolture: vineyards and olive groves still are still the main cultivations of the area. Among the churches, San Severo church stands out with remarkable frescoes and a medieval crypt. Not-to-be-missed is the local market on Thursday morning, where the streets are invaded by colorful stalls full of local products and clothes. The walk along the lake is also unmissable, among colorful flowerbeds and elegant villas. For food and wine lovers, in its territory there are many famous wineries, as much as oil mills and a interesting olive-oil museum in the little hamlet of Cisano.
The village of Garda is not on the itinerary but it deserves a little 3 km detour on a beautiful bike path from Bardolino to the north. Garda lies on the coast of a little gulf protected by green hills and it is one of the most charming places of Lake Garda. It features a charming centre with some elegant buildings, such as Palazzo dei Capitani, that dates back to the period of the Venetian domination. The majestic Villa Albertini and Villa Canossa stand out: the best view over these buildings is from the lake or from the promenade towards Punta San Vigilio. La Rocca is another unmissable place: in this promontory overhanging the lake there used to be a fortress built by the Lombards. Warda was the name given by the Lombards to the fortresses and it’s from that world that the name Garda is from. La Rocca is reachable by walking on a demanding path but don’t give up: the view from the top of the hill is amazing! Punta San Vigilio is one the most romantic spots of Lake Garda and along the promenade to reach it there is one of the best pebble-beaches of the area. The small peninsula has been chosen as one of the preferite destinations by many famous people, such as Winston Churchill and the tsar Alexander II, as well as poets and artists that praised its beauty. Nowadays the villa, the little church, the restaurant, the port and the fascinating Baia delle Sirene (the Siren’s Bay) are owned by the counts Guarienti di Brenzone: if you can afford the price, a lunch in the restaurant will be unforgettable.
The village of Lazise is surrounded by high medieval walls and features many charming little alleys, an ancient port where the fisherman boats are still moored, and a great castle built by the Scaligeri, now included in the park of a private villa. In 983 it was the first Italian free commune, not subject to the feudatory, a sort of independence from the Sacred Roman Empire. The promenade on the lakeside towards Bardolino is one of the best on the eastern shore. Don’t miss a walk in the small alleys of the village, where colorful houses are flanked by shops and restaurants.
Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda has been recently listed as a UNESCO heritage sites thanks to the massive fortifications that surround the village. Besides of the many forts built on its territory, the village is surrounded by great Venetian walls, apparently unassailable, and the water of Lake Garda and river Mincio.
Peschiera del Garda has a long history: in its territory many pile-dwelling houses from the Bronze Age – now UNESCO heritage site – were found. Peschiera del Garda has always been in a strategical position, between the Po Plain and the Alps, facing the lake Garda and crossed by river Mincio.
During the Roman age the so-called Arilica had a strategical importance on the Via Gallica, a road that linked the main cities in the Po Plain: some remains of the old city are visible close to San Martino Vescovo church.
The building of the walls already started during the Scaligeri time (XIII century) and during the domination of Venice the city became one of the most important strongholds of the Republic: massive walls were built and still nowadays the main roads to enter in the city pass under the great gates built by the Venetian, Porta Brescia and Porta Verona.
Peschiera del Garda was a important city also during the Austrian and Napoleon occupation: many forts were built around the area, but they lost their importance after the annexion of Peschiera del Garda by the Kingdom of Italy in 1966.
What to do:
The best walks are along the Canale di Mezzo, that divide the military section to the historical city centre, until the panoramic Voltoni bridge; on the patrol walkaway of Porta Brescia and on the promenade Mazzini until Cappuccini beach.
– Sanctuary Madonna del Frassino
Not far from the city centre there is a beautiful sanctuary dated XVI century, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. According to the tradition, here is where Virgin Mary showed up to a shepherd that was bitten by a snake and saved him.
Bardolino is a red wine that can be produced in the area around the East coast of Lake Garda. Bardolino is produced with the same main grapes of Valpolicella, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, but also other grapes such as Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merzemino can be added. The great difference between the two wines is given by the influence of Lake Garda and the different soil: only few miles divide the two DOC areas but that’s enough for making two unique wines; another difference is the aging, that in Bardolino is limited. Bardolino wine is really easy to drink, compared to Valpolicella, and can be found in various typologies. It gets the denomination “Classico” if produced in the classic area of production, and the denomination “Superiore” DOCG if the grapes used for making the wine are particularly suitable for aging. Bardolino wine is divided into 3 areas: Montebaldo, La Rocca and Sommacampagna. The rosé version is called Chiaretto and is perfect for aperitifs during hot summer days: for sparkling wine lovers, there is also a Spumante version of Chiaretto.
Tortellini di Valeggio
A super-thin rolled-out homemade dough, filled with mixed meat (beef, pork, veal and chicken) and flavorings, typical from Valeggio sul Mincio but spread everywhere in Verona area. They are also known as “Love Knots”, so romantic! There is a legend behind it, set in XIV century, about the nymph Silvia and the soldier Malco, that left a golden tied handkerchief by the shore of River Mincio as pledge of their love, after a fight against the Visconti soldiers.
Bigoli con le Sarde
Bigoli are a fresh homemade pasta, similar to spaghetti but thicker and rougher as they have to hold the sauce. They are typical from Veneto region and in the lake area they are served with a space made of the local fish, the sarda (Alosa Agone)
Typical butter cookies with raisins, created by the innkeeper Leonard Walsh for Winston Churchill, that was hosted in Punta San Vigilio after a trip to Venice.