Dear Friends and Travelers,
Spring and Summer might be far away but winter weather makes me daydream about the warm season. There is no better time to start planning where you will go this summer and here I am to help out and give you some traveling advice. This past September after a family wedding (my cousin got married to a really great girl) we went to visit the Tommasi Family in Valpolicella, in the Veneto Region. The Tommasi Family is one of the Amarone Families, the family-owned vineyards making a great rich and full bodied red wine that is traditional of Valpolicella. Check out the Video after the jump to see my interview with Pierangelo Tommasi on wine making Valpolicella style.
Thanks to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a household name all over the world. But there is more to this city and the neighbouring area. Many tourists decide to visit Venice and overlook Verona and the Valpolicella area. They usually think of Tuscany as the wine country. Nothing could be more incorrect. We had a wonderful time in Verona and Valpolicella and it is definitely worth visiting, even just on your way to Venice (by train, of course!)
How to get there?
If you are planning on visiting Venice, you cannot miss Verona as it is Just 1 hour by train away. You know us Italians we like our trains: you can get to Verona by train from Milan and Venice but there is also a tiny but very modern airport not too far from the city centre.
Where to Stay?
Hospitality in Veneto is great (almost like in the South… ahahah just kidding)! In the City Centre there are some great boutique hotels, for example Hotel Antica Porta Leona, Escalus Luxury Suites, Hotel Due Torri. We wanted to experience Valpolicella and the wine country, so we stayed at a wonderful hotel and spa minutes away from Verona, called Villa Quaranta Park Hotel. What was amazing at Villa Quaranta was the high standard of the property, the service and the food. The owners of the hotel are well traveled and smart so they have created an experience that has some international flare with solid italian values. The rooms are tastefully decorated and luxurious with a modern feel. The breakfast room is full of light and a with spread of food that I am still dreaming of! And let’s not talk about the spa… do you know the Caudalie spa at the Plaza in NY? Villa Quaranta was WAY better!
Where to eat and drink?
Veneto is one of the Italian Regions with the best produce. Besides the sunny vineyards, the fruit and vegetables are luscious and flavourful. The food is great, but you are in Italy after all so would you expect any less. Still there were some restaurants that really stood out. As I mentioned above we LOVED the food at Villa Quaranta. The breakfast was an experience but the lunch at the pool or the dinner in the more formal restaurant Borgo Antico did not disappoint. I am posting pictures because seeing the dishes was half the feast!
We also visited two restaurants in the the city centre of Verona. Antica Bottega del Vino, the parent restaurant of Bottega del Vino and Via Quadronno in New York, serves traditional Veneto Food cooked skillfully and has a great ambiance.
The best dinner was at Antico Caffe’ Dante. By best meal I don’t mean the best of the vacation, this was actually one of my all time favorite restaurants hands down. Together with La Madia by Pino Cuttaia in Licata, Sicily, this was the meal of a lifetime for me. We dined al fresco overlooking Piazza Dante and the food was just about as outstanding as it looks… again I will have the pictures do the talking.
What to do?
Verona is full of history and architectural examples of a medieval city. In the City Centre you need to see the Arena, with Palazzo Barbieri and Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Piazza delle Erbe with Juliet’s Balcony, Piazza dei Signori (close to Piazza Dante) and the tomb of Cangrande della Scala along with Churches of Santa Anastasia and the Duomo. I strongly suggest that you rent a car and take a tour of the wine country. Valpolicella is famous for many wines, among which Amarone, and visiting a vineyard is really a great experience. See the video of my visit to the Tommasi Vineyards below…. there are World Guinness involved and some great wine!!!
In addition to touring the Valpolicella, a tour of the Lake district is also a good idea. Lake Garda, one of the largest lakes in the area is not far and the lively medieval towns of Peschiera, Lazise and Bardolino are worth the trip. If you are visiting Verona with children you may want to stop in Gardaland, an amusement park I visited with my parents when I was a kid and it was really fun.
In short, you need to visit Verona and the Valpolicella region: the people makes you feel welcome, the food & wine wonderful, the architecture and history are captivating.