Romeo and Juliet's Verona city offers architecture and gastronomic traditions that stretch back for centuries, writes MICHELE SHAH.
Praised by many famed writers and poets, the Verona city is perhaps most widely known as the setting for Shakespeare’s moving and romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Today Verona is a prosperous city; pedestrian streets, paved in the local pink marble, cross the centre lined with bright and expensive shops, delicatessens, cafés and restaurants. Medieval towers dominate the skyline. Winding alleyways lead into elegant squares and out again past Renaissance-style buildings and across the river Adige with its many bridges. Having preserved the architecture of its past, today its magnificent amphitheatre, built in 100AD, hosts tenors and sopranos of international fame during its world-acclaimed summer opera season. Verona is well placed for visiting Lake Garda and Venice (and is much cheaper for accommodation). It offers an excellent variety of hearty traditional dishes served with wines from the nearby Valpolicella and Soave vineyards. Come spring, Vinitaly, Italy’s wine trade fair attracts thousands of wine producers from all over Italy and the rest of the world.
WHERE TO STAY
Verona’s top hotel, Hotel Gabbia D’Oro, is centrally located. A small townhouse, it retains its original brick walls and wooden beams. A cosy sitting room and bar offer relaxed comfort and a small courtyard orangerie is a shady place to relax in the summer. The 19 suites and eight bedrooms are stylish and comfortable, each with their own individual character.
The larger 17th-century Hotel Accademia, once Maria Callas’ favourite, has a touch of old worldliness. Rooms 302 and 360 are spaciously set out under an attractive dome ceiling.
Hotel Gabbia d’Oro, Corso Porta Borsari, 4A, 37100 Verona. Tel: +39 045 800 3060
Hotel Accademia, Via Scala, 12, 37121 Verona. Tel: +39 045 596 222
EATING AND DRINKING
A short walk from the centre, crossing the Adige and Ponte Pietra you come to the characteristic Osteria la Fontanina. Its 15 tables are partitioned among boxes of vintage wines. Intimate, romantic dining with sumptuous cuisine prepared by chef Michele Motta is accompanied by a choice wine list of 1,500 labels.
The chef and manager of L’Oste Scuro, Simone Lugoboni, focuses on fresh sea fish. Exotic plates of mixed crudités: scallops, scampi and salmon tartare, are presented and prepared with passion. A fine wine list includes whites from Italy, Burgundy, Alsace and Loire, in addition to a few reds and a good selection of dessert wines. A visit to Verona’s famed wine bar Bottega del Vino is de rigueur. The place buzzes with atmosphere. Mid morning and early evening locals fill its wooden tables and benches, chatting over a glass of local Valpolicella. A selection of over 120 wines is available by the glass, but real wine buffs can choose from a wine list of over 1,500 labels.
A destination popular with locals and visitors is Al Pompiere. The selection of over 350 Italian labels includes premium reds from Veneto estates such as Allegrini, Masi and Quintarelli, accompanied by an impressive choice of up to 120 Italian cheeses and an assortment of salamis, hams and other regional delicacies. Tucked away in one of the side streets is Osteria Le Vecete. It’s the ideal place for a quick informal lunch. A good range of local wines by the glass/bottle. At the other extreme is Verona’s two-star Michelin Il Desco, reputed to be one of Italy’s finest dining locations. The main dining room is extravagantly decorated with large oil paintings and glitzy mirrors. A comprehensive, 800-label wine list covers most of Italy’s wine-growing regions.
All Verona’s traditional dishes originate from medieval legends. If asked, Armando Bordin, chef and owner of Ristorante Locanda di Castelvecchio, will regale you with the legends of Gnocchi con la Pastissada de Caval.
Osteria la Fontanina, Via Portichetti Fontanelle, 3, S Stefano. Tel: +39 045 913 305
Trattoria L’Oste Scuro, Vicolo S Silvestro, 10. Tel +39 045 592 650
La Bottega del Vino, Via Scudo di Francio, 3. Tel: +39 045 800 4535
Al Pompiere, Vicolo Regina d’Ungheria. Tel: +39 045 803 0537
Osteria Le Vecete, Via Pellicciai, 32. Tel: +39 045 594 681
Ristorante Il Desco, Via Dietro S Sebastiano, 7. Tel: +39-045-595358
Ristorante Locanda di Castelvecchio, Corso Cavour 49. Tel: +39 045 803 0097
In Verona you can find an excellent selection of local wines, as well as wines from all over Italy. A visit to Enoteca Oreste Dal Zovo is an experience not to be missed. Oreste is a friendly, fully fledged sommelier with a passion for legends and wines. Bottiglieria Corsini has an assortment of over 500 Italian wines to choose from, in addition to 50 vintage port labels and a range of 70 Champagnes.
Enoteca Oreste Dal Zovo Vicolo S Marco in Foro, 7. Tel: +39 045 803 4369
Bottiglieria Corsini Largo Div Pasubio, 2. Tel: +39 045 596 657