a window and a flowery balcony in Soave, wine village in North Italy

It is somewhat unfortunate that our culture trip to Italy needs to start with an exploration of the various wine areas around Verona, especially Valpolicella and Soave.

We have settled for a couple of nights in Verona, our first stop in North Italy. But the next day is a Monday, the day that most museums are closed, so we decide to first explore the wine region north of town.

Bardolino at the lake, in this case Lago di Garda

a lake like every other lake, in fact

In order to also get a glimpse of the Lago di Garda, we drive to Bardolino, name of one of the well-known wines of Veneto, the province that covers Verona and Venice. But the town of that name, at the lake shore, is a disappointment. There may not be many tourists right now, but all those who are here, seem to have congregated in Bardolino. Which has all the hallmarks of a tourist town, the large terraces with menus in four languages, the pedestrian streets full of souvenir shops. Little authenticity. Besides, the weather doesn’t help, it is dry but cloudy, and then is Lago di Garda just like any other lake. After an hour we have seen all there is to see. But we haven’t tried any wine yet, for that you need to be outside town.

pleasure boats in the marina of Bardolino

and the quintessential tourist lay-out of the town

it is not an individual town, but Valpolicella Street is everywhere

one of the villages with Valpolicella in the name

the Valpolicella grapes

humble house in the middle of the wine yards

and the wine yards themselves

We decide to drive on to Valpolicella. Except that our GPS cannot find a town of that name. It transpires that Valpolicella is the name of the region, not a town. But there is San Giorgio di Valpolicella, Sant’ Ambrogio di Valpolicella, Negrar di Valpolicella, Marano di Valpolicella, and lots more. Especially the area in between Negrar and Marano is picturesque, with many vine plots against the lower hills, and invariably a mansion in the middle, or on top of the hill. French chateau, Italian style.

vine ranks tied to metal structures, here in Valpolicella

inside one of the tasting rooms

blue grapes, here, and tightly packed – none of this nonsense of removing some grapes to allow the others to grow fuller

harvest is in full swing

It is end September; harvest has started, but many of the vines are still full of grapes, dark blue. Compared to France, it looks all a bit more messy, less organized. But here, too, many wine shops, many individual growers that let you taste their products – and hope you will buy their bottles. Most of the day is overcast, no good for pictures, so we do visit a few of these shops. They all make Valpolicella Classico, Superiore, and Ripasso. And they produce Amarone, a wine in a whole different category, not only in taste, but also in price. Unlike France, of each different variety they have only one vintage on offer – and the better the wine, the older the vintage. The Amarones we try are all almost 10 years old. Unusually, for us, we don’t buy a lot, except for the occasional bottle. Four weeks to go….

this is the largest natural stone bridge of Europe, the Ponte di Vejo (courtesy Sofia)

We drive up the valley, to Sant Anna di Alfaedo. The tourist highlight is the largest natural stone bridge of Europe, the Ponte di Vejo. A five minute drive from the main road, a five minute stroll from the car park. Tick, got the teeshirt. For the rest, it was wine ranks, and more wine ranks. Late afternoon the sun came out, which helped appreciating the landscape a lot more. And helped improving the photos, too.

Soave is a wine region in its own right

Later, we do manage a brief visit to Soave, as well. Described as a picturesque village, we are once more disappointed, we have seen much better villages before. Right, the whole village is walled, but the walls have been heavily restored. Inside, there is little atmosphere. But there is a wine house, just outside, where we do try the Soave, a white wine that is underrated because of the many cheap supermarket varieties. Here we learn that there is good quality Soave, too. But we still resist buying in bulk….

next: Verona

wine ranks with the village and castle in the back

Soave is white wine, from yellow grapes, to make sure…

the fortified town

but then, some of the city gates are decorated with grapes hanging

we had to visit one of the growers cum sellers, of course

this is the very professional looking tasting and sales room of Monte Tondo, excellent quality from what we tasted

and another view of the castle in Soave, from the village

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2 Responses to 02. Valpolicella

  1. Thea Oudmaijer says:

    Toch al wat wijnen geproefd???

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