When planning your next trip to Italy, fill it with pure adventure, heavenly food, and undiscovered beauty. Take in the beautiful Italian architecture and rich cultural heritage by taking less traveled routes to cities often overlooked by throngs of tourists where you can engage with the locals. First stop is Verona located in Italy’s northern Veneto Region that is filled with history dating back to the 1st Century where you can tour Juliet’s 14th century home that inspired Shakespeare’s tragic love story- Romeo and Juliet. Roman ruins and medieval monuments give a glimpse into the rich history of this important merchant city.
WHERE TO STAY
The luxurious Palazzo Victoria dates back to the 14th Century and is decorated in a historic Veronese style that even has archeological artifacts of the original Roman roads in the basement. Beautiful rooms and suites are all individually designed and decorated to emulate the culture of the region with stunning balconies overlooking the historic city square. Marble floors, exquisite bathrooms, large windows, original frescoed ceilings, and wooden features fill the rooms throughout the Palazzo. Experience the cuisine of Verona at Borsari 36 located inside the Palazzo that serves authentic Veronese specialties with a modern twist crafted by Executive Chef Carmine Calo. Start your night at the Victoria Lounge and Cafe, which serves an array of fine Italian wines and delicious cocktails including the Veronese specialty- an Aperol Spritz, prepared with aperol, prosecco, and a dash of sparkling water. Centrally located in the middle of town, all of Verona’s highlights are within a short walking distance including the Roman Arena where most of the operas are performed, high end shopping on “Via Mazzini”, and Shakespeare’s “Casa di Giulietta” where love notes are inscribed in the courtyard.
At the heart of the city is Piazza Erbe, which has been a gathering place for locals since the Roman Era. Originally an inn, Trattoria al Pompiere was opened in the 1900’s and run by a local fireman who had not given it a name, but was eventually christened as Fireman’s Trattoria, by his loyal following of customers. Chef Marco Dandrea serves authentic Veronese and Veneto cuisine with a vast selection of Italian cheeses and meats. Specialties of the kitchen include their popular bean soup, gnocchi and risotto and tiramisu. Pair your meal with a glass of Amarone Valpolicella, Verona’s most notable wine. Across the picturesque Ponte Pietra is their sister café- Dolcezze al Pompiere which serves a variety of desserts and delicious gelato with intense and unique flavors amidst an unforgettable panoramic view.
Next stop is the charming historic village of Borghetto sul Mincio dating back to the 7th century AD, and located south of Lake Garda. This is also the birthplace of tortellini pasta, which is shaped as a love knot “Nodo d’Amore” and inspired by an ill fated love story where two forbidden lovers tied their handkerchiefs in a knot and threw themselves in the river. While strolling through the cobblestone streets if feels as if time has stood still. A perfect place to experience the character of the town is at the Antica Locanda Mincio located by the Visconteo bridge. Delectable highlights from their authentic Italian menu include “Agnoli” Tortellini with melted butter, pumpkin ravioli, and the pear and cheese ravioli.
Who knows if it’s the spirit of Romeo and Juliet playing their part over us, but Verona is truly the city of love which is woven throughout their history, culture and cuisine. Next stop is the beautiful countryside of Tuscany only two hours away by train.
WHEN IN TUSCANY
One of the best places to explore the majestic Tuscan countryside is at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, centrally located in the small town of Il Cioccio. A luxurious and peaceful oasis to call home, sumptuous rooms feature balconies with breathtaking views of the Apprennine Alps and Serchio Valley along with a plethora of amenities at your disposal. After a long day of touring, relax at the Beauty & Wellness Spa that features an indoor swimming pool, sauna, shower with color therapy, ice fall and Turkish bath.
Indulge in fine Italian dining at their two signature restaurants- La Salette which specializes in delicious Tuscan cuisine and the romantic La Veranda which offers a panoramic view of the rolling hills from their stunning terrace. Located in the Garfagnana Valley of Tuscany, a recommended day trip is to the ancient town of Barga that offers homestyle cuisine, local markets and historic tours with an alluring atmosphere not found anywhere else in Tuscany. For some of the region’s best homemade pasta dine at Scacciaguai Restaurant and L’Altana in town.
Other nearby attractions can be found in Pisa and Lucca. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most iconic architectural wonderments of Italy. The neighboring town of Lucca offers a glimpse into Italy’s gilded past as it was once one of the most powerful cities during the medieval period. Historical sites to visit include the archeological remains from the 12th century church of Saint Giovanni, the Clock Tower, and the Basilica of San Frediano. A favorite restaurant amongst locals is La Buca di Sant’Antonio that serves beautifully prepared traditional Tuscan cuisine that exemplifies the spirit of the region.Take the time to discover the treasures of these lesser known regions of Verona and Tuscany that will leave an indelible mark on your soul and you will understand how these regions have inspired love stories that are still told centuries later.
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