I *Heart* the Valpolicella!


I have fallen hard for this lesser known but very special part of the Veneto. The Valpolicella is a “wine zone” just 15 minutes outside of Verona and less than 30 minutes from the banks of Lake Garda.  It has all the stuff its “competitor” (Tuscany) has…scenic rolling hills covered in vineyards and olive trees, charming old villages, a robust cuisine, impeccable wines…BUT without the crowds and prices (and pomp and circumstance in some cases).

In fact, the Valpolicella ranks just after Chianti in total Italian DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine production and winemaking in the zone actually dates back to ancient Greek times! My all-time favorite red wine, Amarone, comes from this area along with some rather fabulous other reds (Valpolicella Cassico and Supreriore, Ripasso, Recioto dessert wine), For the “wanna-be-sommelier” in me, here is some technical info on Amarone: “The wine process starts by drying the grapes preserved in a “fruttaio” for 100/120 days, where the fermentation of sugars is completed. It is one of the longest-lived wines among the great Italian wines. It has intense red garnet color and the scent of the fruit, tobacco and smokey spices. The flavor is fruity, with a strong fragrance, dry but a lot of soft, full-bodied, warm and invigorating. Because of these characteristics can accompany meat dishes, game and aged cheeses, but smooth enough to be drunk on its own.” 

The food of the Valpolicella is “delish” and is quite a range.  Of course you will find the more gamey foods (meats of all kinds including osso buco, veal scaloppine and tagliata) and homemade pastas to die for, but as it is only 40 minutes from the sea, there is also a wide range of seafood dishes to choose from on just about any menu.  During our last visit, I was happily surprised with the various dishes of baccalà (a personal favorite) as well as risotto with mussels and clams.

There are several wonderful places to stay, ranging from charming b&b’s to 5-star luxury resorts.  We discovered a lovely, eclectic inn, smack in the heart of this wonderful area with some of the best wineries and restaurants around within 10 minutes. Pianaura Suites only has 2 rooms, well suites, that are quite large and beautifully decorated. Mara, the owner, is lively and proud of her home and the area, and more than happy to make your stay in the Valpolicella even more special (she’ll set you up at local wineries, restaurants and give you advice on local trekking and sights to see. From the Valpolicella, one can easily make day trips to Lake Garda (30 minutes), Verona (15 minutes), Valdobbiadene (Prosecco Highway at 50 minutes), Venice (1.5 hours), Padua (1 hour & 15 minutes), Vicenza (50 minutes).