This summer, I have not written on my blog for so many reasons. Moving country has been one of them, but various back to back trips and holidays have been other more pleasurable ones! This week, I am writing about one of my first trips of the summer where my family and I debunked to Verona for my mother's birthday. Below are my top tips for where to stay, what to do and where to eat on a weekend jaunt to this stunner of an Italian city.
1) Get a cab from the airport when you fly in
You can get to Verona from various other Italian cities, but it does have its own small airport a stone's throw from its city walls. I would highly recommend getting a direct flight for anyone staying less than three or four nights and then get a cab to your hotel or bed and breakfast. Villafranca airport is about 20 minutes away and so the time you save being picked up from the airplane door and dropped off to your abode's entrance is worth its weight in gold when time is at a premium on a short getaway.
2) Stay at Relais Restori
We stayed at the bed and breakfast Relais Ristori, which we found through the Sawday's website . It was an absolute gem of a place to stay - full of character with an excellent location. Despite having both these necessary accolades for any establishment, its real pull was its proprietor, Lorenzo, and its dog. He, and Dora, were unbelievably friendly without being intrusive. They welcomed us with prosecco in the hotel's quaint courtyard and continued to charm us throughout our stay. Lorenzo not only provided a delicious breakfast that used the best fresh and local produce with yummy coffee to match, but had great tips about what to do in the city. He made the Relais seem like a home from home and I was very sad to leave!
3) Walk over Ponte Pietra and up to Castel San Pietro
When I'm new to a city, I often like to get my bearings by walking around, and if possible having a roof top view at some point. In Verona, which is encircled by its city walls to the south, and the river to the north, you can climb up 152 stairs on the other side of the river to the Castel San Pietro where you will see one of the best panoramic views of the old town possible. Whilst there are selfie sticks a plenty, it is still breathtaking and there is also a bar, TeodoricoRE that serves Aperol spritz to refresh yourself whilst watching the sun go down. My husband, brother and sister in law walked up to the view point just before dinner and so the whole city was bathed in gold hour light. I could have taken photos for a lot longer, but my thirsty family thankfully pulled me away.
4) Eat at the Ponte Pietra
A highlight of my few days in Verona was eating at this beautiful little restaurant on the city side of the river, right by the Ponte Pietra bridge. It was a stylish eatery with fantastic art on the walls inside and a balcony over looking the river on the outside. The balcony is so narrow it can only fit tables big enough for two diners. Our party of six ate at its pretty terrace near its entrance, which was a fabulous place to people watch as the city flocked to the Opera at the Arena that night. The food was modern and elegant, but undeniably Italian. I would have happily eaten my deep fried ricotta starter all day.
5)Visit Arena Di Verona
We were lucky enough to visit at a time where the Arena had an opera on most nights of August, but no trip to Verona would be complete without a stop off at this ancient building. As an Opera virgin, this was quite the location to see my first (Il Traviatore was on) - to the point that it seemed like Verona was pulling out all the stops to ensure I would love it. There was the most incredible sunset over the city that night and, with an amphitheater full of opera enthusiasts, the atmosphere matched the renowned acoustics. If I'm honest, I had no real idea what was going on in the opera itself, but the set, singing and costumes were all wonderful. It was a true experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
6) Have a drink/dinner at the Antica Bottega Del Vino
There is a Veronese institution dedicated to wine to such a degree that it made me wonder whether I love wine as much as I proclaim. The restaurant is so jam packed full of bottles of the good stuff, in varying sizes, that there is barely room for tables for paying customers. Locals and tourists flock here alike to sample wine from the first edition bible size menu - and quite rightly too. My family and I ate here as well as trying some Bardolino, Soave, Lugano and Strega for good measure. I had a truly indulgent meal of truffle pasta followed by the steak - both of which were incredibly tasty. My husband, who is not one to pay anything a compliment, had the 'best aubergine melanzane' he has ever had. My sister in law tried the local Amarone Risotto, which was big enough to feed two. In short, everything on our table was excellent, though our meal was, perhaps, a little hampered by slightly too slow service owing to a large private party to our right. We ourselves were eight however and I was personally glad of the enforced delay between courses due to an already engorged stomach having been in Italy for 48 hours.
7) Make use of the to die for bar snacks
Another reason I was glad of a slower than normal meal, and a main reason as to why I had an engorged stomach, was because prior to our meal at the Bottega, we had gone for pre dinner drinks at Prosciutto and Co. We had chosen it simply because of it was next door to our final destination. Unknowingly, however, we had chosen a bar that offered the most ridiculous 'snacks' along with your gin and tonic. On our first round, the waitress brought crisps and small pretzels, which I just about managed to ignore. For our second set of G&Ts, she brought out delicious fresh slices of ham and mushroom pizza - an offering only my mushroom hating sister in law could ignore. For the third round, she brought out a charcuterie board laden with incredible Prosciutto - hence the bar's name. Whilst all these delicious goodies made our final bill a little bit more expensive than average, it was well worth it, and would be for anyone in search of a laid back, quirky bar that serves great bar food.
8 )Take a day trip to Lake Garda
Another one of Verona's great attractions is its close proximity to Lake Garda. The town of Peschiera del Garda is only a 15 minute train ride away from the city, and Sirmione, about a 40 minute bus ride. It is well worth the trip even in the middle of summer with the lake's swathe of tourists. My family and I headed to Al Grifone, a restaurant in Sirmione which, despite said swathes of tourists, is unbelievably picturesque. It has its own Game of Thrones style castle, plenty of beach with turquoise lake water, cobbled streets and masses of bright purple bougainvillia. At Al Grifone, we all ate a fish heavy lunch with a view that rendered even the most talkative out of us speechless. I highly recommend heading here.
It was from this lunch that I headed north with my husband and his sister and brother in law. My side of the family jumped back on a ferry to Peschiera to catch a train to Verona to then catch a plane to Heathrow! I think it is fair to say that we were all bitten by the Veronese bug and I would urge people looking for a quick and easy long weekend away to go to this gem of an Italian city. It has everything that I look for in a location - beauty, culture, delicious food and free flowing wine. With its location in between Venice and the Lakes it also becomes a destination that could be turned into a much longer holiday, like I did, which I will be discussing in my next blog post. To get this and all my blog posts straight to your inbox, sign up on the subscription list below!
Other quick fire tips for any trip to Verona
- If you must see Juliet's balcony, do so early
- Eat Gelato after every meal
- When walking the marbled streets, look up
- Eat pasta and pizza whenever possible
- Try not to take photos of EVERY shuttered balcony