Northern Italy: The Wine Routes
Verona, Bardolino, Valdobbiadene, Cortina d’ Ampezzo
Verona – 3 nights
Bardolino- 1 night
Valdobbiadene- 2 nights
Cortina d’ Ampezzo – 2 nights
9 days Itinerary
Verona: 3 Nights
Verona is a beautiful city in Northern Italy, on the banks of river Adige, in the region of Veneto. It is easily accessible from Venice ( 1 hour 20 min by car, 1 hour 30 min by train). The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its architectural monuments.
For the wine enthusiasts the world over, the location of Verona is unparalleled, since it is surrounded by historical and important wine producing areas. Valpolicella, Soave, Lugana, Bardolino and Custoza can all be easily reached in a 30 minutes drive from Verona city centre or train station.
Valpolicella is one of the oldest wine producing areas in Italy. It is a beautiful region located in the hilly area north of Verona, consisting of three fertile valleys created by the rivers Negrar, Marano and Fumane flowing towards River Adige. The name may have been derived from Latin Val Polis Cellae meaning valley of many cellars. It ranks only after Chianti in total quality wine production.
The area is very picturesque with terraced vineyards, pretty villages and gorgeous Venetian villas.
The main Valpolicella wines are Classico, Superiore, Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto. These are red wines mainly made from three grape varieties: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The Classico and Superiore are light wines, Ripasso is medium bodied, whereas the full bodied Amarone and the sweet dessert wine Recioto are world famous wines.
Amarone is a rich, dry red wine with very little acid. It is made from the partially dried grapes to the raisin form of the Corvina ( 45-95%), Rondinella (5-30%) and other approved red grape varieties (25%). This maximizes the concentration of sugar and aroma, and then it is aged in oak casks for 2 to 4 years. The result is a vibrant red wine laced with spicy aromas and the scents of red fruits.
Recioto has more concentration of sugar and less fermentation than the Amarone. Hence it is a pleasantly sweet and velvety dessert wine with intense floral and fruity notes.
Ripasso is a form of Superiore mixed with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone.
Some of the well known wineries are listed below. They can all be easily visited on a day trip from Verona.
Villa Mosconi Bertani : (Also known as Villa Novare)
It is in Negrar Di Valpolicella and has existed since the beginning of the 18th century. The estate consists of a large aristocratic Villa in the style of the famous Palladian villas which dot the landscape of Veneto, a huge 16th century cellar and a magnificent English style Romantic garden. This is where Amarone was first produced.
This property is now owned by the Bertani family who market their wines under the name of Tenuta Santa Maria.They produce a full range of wines including Amarone, Ripasso and Classico Superiore.
This winery is located in Pedemonte, a small village in San Pietro in Cariano area in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico region. It was established in 1902 and now extends over 195 hectares of vineyards.
It too produces some of the best wines of the region including the Amarone and Recioto. The tour includes a visit to the vineyards, the loft where the grapes are dried, and the cellar with the huge oak barrels and the world’s largest oak cask.
Located in Negrar, this is another family owned winery since 1924. Their Amarone is one of the best of the region.The Quintarelli name stands for traditional values and artisanal wines. They use beautifully handwritten labels and corks of the highest quality to go with their finest quality wines.
The Villa Della Torre is a gem of 16th century Italian Renaissance architecture and it was transformed by the Allegrini family into a charming historical accommodation for connoisseurs of great wines and wonderful lifestyles.
Allegrini produces premium Amarone and their Palazzo Della Torre is famous worldwide for its intensity and complexity.
This winery is based in Sant’ Ambrogio di Valpolicella. The estate is owned by the Boscaini family, who also own vineyards throughout the region including in the Bardolino and Soave zones. They are famous for their Amarone, but they also have an extensive portfolio drawing on a range of native and international grape varieties.
Soave: (30 min by road from Verona)
If there is time, Soave is another prolific wine producing area of the Veneto region. It produces a dry, crisp, fruity, white wine principally from the Garganega grape variety.
There is a beautiful medieval castle on top of the hills surrounding the vineyards.
The food scene in Verona is as exciting as the wine region surrounding it. There are some specialities which are local and traditional (vegetarian options).
Northern Italy produces one of the top rice varieties called Vialone Nano. This dish is a combination of these two well known ingredients which are available locally.
Gnocchi and Bigoli :
These are the traditional pasta of Verona.
This is a popular side dish of the region.
This is a classic Italian dessert bread flavoured with Vanilla and Lemon zest. It has a crunchy top crust made from granulated sugar, wine, almonds and pine nuts.
Constructed in 30 AD, this amphitheater is spectacular and very well preserved. Concerts and musical shows are still held here which is an amazing experience.
Piazza Della Erbe:
This beautiful piazza lies in the historic center of the city and has several fountains and marble statues. Important buildings line the square and many cafes and restaurants open on it.
Juliet’s House:( Casa di Giulietta)
This is a favourite attraction in Verona, and also gives Verona the title of ‘city of romance’, it being popular as the home of Shakespeare’s Juliet. (Though the original Juliet was a fictional character and the balcony was added 200 years later 🙂 ) Romantic couples visit in large numbers and take a photo on the famous balcony.
Bardolino: 1 night
(30 min by car, 50 min by train from Verona )
Bardolino is the area between the river Adige and the shores of Lake Garda. The landscape is full of Vineyards as well as Olive trees and some splendid Venetian villas.
Bardolino wine is an easy, light, fruity red wine. The grape blend is the same as that of Valpolicella wines but the result is very different. It can be paired easily with many dishes and hence is sometimes referred to as an ‘all meal wine’.
A tasting visit to a winery can be followed by a trip to some of the beautiful villages of Lake Garda.
Some of the famous wineries are:
From 1870, the Zeni family has been dedicated to the growing of the classical Veronese wines.
Inside their historic wine cellar, there is the Zeni Wine Museum . It provides a fascinating insight into the cultivation of the vines, the grape harvest, the wine making process and the various bottling techniques.
Tastings of the wines produced by the company are also held.
Guerrieri Rizzardi Winery : Their estates are very old and produce a large variety of wines.
Azienda Agricola Corte Capitani: They have wine as well as olive oil tasting.
Winery Costadoro : Since more than a 100 years, the Lonardi family has produced wines from their own vineyards. They also have olive oils, balsamic vinegar and grappa.
Sightseeing near Bardolino:
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. The landscape is breathtaking, with many walking trails, picturesque villages, islands, castles, ancient churches and villas, making it a favourite tourist destination.
Along the lake, some of the famous towns are:
Sirmione, Peschiera del Garda and Riva del Garda.
Valdobbiadene : 2 nights
( 2 hours 15 min by car from Bardolino)
The Strada del vino di Prosecco or the Prosecco wine route runs about 50 kms between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. It winds around the beautiful green hills in this area and is now declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The landscape with its mild climate provides the ideal atmosphere for the vines that produce this world famous white sparkling wine. There are ancient frescoed churches and castles as well along the route.
There are many small family run wineries around the route, some with stunning , panoramic views. They have remained small because the steep slopes make it difficult to mechanise the work.
Prosecco is one of the most famous Italian white sparkling wines. It is made using traditional methods from Glera grapes. It tends to have fruit and flower aromas and has lighter bubbles than Champágne. Because of Prosecco’s relative sweetness, it pairs well with a wide range of cuisines. It can be served as an aperitif but can also be had with the main entree.
Prosecco is produced as Sparkling ( Spumante), Semi sparkling ( Frizzante) and sometimes Still (Tranquillo). The sweetness of the wine varies too, from Brut to Dry and Extra Dry.
They specialise in the production of the best quality amongst the Prosecco wines which is DOCG Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze.
This winery is located in a magnificent position, atop a hill in the heart of the Valdobbiadene DOCG area.
Their wines reflect the passion for their land and tradition through generations of the Bortolin family.
Villa Sandi is a 17th century majestic Palladian style Villa set amongst a huge estate in the Prosecco territory. It is owned by the Moretti Polegato family who , with their extremely high quality,have contributed a lot towards setting Prosecco’s reputation as a premier sparkling wine.
In Valdobbiadene, after tasting Prosecco at the wineries, one can relax in the evening with a glass of the most famous cocktail in Northern Italy, the Aperol Spritz.
It consists of Aperol, Prosecco and Soda water with Orange slices as garnish.
If there is spare time, a visit to Bassano del Grappa and Asolo are recommended.
Bassano del Grappa ( 40 min from Valdobbiadene) is a charming medieval town on the Brenta river. It is known for its Alpini wooden bridge built originally by Andrea Palladio in 1569, the famous Grappa Liqueur which is made here and the local Ceramics.
Asolo (30 min from Valdobbiadene) is a picturesque hilltop town with stunning views and a historic town centre with beautiful monuments.
Cortina d’ Ampezzo: 2 nights
( 2 hours by car from Valdobbiadene)
This town is known as the queen of the Dolomites or the pearl of the Italian ski resorts. In the winter, the elite skiers as well as the rich and famous descend on Cortina, and the summers provide an impressive panorama of the Dolomites which are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The area around Cortina, the heartland of the Italian alps, has natural beauty in abundance with picture postcard lakes, trails and forests with the craggy Dolomites providing an orangish backdrop. At sunrise and sunset, they reflect the orange hue of the sun and seem to glow.
Some of the places to visit are :
Lake Misurina, Lake Sorapiss, Giau pass, Mount Cristallo and Mount Faloria . In summer, the ski lifts still operate and take visitors to the peaks to have a mesmerising view of the Dolomites. It is an exhilarating experience.
The food scene in Cortina reflects the influence from Austria as well as the Venetian region. So there is a lot of variety to choose from.
Some of the well known restaurants are:
San Brite: Upmarket, sophisticated restaurant, Artistic interiors
Ristorante Tivoli: Michelin star restaurant with top quality ingredients and excellent wine list
Ristorante Pizzeria Ariston: Great Pizza and Pasta, friendly service
Ristorante Col Druscie, 1778: Excellent food, Amazing views
Baita Fraina: Traditional food and a sun terrace with great views
After soaking in the natural beauty of this heavenly region for 2 days, this culinary journey will end on return to Venice ( 2 hours by car) for an onward connection.