italian vacations

Travel Tuesday: Verona

The next stop on my Ciao Amici trip in  the North was Verona.

Even though I grew up in Italy, every city & town still surprise me. Every city, every town, every street has its own beauty and history. They are all different, but at the same time equally beautiful.

When I think of Verona I think of five things: Piazza delle Erbe, Balconies, Romeo & Juliette, L’Arena (The Arena), Valpolicella.

There is a saying “All streets lead to Rome”, well in Verona all streets lead to the Piazza delle Erbe.  This is the main square in Verona dating back to Roman times, and because the city is small, it is true that all streets lead here.  It reminds me of my favorite piazza in Rome, Campo dei Fiori.

During the day, a beautiful market is set up to get all of your food essentials, but it is definitely not as touristy as Rome. The adjective I would use to describe Verona is elegant, and this is true even of this square. Even with the market going on during the day there is a sense of elegance, and at nighttime when the Piazza is thriving with people going for dinner it is definitely elegant!

One of the things that struck me while we toured the streets of Verona was that there were so many balconies. Every street you walked thru and every Piazza had balconies. That made it the perfect location for Romeo and Juliette and the famous balcony.

Verona is the city of love and that is evident walking through the streets leading to Juliette’s balcony. Every wall along the way is filled with signatures of lovers that have visited the city. They are signed all along the walls leading to the courtyard and it is truly beautiful.  At nighttime, the courtyard of Juliette‘s house becomes a stage as young actors perform the play. It was so fun because you follow the actors from place to place and choose who you want to follow.  They act out the play in both English and Italian while they turn the tragic play into somewhat of a comedy.  They also extensively interact with the audience during the play. I don’t think you can see something like this anywhere else!

The famous Verona Arena was such a surprise to me. I imaged this ancient place being like the Coliseum, surrounded by open space.  But from the Piazza delle Erbe you walk down the street, turn the corner and the Arena is right there, amongst everything.  The Verona Arena is still used to hold events.  We attended a wonderful Opera at the Verona Arena. Even if you do not like Opera, to experience it in the Verona Arena was truly magnificent.  To be inside an Arena built in the 1st century, with the roof being the sky and stars and the amazing acoustics, it is a sight to behold. The sun setting, candles lit, the evening was magical.

Compared to other cities such as Rome and Florence, Verona is much smaller but culturally has everything. Every courtyard you encounter seems to have another show. So much culture at such a little price.

Lastly, when I think of Verona, I think of the Valpolicella wine.  You look out of the city and see all of these beautiful hills where the vine grows. Valpolicella wine is made from three different types of grapes. Even though Valpolicella wine was considered the poor cousin of the Chianti, nowadays it is not the case anymore. Today Valpolicella wine has become very popular. We had a wonderful wine tasting event while there and the lunch that accompanied it was one of the highlights of the trip.

I hope I inspired you to travel to Verona! I will leave you with a delicious risotto recipe made with Valpolicella wine.

a presto, Filomena

Risotto all’amarone di Valpolicella
– 400 gr riso (risotto)
– 100 gr di burro (butter)
– 100 gr di parmigiano (parmigiano cheese)
– 1 cipolla (onion)
– 1/2 litro di amarone di Valpolicella (wine)
– 1/2 litro di brodo (broth)
– Sale e Pepe (salt & pepper)
– Tagliare la cipolla (cut the onion)
– Soffriggere la cipolla con 70g burro (sauté the onion in 70 g butter)
– Aggiungere il riso (add the risotto)
– Tostare il riso per 3-4 min fuoco medio (stir the rice for 3-4 minutes on medium heat)
– Aggiunger un po’ di sale (add a little salt)
– Versare 1/2 litro di amarone di Valpolicella (add the wine)
– Lasciare evaporare il vino (let the wine evaporate)
– Aggiungere il brodo (add the broth)
– Quando il riso è cotto aggiungere burro e formaggio (when the rice is cooked add the rest of the butter and parmigiano cheese)

Buon Appetito!