Most travelers to Italy go to Venice, but few travel to the surrounding region known as the Veneto. That’s too bad because it has so much to offer. Our flight landed at the Venice Marco Polo Airport, but instead of staying we drove off to Verona, a small and gracious city famous for its Ancient Roman amphitheater. The city hosts an annual opera festival, this year featuring Placido Domingo. Unfortunately, we were there too early in the season to attend a performance, but the city has many other charms including quaint streets perfect for strolling, and beautiful architecture. Highly recommended is a drink in one of the classic cafes in the Piazza Bra. Verona has some very good restaurants, too. Risotto is a specialty. Here is one I had for lunch one day at Restaurant Greppia. It was made with Amarone wine, which gives it the purplish color, and chunks of winter squash. A plate of perfectly sliced prosciutto served with giardiniera, pickled vegetables, was all I needed after that.
Our next stop was beautiful Lake Garda where we stayed in the town of Bardolino. The lake has a tropical climate and there were palm, olive and fruit trees everywhere as well as spectacular gardens full of flowers. You can swim or go boating, or head to the nearby hills to hike. There are medieval towns to visit, as well as theme parks, if that’s your thing. One day we went looking for a restaurant where we had first dined in 1985. I was happy to see that little has changed in Vallegio sul Mincio, a tiny yet well preserved medieval town known for its tortellini. The restaurant is the Antica Locanda sul Mincio, where you can dine al fresco under the trees beside the river, or in their cozy dining rooms. It was just the way I remembered it. We opted for an outdoor table and I ordered the meat filled tortellini which were superb. The portion was huge but I ate every one.
Before the tortellini, I had grilled polenta topped with fresh salame, also a local specialty.
Another day, we returned to Valeggio and ate excellent tortellini at another restaurant, Alla Borsa, which was recommended to us by our friend Tom Hyland, who writes an essential blog about Italian wine. Whose tortellini did I prefer? I will have to eat them again to decide.
After many adventures, memorable meals and great wines, we returned to Venice. It is truly a magical place unlike any where else. The city was very crowded because it was the weekend for the Festa della Sensa. It celebrates historical events which took place many centuries ago. There were gondola races, musical performances and the famous “wedding with the sea,” where a ceremonial ring is tossed into the water off St. Mark’s Square to symbolize the city’s close relatsionship and dependence on the sea. Despite the crowds, we managed to find quiet places to admire the views.
There are no lack of great places to eat in Venice. Local farms send the city the freshest of vegetables and fruits. Fresh peas, another Veneto specialty, were in season and I had fettuccine with peas and prosciutto at Fiaschetteria Toscana, a classic restaurant.
They also had my favorite dessert, fragoline del bosco, tiny wild strawberries, served with gelato di crema. What a sweet way to end our fabulous trip.