Back in the beginning of October, myself, Toby, and 2 friends made the drive down to beautiful Italy for a weekend full of ageless sites and delicious food.
We arrived in Verona just as it was getting dark, and after checking into our respective Airbnb accommodations, we set out to get our first Italian meal. Our first restaurant choice was too full, so we settled for a less “authentic” place, but the food was fine, and the wine was good! We wandered around the beautiful old streets, and I bought my first gelato-yum! Then we stumbled upon this tiny little cocktail bar, where this amazing bartender created some of the most delicious concoctions I’ve ever had. All we did was give him guidelines, and he whipped something up. For example, I asked for something slightly sweet and fruity, and he created this wonderful pineapple and ginger drink that was unlike anything I’d ever sipped before. Naturally, we made plans to return the next evening.
On our first full day in Verona we started the morning off viewing Juliet’s balcony, and the hundreds of thousands of names and hearts scribbled all over the walls.
Then we headed over towards the Verona Arena, which was quite neat. We then briefly checked out a nearby castle, Castelvecchio, before having a delicious lunch.
After lunch we wandered around the winding streets a bit more before meeting up for the winery tour we had booked. There was only 6 of us on the tour, and we all got in a van to make our way out to a picturesque town situated on the Gardasee outside of the city. The weather was amazing, and we grabbed some more gelato as we walked around. We continued our drive through the countryside and ended up at the winery, where we received a short tour and then got to sample several wines.
Once we returned to Verona we made our way over the river to a restaurant our winery guide had suggested. She warned us that the owner was “strange”, but said it was her favorite place, so off we went. We arrived at 8:30, which in Germany is prime dinner time, but is apparently early for Verona, since the place was barely half full. We are seated, and the infamous owner comes over to take our wine order. Toby points to the wine we decided on, but the owner isn’t having it, he shakes his head and wags his finger at Toby and points at another wine. What can you do? We nod and say Grazie. Next we try ordering an appetizer, but that also get a loud “no, no” and another item pointed out. Thankfully both the wine and the appetizer ended up being great, though I still have no idea what type of meat we were served.. (maybe horse). Lastly, we order our main dishes, three of us have no issue, but my friend wanted to order one dish without meat, and the owner was not pleased. He stands over her, hands on his hips, looking like he is about to explode as she tries to explain her choice in rough Italian. He storms off and then comes back a few minutes later and we finally finished ordering. This man was hysterical, stomping around his restaurant, randomly breaking out into song, waving people in off the street, yelling at waitresses and basically providing free entertainment all evening. The food was all wonderfully fresh and very filling, and we ended the dinner with free shots of limoncello. By then we had also made friends with our Russian neighbors and my friends had managed to get a picture with the boisterous owner. It was definitely the authentic experience we were looking for, and by the time we left with our new Russian friends around 10:30, the place was packed with Italians out enjoying their late dinners.
After dinner we went back to our new favorite cocktail place, which was packed, and ordered a round of cocktails, which did not disappoint. I asked for a drink that had mint, but wasn’t a mojito, and I can’t even properly describe what I got, but I would absolutely love to have it again.
There was such a nice atmosphere, people were milling around the bar, enjoying the balmy evening and it was great way to end a busy day.
On Saturday we took the train down to Venice. Sadly that took much longer than planned due to our original train being canceled, which forced us to go on a later and slower train, so we missed the walking tour we had booked. Luckily, Venice is the perfect city to just wander around in, though we sometimes would wander down streets that dead-ended at the water.
I love cities like Venice, where you can feel like you are lost one second, and the next, emerge into a giant courtyard filled with tourists, or lovely shops and old churches. We got a fabulous and cheap meal at a small café that had the best spaghetti carbonara I’ve ever had. Then we made our way to St. Mark’s square and took a break by the water. The city was crowded in certain areas, but nothing like I imagine it must be in the summer. Eventually we leisurely made our way in the direction of the train station, stopping to get snacks and take pictures along the way.
For our last dinner in Verona we went to a restaurant recommended by a local, where we had a simple but delicious dinner, and some very refreshing house wine.
On Sunday we decided we head back in the direction of Germany and stop in a town suggested by our winery guide. The drive along the river and up the mountain to get to the town was breathtaking, if a bit scary at times. The roads are quite curvy and narrow, but the views were worth it. We arrived in this quaint (if a bit touristy) town called Malcesine and enjoyed a coffee on the Sea before walking around. Thankfully shops are open on Sundays in Italy, so we got to buy some spices, pasta and other Italian treats. We had a relaxing lunch before heading back on the road.
It was the perfect mini vacation. We had such amazing weather, saw a lot of beautiful sites, and of course stuffed ourselves with pasta of all kinds. I would love to go back to everyplace we visited, especially the Gardasee area.