They say Verona is the city of love… well I’m head over heels for the place. The narrow streets lined with tall, pink-hued buildings, their weathered facades adding to their charm; the bustling piazzas framed by trattorias and cafés; the heart-stirring scenery… This corner of Italy made famous by Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is as mesmerising as fiction.
Caffe Monte Baldo
My three-day visit to Verona was my first vacanze italiane, and the promise of endless baskets of bread, plates piled high with linguine and cones of gelato so big I’d need a spoon to tackle them had filled me with hungry anticipation. But arriving, as I do, in the late afternoon, a sundowner before dinner seems like the sensible thing to do. A taxi from the airport takes me to Caffe Monte Baldo (Via Rosa 12, Verona), a lively osteria tucked away from the hum of the city centre. I sip a glass of chilled prosecco while eyeing the walls bedecked with bottles of wine, then make for my bed and breakfast before things get messy.
I’d been advised that the best way to get a true impression of Italian food is to eat where the Italians go. Elisabetta, my hostess, was more than willing to share her recommendations. Turns out there’s something to suit every palate and price bracket. The two main squares, Piazza Erbe and Piazza Bra, feature keenly priced eateries with vast menus to choose from, but it’s worth exploring outside the centre, too. At riverside restaurants Alcova del Frate and Antica Torretta, by the cobbled bridge Ponte Pietra, you can try traditional Veronese dishes including horse and donkey meat, as well as bollito misto (a meat stew served with bread sauce). But if pizza and pasta are more your thing, there are plenty of pizzerias where it’s worth jostling for a table. On my first night I stumble across Pizzeria San Matteo, a converted church tucked away in an unassuming side street, where spaghetti, sorbet and limoncello see me suitably sated and ready for bed.
The next few days whizz by in a blur of eating, drinking and sightseeing: cappuccini in pavement cafés, gelato in the awe-inspiring Roman Arena (visit in the summer for the much-lauded opera season), salads laced with balsamic and olive oil, wine and tapas in the late afternoon sunshine… Perfetto.
Back home, my carb coma beginning to lift, I’m already planning my next trip to Italy. In the meantime, the just-out May issue of delicious. magazine is appeasing my craving for Italian food. There’s a recipe for the ultimate bolognese on page 26, a slimmed-down pannacotta on page 79, and Bill Granger’s fabulous al fresco menu on page 48. “Italians know how to live,” says Bill – I couldn’t agree more.
Monarch fly to Verona from Manchester and London Gatwick from £30 each way.
WHERE TO STAY
Corte delle Pigne (doubles from €60 per night) is a beautiful bed and breakfast set in the heart of the city, but away from the noisy piazzas. It’s a gem worth seeking out.