Say the word Valpolicella, and images of Recioto and Amarone—wines once enjoyed by Roman emperors, and today even more complex and prestigious—instantly come to mind. From the vineyard-carpeted valley slopes of spring, to the purple-tinged harvests of autumn, the regal grape makes a difficult journey, and endures a three-month long drying period, on its way from vine to wine. Indeed, the merits and value of this grape can best be appreciated with a visit to the Valpolicella, a 240-sq. kilometer area steeped in local traditions, where natural, historic, and artistic resources also play an important role in the economic strength of the region. The following are some examples:
Natural and archaeological marvels Ponte di Veja, the largest natural bridge in Europe; Waterfalls of Molina; Chiusa di Ceraino; medieval caves of Prun; a six-metre shark fossil displayed in the Museo di S. Anna. Prehistoric remains Grotta di Fumane (the “shaman” grotto dates back 34,000 years); Castellier delle Guàite (oldest rampart in Europe, dating back 3600 years). Romanesque monuments Civic tower of Negrar; Churches of San Giorgio and San Floriano, plus a dozen other minor churches.
Hundreds of Veneto Villas, many with frescoed halls, built by Palladio, Sammicheli, Cristofoli, and others: San Dionigi (Parona); Verità-Serego Alighieri and Turco Zamboni (Arbizzano); Mosconi-Bertani (Nòvare); Rizzardi (including the famed gardens) (Pojega/Negrar); Pullè-Galtarossa (S. Pietro); Porta-Rizzini (Marano); Buri-Avanzi (Bure); Della Torre (Fumane); Nichesola (Ponton); Del Bene (Volargne); Da Sacco (Pescantina). Alongside these marvels of art and nature, you will see fragrant peach and cherry trees, silvery-green olive groves, terraced apple orchards and leafy chestnut trees. Likewise, in the marble district of S. Ambrogio and in nearby industrial zones, small companies and talented craftsmen produce prized handicrafts and important machinery.
Local gastronomic traditions also abound in lively taverns, inns, and restaurants, where the area’s cuisine attains a high level of elegance and refinement. Some local dishes include Paparèle col brodo tajà e figadini; tri lessi con pearà; pasta e fasoi; polenta; agnello in umido; Locally-cured meats and aromatic mountain cheeses are also popular. Typical deserts still incorporate ancestral flavours, from the rustic pissòta to pastafròla, sbrisolòna, torta margarita, nadalini and Easter brasadèle. All are even tastier, accompanied by a glass of Recioto or Amarone.