Nested in northern Italy’s Veneto region, Verona is a typical medieval old town built between the meandering Adige River. The city's claim to fame is that it is the setting of Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." Yes, it is a beautiful city. But romantic? That is debatable whether the city is actually romantic these days- it certainly did not feel on my trip. The strong smell of fertiliser coming from the fields around the town lingered in the cold air during our two day trip (actually one day is enough to see and smell the sights around this city). Here are some photos I took during my short trip. Enjoy!
Not So Romantic Verona...
With Verona being such a tiny city which you can easily navigate on foot in a day, finding a recommended eatery doesn't take too long. I was strongly advised by the Verona Tourism Board to go and try the famed Al Bersagliere: a Michelin Guide restaurant owned by the chef and restauranteur Pietro Leopoldo Ramponi, who counts as the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams among many other celebs as his close friends.
The original restaurant was a tiny but very buzzy gourmet restaurant located in the northern part of the city. The Al Bersagliere is located in a stereotypical quiet Italian town lane in the heart of the old Filippini neighbourhood, offers a precious occasion to experience the old, authentic tastes of Veronese traditional cuisine. The setting and ambiance is lovely - you are surrounded with memorabilia collected over the decades by Mr. Ramponi, including many of his own musical instruments, as well as photographs with many famed musicians and superstars who he is friends with. Then there is the large personal collection of wines, some rare. The wine carte features over 200 labels, pre-eminently Italian. Rich choice of Veronese wines: 60 Amarone labels. Well-pondered selection of spirits: 60 grappa labels, 280 whiskys, 18 rhums; Oils carte. You won't find anything like this anywhere in the city, let alone with region. The restaurant has three rooms (piano room, singers room, sport room and a garden, open in the summer) plus a twelfth century cellar which is worth a visit.
There is a reason why Mr. Ramponi has won the Michelin Guide, apart from the somewhat unique settings, he serves up inventive and sometimes playful tweaks of the Verona tradition. He's a master of culinary camouflage - one of his signature dishes is Horse steak garlic parsley oil. He is also a well-qualified sommelier who is able guide to some of Italy's lesser-known quality producers. My wife and I went for the highly recommended mixed polenta and the pastissada with polenta as we didn't want to go for the exotic meat dishes. All of this was washed down with a highly recommended glass of Valpolicella Classico red. It all tastes very good and is worth every penny. The best part of having dinner at this eatery is that you can enjoy a stroll along the narrow cobbled Verona lanes and slowly make your way back to the hotel.
Grand Hotel Des Arts, Verona
This lovely and compact hotel is located only a short ten-minute stroll from the main train station on one side and another five-minute stroll to the Piazza Bra and the famous Verona Arena. Verona is a tiny city, famed for being the setting of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, though in actual fact these days the city not very romantic as such. Even though the hotel does not feel very romantic itself, however, the management do provide some small tokens of romantic appreciation, such as the welcome chocolates we received when we checked-in.
As per the name of the hotel itself, you may have guessed quite rightly that there are plenty of works of art collection that guests can purchase. Four-star comfort, coupled with an impeccable and friendly customer service are complemented by the nearby setting of lovely eateries.
The rooms are themselves tiny, somewhat modern and tastefully decorated in neutral tones. The quality you get is perfect for a four-star accommodation. The beds are quite comfortable, the rooms are quiet and average-sized bathrooms with walk-in showers and L’Occitane toiletries. instead of a toothpaste and toothbrush, I found it interesting to see a cloth with which you can clean your teeth. Never have experienced it. Tried it and it somewhat did the job but I would not be running to my local supermarket to purchase this stuff. All rooms include flat-screen TV with cable and satellite channels, Wi-Fi, tea kettle and minibar.
There is no restaurant on-site, though some nice restaurants are only a walk away. Breakfast, which is served in an unusual setting in the basement, includes a wide selection of European cheeses and cold meats, hot dishes such as eggs and omelettes, and fresh pastries and croissants. The reception contains a couple of lovely touches, including complimentary hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks and a selection of daily news digest from around the world. Overall, it is a lovely hotel if you are in town for a short stop-over, as are most people, while on the way to Lake Garda or to Milan or Venice.
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