After our delightful and brief visit to Lugano (see Part 1), Switzerland, we motored on through Lombardia, Italy toward the amazing wine country of Valpolicella. Along the way we stopped for lunch in Bergamo (less than 2 hours drive from Lugano) the fourth largest city in Lombardia with a population of about 120,000. Bergamo is a university town with a beautiful Città Alta (upper city) whose defensive systems are a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. It is also home to some amazing pizzerias which is why we stopped there.
After lunch we continued on for another hour and a half to our destination of San Pietro in Cariano near Verona and our favorite Bed and Breakfast ‘Relais de Charme’ La Caminella. We had previously stayed at La Caminella and were excited to be returning.
Our hosts, Andrea and Raffaella, and their three children, offer exquisite rooms, breakfast and hospitality. Since our last stay, Raffaella has begun here own wine program producing several wines from Valpolicella. If you have never lodged here before you will feel like family by the time you depart.
La Caminella is very well situated to visit Verona, only 20 minutes away, or the local wineries of Valpolicella. Bardolino or Soave, and even Lake Garda (only 30 minutes’ drive). We had visited Garda and Verona on a previous trip so our focus this time was wine and the glorious countryside.
Valpolicella is known for its very unique wine making process of Appassimento and Ripasso which involve drying or partially drying the grapes as a means of intensifying the flavors of the Amarone and other Valpolicella wines. The principal grapes used in these red wines are Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara (and more recently Oseleta). Surprising to many, Valpolicella ranks just after Chianti in total Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wine production.
The Masi Wine Experience was an amazing winery tour and tasting that we were fortunate to enjoy. The Boscaini family, currently headed by patriarch Sandro Boscaini, have owned the property since the end of 18th Century. Our host, Raffaele Boscaini, and his able marketing and sales manager Elisa Venturini provided an exceptional tour and tasting at the main estate but also included a visit to a newly acquired Tenuta near Lake Garda and the family estate of Count Serego Alighieri (direct descendent of Dante Alighieri) which the Boscaini’s manage and market on behalf of this ancient Italian family (21 generations on the estate – since 1353).
The Masi wines are widely available in the United States and one of our favorites is the affordable blend (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara) Campofiorin. It is rich, round and velvety, but has sufficient strength to pair with red meat (only $18 on Wine.com). Its big brother Amarone della Valpolicella Masi Costasera runs a bit higher, between $56-65.
Of course if you are not a wine lover the proximity to Lake Garda and Verona (home of Romeo and Juliet) offer many, many exciting tourist opportunities including the Opera at the Verona Arena. The Opera setting at the Arena is magnificent. The festival starts late June and continues until the last week of August. A reason to visit in its own right!
Keep an eye out for subsequent postings about the rest of our Most Excellent European Adventure including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Provence.