Venice to Amarone

Amarone, Soave, and Italy’s Northern Renaissance

Tour Overview:

  • Explore two wine regions: Valpolicella, home of Amarone; and Soave, where a renaissance in quality whites is underway
  • Private sit-down tastings at Zenato, Allegrini, Accordini, Pieropan and more
  • See Padua and Giotto’s magnificent fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel
  • Soak up some history on a walking tour of Verona
  • Since antiquity, semi-dried grapes have worked their magic in Valpolicella, the hilly wine zone north of Verona. Today, Amarone prevails as the most luscious modern expression of this ancient style. It is deservedly a cult wine among cognoscenti. But it also has an array of attractive siblings: easy, approachable Valpolicella; complex, hybrid-style Ripasso; and luscious dessert wine Recioto. We’ll learn the differences and see the special steps involved. Far more than Barolo or Brunello, Italy’s other pedigree reds, Amarone is a labor-intensive wine, requiring carefully trimmed bunches to be laid on mats for a four-month drying period (appassimento) in airy fruit lofts, which we’ll visit. In this land of five finger-like valleys, where wind and rain sweep down from the Dolomites, weather matters as much after harvest as before, making things even more challenging for winemakers.

    Next door is Soave, a wine region named after the eponymous town. This walled village has an impressive crenellated military castle, once a pawn in the wars between Venice and Milan. But even more impressive is today’s Soave wine. Abandon any preconceptions based on spaghetti wines of old! This is a new day for Soave, shepherded in by a handful of mavericks like Pieropan, who have rigorously pursued quality.

    Verona and Padua were very much part of the Northern Italian Renaissance, so art and architecture are integrated into this tour. The highlight is unquestionably Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel in Padua. Painted in 1305 and recently restored, this influential masterpiece laid the groundwork for artists like Masaccio and Michaelangelo. Verona, the provincial capital, offers a wider swath of art history, beginning with its Roman coliseum, a well-preserved specimen that now hosts summer opera. We’ll take a walking tour that points out other remnants of Roman history as we visit the town’s highlights, including Piazza delle Erbe, a market square lined by frescoed palaces, and the balcony of Juliet Capulet, the doomed heroine of Shakespeare's timeless Romeo and Juliet.

    Finally, we’ll also take in some of the Veneto’s natural splendor: Lake Garda is the easternmost of Italy’s massive pre-alpine lakes, carved out by retreating glaciers. Here we’ll visit Sirmione, a favorite resort town of Roman patricians, situated on a narrow spit of land. But throughout the tour, we’ll be surrounded by the beauty of the rolling hills and valleys that comprise the Valpolicella zone—called Vallis-polis-cellae in Latin, or “valley of the many cellars.” Some things never change.

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