Another beautiful day so Al and I went on a bike jersey hunt after breakfast. Darryl said that there was a bike store on the northeast side of the city, and showed us where on a map, so at least we had a target. We wandered over to the Castelvecchio and the Ponte Scaligero, one of the many old bridges that cross the Adage River. Unfortunately, the architectural museum was closed but we could wander around the grounds. What an impressive middle-ages fortress! The bridge, as all of them were in Verona, was destroyed by the retreating German army in 1945 but rebuilt to the same design using the recovered bricks.
Verona is a very pretty city, with the old city walls surrounding a large portion of the downtown. Roman ruins abound, as well as relics from the middle ages. We noticed a lot of bikes on the roads and sidewalks. We stayed on the north side of the river, just following the sidewalk and stopping lots to admire the views. One woman stopped me and said something in Italian that I didn’t understand. When she realized that she said “Verona is beautiful, yes?” I replied “Si, bella” and she smiled and walked on. Yes, Verona is beautiful indeed.
By 10:30 we needed a coffee so we stopped at a café in the university district. We noticed a sign that said something like “every hour is happy hour for university students only”. Not a bad deal! We finally got to Darryl’s supposed location of the bike store but it was nowhere to be found. The address was right but it was no longer there. Rats! At least we had a nice walk.
After lunch, our group of 13 made its way over to the entrance of the Castelvecchio to meet our biking guide, Mike, who was to lead us into the Valpolicella valley to a winery. After leading us back to his shop and fitting us on bikes, we set out riding through the centre of Verona on one of the main streets. He took us about 12 km out of the city, mostly on good cycle paths and quiet roads, to the Villa Mosconi Bertani winery.
The winery is on an old estate which has been refurbished and is a gorgeous site. The grapes had just been picked the week before so the vines were mostly bare now. Mike set us up with the winery guide, Irena, who toured us around the grounds. She was a university summer student, spoke excellent English, and was very knowledgeable and informative.
First on the agenda was a tour of the estate, showing us many of the rooms and the English garden. The place is used at least twice a week to host weddings (which must cost a fortune considering how beautiful it is and how expensive their wine is!) and also hosts music recitals, both inside and out in the garden.
Next was a visit to one of the wine cellars where some Merlot was being aged in huge oak barrels.
The wine tasting was the whole point of the visit though and anticipation was high. She poured the 13 of us at least 4 oz. each of a white (€?/bottle), a Valpolicella (€22), and an Amarone (€60), all very nice wines. Gwen wasn’t a white wine drinker and gave it to me, so I had a double dose of that.
Then followed the purchasing of quite a few bottles, mostly of the Amarone. I actually liked the Valpolicella better, with my obviously unrefined tastes, so bought it instead. I intended to bring it all the way back home but, with 2 weeks left to go yet, there was no hope of it surviving. Sorry Brendan!
We spent more time at the winery than Mike expected and he was in a hurry to get back before dark (or maybe a date) so sped up a bit on the route back. The group kept up fine, even weighed down by wine, both internal and external. Thankfully, most of the homeward route was downhill.