Obvious and Less Obvious Verona

Be sure to look beyond the obvious when traveling in Italy. Enter the city of Verona. Tourists travel here for the obvious Romeo and Juliet experience and to see the famous Roman Arena on Piazza Bra, one of the biggest and best preserved arenas from the Roman Empire. Or to cross the Ponte Scaligero and visit Castelvecchio, a 14th century fortress with M-shaped merlons that run along the walls of the bridge and castle.

The Castle and Bridge were my first introduction to the city in 1999, a stop-over on a road trip with my Italian cousins on our way to Venice. On this trip I would be spending more time in Verona and I began with dinner.

A walk down from Piazza Bra along Via Mazzini (a pedestrian only street) will lead you to well-curated shops, chic boutiques and restaurants that preserve the gastro-history of the Veneto. One of these restaurants is Ristorante Greppia on Vicolo Samaritana. The street, a small-secluded alley-way (vicolo), takes its name from the Biblical Samaritan woman and the restaurant from the courtyard tavern where horse drawn carriages took travelers to the train station. The tavern was called greppia (manger) because it was the place where the horses ate. A less than obvious place for one of the best meals I have had in Italy.

Greppia is described as a restaurant of cucina tipica Veronese and although it serves food and wine typical of the region, there is nothing common about the experience you’ll have dining here. The food, hospitality and atmosphere at Ristorante Greppia were exceptional. We ate in the upstairs dining room but there is a brick vaulted dining area downstairs that looked very nice. There were 6 of us including 2 children and everyone couldn’t be happier. I had the Tortelli di zucca mantovana (pumpkin ravioli) and it was as good as I have had it in Mantova and Ferrara. I definitely plan to return for the fegato di vitello alla veneziana (sauted calf’s liver with onions).

After dinner we spent time walking to Piazza delle Erbe, one of the most picturesque squares in Italy sight-seeing the buildings, towers and sculptures in and around the square including Palazzo Mafei, topped with six  sculptures of the gods Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva. Then there are churches guarded by hunchbacks (Sant’Anastasia), piazze, bridges, gates and gelaterie including Gelateria Savoia (said to serve some of the best gelato in the area) that all bear a second look. The first time I traveled to Verona I saw the obvious and like many of my travels in Italy, Verona deserves a another look to see and savor a city.

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