And…….easy on the roses. Most people instantly think of Romeo and Juliet when Verona is mentioned. I think of Amarone. (Or the opera festival, occasionally, depends on the state of mind, but let’s be honest here, really the wine comes as the first (only?) association). Yeah, yeah, the young lovers, the doomed passion (so boringly innocent that they actually manage to get married before doing anything serious, like committing suicide). These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.* Ah, those worldly joys that lead to perdition….with Amarone, on the other hand, what could possibly go wrong? It’s strong, full-bodied, complex, sweet on the tip of the tongue and deliciously bitter on the palate, fragrant of dark chocolate, spices and leather, and generally mind-blowing. And gets better and better when aged. I sometimes joke that I like my men the same way I like my coffee (strong, dark and bitter), but I should perhaps rephrase the analogy. Well, quite clearly, really. Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.* As if. Moderation, indeed, could be crowned the king of this weekend.
A tour around sunny and freezing Verona with the camera in the morning and visit to Tenuta Sant’Antonio vineyard in the afternoon. Now, northern Italian wines had been the topic of the latest sommelier course lesson, so the visit to the winery was even more interesting. I also noticed I start to actually smell the stuff I am supposed to smell. Ish. OK, I am nowhere near perceiving the scent of “damp seaside sand” that I have heard someone mentioning during the course, but I guess I am at least getting somewhere. However, the wine tasting was still very civilized. It was only in the evening when the “moderation” was truly savaged, because my friends took me for dinner to Ropeton, a restaurant specialized in traditional Veronese cuisine. I will eat most things, or I will at least try them. The more special and local, the better. Therefore the dinner menu:
- sfilacci di cavallo – cured horse meat pulled into hair-thin strings
- pennette al Ropeton (I had no real choice here, I was ordered by my friends to get this, no discussion) – pasta with pieces of pork, red peppers, cream and curry powder. I know it sounds wrong, but trust me, it’s very right.
- pastissada de caval – horse meat stewed in Valpolicella wine and spices. And roasted polenta.
I know my British readers will be horrified upon reading this, as in the UK horsemeat is kind of on the dog list (remember the “Beef lasagna” from a few years back?). Still, horse and red wine stew. What’s not to like? Without the need of actually mentioning it, ripasso and amarone as if it was going out of fashion.
Verona city centre collection:
Day two started with the most epic breakfast of my entire life. I happened in Verona on the Sunday then my friends do the annual bar-crawl in San Bortolo. Now, San Bortolo is a village in the mountains of roughly 100 inhabitants and 3 bars (and a church), and I was the first – and very probably the last – woman to ever take part (albeit partly) in this event. Of course, to embark on a day-long drinking journey, one has to build a good base. Hence the breakfast: 10 am on a Sunday: tripe, roasted salami and polenta, all this accompanied by “rosatello”, the local excuse for wine. That is, if you have the courage to call something pinkish, sweet and fizzy “wine”. But everyone was drinking the same thing, so who am I to try to change local habits. The boys had every intention to hop between the three village bars (located within 10 square meters) probably until midnight, but I had – fortunately probably – a flight to catch, so I was allowed to excuse myself by midday and return back to Verona. And what do you do in Italy on Sundays? You go out for lunch, of course. My friends took me to another typical restaurant close to San Zeno cathedral, al Calmiere.
- home-made tagliolini in hen broth, topped with chicken hearts and liver
- lesso alla veronese con pearà – mixed boiled meat (tongue, cotechino, ham, head, beef, etc) with a sauce made from the obtained broth, bone marrow and breadcrumbs and heaps of ground peppercorn (pearà means “peppered”), all topped with fresh horseradish. And horseradish is always good. With anything. In fact, I dream of horseradish flavoured toothpaste.
And then, alas, it was time to get back to the airport and return to sunny London. But then again, the days of wine (and roses) smile and run away like a child at play…
*) William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 6