Our visit to Verona was only meant as a resting place while travelling from Bologna to ski in the Dolomites. Originally, we had booked only one night in the ‘Fair City’ but after less than 24 hours in Madonna di Campiglio, we quickly changed our plans. We love to ski and including skiing as part of our honeymoon seemed a no-brainer to us. The mountains were close enough that we could have city breaks in some of the beautiful cities in Italy: Florence – Bologna – Verona – Venice, and still fit in 4 days of skiing over a two week period. A week in we realised we’d been a little ambitious.
After a very hectic time planning our wedding, and a week of city sightseeing, we were already exhausted, so a spa weekend would probably have been more suited to our needs at that point. Despite our fatigue, we were excited about the trip and keen to see what Madonna would offer us.
We decided to opt for driving from Verona to the mountains. As first timers driving on mountain roads, and with little experience of driving on the right-hand side of the road, this was, well, terrifying. The roads were icy, steep and narrow, and in our tin can of a car the traction was well… minimal… Needless to say, we won’t be doing that again in a hurry!
Tethers frayed and ready for a stiff drink we arrived. Madonna (or Campiglio as the Italians shorten it to) was less than welcoming. Our whole time in the Italian cities we visited we’d experienced the warmth and friendliness of Northern Italian culture but not in Campiglio. Our first stumbling block was finding somewhere to park the tin can. The hotel seemed to have a side car park that was down a small steep hill; it was big enough for five cars and barely wide enough to reverse out of a space. It was also covered in snow. At that point we didn’t care; anything to get off the tiny village roads. We knew we’d struggle to get out again but at that point it could have been a deep dark hole and we would have settled. We parked, and the driving hell was over. For now.
Our hotel owner spoke no English so babbled something in Italian and gave us a thumbs up that where we’d chosen was fine. We stayed at the Zeni hotel and given that we’ve skied many times before, in various different resorts, we knew for the price we paid, and at peak season, not to expect much. We were right.
We went to check in. First thing we wanted was a map. She said ‘no no, no map – all there!’ and pointed down the hill… Ok, so no map, just figure it out for ourselves we thought. We were given a key, told everything we needed to know in Italian and realising we understood nothing, we accepted our lot and decided to get a good nights sleep in preparation for our long awaited venture onto the slopes.
3am the carnage started. The snow ploughs were right outside of our window. We were amazed because it hadn’t snowed in days! For the next hour, we were bombarded with the crashing and banging of snow and the eerie sound of snow chains against the concrete in the pitch of the night. Needless to say, we were both wide awake and berating our decision to make the trip to the Dolomites. Eventually, we fell asleep again but we knew we’d have to put up with the same craziness the following night because we didn’t speak the language to explain the issue and ask to switch rooms. The morning came and again we tried to put the disappointing start to our a ski trip behind us and get on the mountain.
The resort was ridiculously busy and the people incredibly unfriendly. It wasn’t boding well for Campiglio. We did a couple of runs and came off the mountain for lunch. The food was nothing like we’d had across Italy, and the service was rude and unwelcoming. We’d had enough. So, with only a week of our honeymoon left we made the decision to cut our losses and leave early. It was the best decision we’d made. We want back to the hotel, packed and checked out. We tried to get some of our money back and complapin about the noise but it was fruitless. The woman kept saying, ‘no problem, no problem!’. We gave up, paid and left.
Now we had the car issue to deal with. We tried backing up and driving out but after 15 minutes and lots of wheel spinning we needed help. We went back to the woman who promptly handed us a shovel and left us to it. Eventually we managed to dig our way out and get out of the hell hole that was Campiglio.
Sadly, there’s no doubting the beauty of the dolomites, the gondola ride up to that first run reminded me of my first experience in Whistler many years ago where I was astounded by the beauty. Unfortunately the resort didn’t cut it.
We drove back to Verona and checked into the Hotel Accademia. Instantly we were made to feel welcome. We were given a free drink – our favourite Spritz Aperol – and we began to relax. The Italian hospitality was back! That evening we found a fantastic restaurant – Ristorante Osteria Dal Cavaliere – tucked away on one of the quaint cobbled streets, it had a beautiful old and rustic style interior, friendly service and great food. Quite a find.
The next night we hit the Ristorante Santa Felicita – where we had beautiful food in the setting of a converted church. We were back on our honeymoon! Verona is not a City I’ve ever heard people talk about, perhaps it’s just me and people everywhere are talking about the delightful place, but if not they should be. The sights are magnificent. From the monumental arena around which the town was built in the 1400’s, to the infamous Juliet’s balcony – where we had the pleasure of spending the night and experiencing a private mini play of the ‘where for art thou’ scene – it is impossible not to feel the romance oozing from every wooden shuttered balcony.
During our time in Verona we have been constantly surprised and delighted, had some taste tingling food and, if possible, sampled even better wine. Some of our favourites have been Osteria Mondodoro -where we had the creamiest yet delicately al dente risotto, floral salad and duck a l’orange; and Archivio Bar where I sampled the most exquisite margarita made with Mezcal tequila and trimmed with rosemary salt.
Our time in Northern Italian cities has given me a new standard by which to rate food and culture. Next is Venice and my eyes and taste buds can’t wait.