A visit to the town of Verona is a must when one visits Venice. As we had a group of 8 adults, it was more convenient and economical for us to rent a van with driver for the full day. The only thing to keep in mind is that there is only one place where cars can park in Venice, and that is the Piazzale Roma. To walk from our hotel to the piazzale, it took us a bit over 30 minutes. Driving distance from Venice to Verona is around 1.5 hours. The best activity for me during the day trip was definitely a visit to the world-renounced Valpolicella wine region, home to Amarone. I now regret not having enough time to stay an extra day in the area so I could also visit the Soave region, which makes one of my favourite Italian white wines. In Europe, there are always way too many interesting things to do but too little time.

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Our first (but very brief) stop was the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House), made famous by the Shakespearean play Romeo & Juliet. You can take a picture with Juliet’s bronze statue, or pay to go up to her balcony facing the Capulet’s garden.

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Our first winery visit: the family-run Scriani. We were greeted by the owner/winemaker’s daughter, who spoke very fluent English as she studied linguistics in university. We were given a brief tour and introduction to the winery. The tasting was free; and as we were only by ourselves without other tourists, the whole experience was customized to suit our pace.

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Scriani has a wide variety of wines like Lugana (white), Valpolicella, Ripasso, Amarone, Recioto, etc. I really enjoyed their Amarone and it was not expensive at all to purchase at the winery. They also kept a library of the wines with many older vintages. Another interesting wine that I bought was the 2000 Carpanè, made with 100% Corvina. I still kept the bottle unopened but I am looking forward to it.

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Dining in the wine country has always been the highlight of my trip. For lunch, we visited a local restaurant called Enoteca della Valpolicella. I had pre-ordered a prix-fixe menu for the eight of us at €40 each including food and drinks. With hindsight, I should have just ordered from their regular menu. On the day that we were there, unfortunately a label-printing company also booked a lunch event so the restaurant was very busy, and service was quite slow. We had to rush through dessert as we booked another wine tour right after lunch. Overall, I still enjoyed the ambiance and the food, but it could be better if service pace was faster.

The Enoteca is decorated like an old rustic farm house, full of character and charm.

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Brigaldara Valpolicella 2013 ~ Basic Valpolicella from a respectable producer, it was light and fruity, just right for lunch. Out of our group of 8, only 4 of us drank, so we ended up only finishing one bottle. €40 each all-inclusive was really not a good deal for us.

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Our appetizers (from left to right): ricotta cheese with apples; ricotta cheese stuffed inside zucchini flower (which was delicious as the zucchini flower was fresh); tomato soup with ricotta cheese.

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Our pasta / main courses: fresh house made pasta made with…ricotta filling; fettuccine with mushrooms. While we were on the 4th course with the same ingredient, it felt ridiculous! Wish they would put more thoughts into what they served (although I really loved their soft and tasty pasta).

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Clockwise from top left: ice cream, biscotti, strawberry panna cotta, tiramisu. As we need to rush to a wine tour appointment right after lunch, we asked for the bill in advance. Unfortunately after telling our waitress 3 to 4 times that we had to leave soon, we still ended up waiting over 15 minutes for our desserts. That was a shame as we rushed through the otherwise delicious desserts.

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Finally we arrived at Masi Agricola and their neighbour Serego Alighieri. The vineyards and hillsides were peaceful and quaint. Nothing beats the smell of fresh countryside air.

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Grapes were left to dry out on mat or racks in order to produce Amarone or Recioto. As the grape shrivels, the grape juice dries up, juice to skin ratio decreases, and the resulting wine is full-bodied, high in alcohol and concentration. As the process is lengthy and the volume produced is less in comparison to a basic wine from non-dried grapes, Amarone and Recioto wines are usually pricey.

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Barrel fermentation in Masi. This was my first time seeing a box-shaped vessel. Out of curiosity I inquired, and found out this was intended to give the wine more exposure to the service of the oak.

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Masi’s storage of their Amarones.

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Tasting comprised of a basic level Valpolicella wine, a Ripasso, an Amarone, and a Recioto, all made with mainly Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara and other indigenous varietals like Oseletta. Ripasso combines leftover dried grape skins from Amarone or Recioto to basic wine (resulting in a second fermentation) so the final product is fuller body in comparison to basic Valpolicella, but lighter than Amarone and Recioto. Recioto is similar to Amarone, but fermentation is stopped earlier so the grape is not fully fermented to dryness and, resulting in a sweeter-style dessert wine.

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