Verona’s surroundings offer continuous discovery, even for someone born and raised here like me. I like to keep a list of places that strike me and which I like to go back to on day or weekend excursions. This is a small selection of five places which, for one reason or another, are at the top of my personal rankings.
The Molina Waterfalls: Just above Fumane in Upper Valpolicella, there is an area of deep ravines traversed by streams and covered with lush vegetation. This is where the Molina Waterfalls park is located. You find numerous trails here, many of which are well beaten. It’s an ideal destination especially on the hottest days. You can enjoy the shade of the forest and the coolness of the many emerald coloured lakes or explore the caves which have been visited by man since prehistoric times. Most visitors, however, come to admire the spectacular waterfalls. You can get there from the beautiful medieval village of Molina.
The Veja Bridge. More than a bridge, it’s a huge and spectacular natural stone arch approximately forty metres long. A torrent carved it out over thousands of years, creating a unique site. Not by chance, it has inspired writers and artists since ancient times. The painter Andrea Mantegna reproduced it in his famous cycle of frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi (the bridal chamber) in the Ducal Palace in Mantua. But, be careful when you look down as it may make you dizzy. You can get there in automobile by going up through the Negrar Valley in Valpolicella. The more adventurous can get there on foot by following the European path number 5 which connects Verona to Austria.
Borghetto. When the rankings of the most beautiful villages in Italy come out, Borghetto, part of the municipality of Valeggio sul Mincio, is unfailingly among them. It’s a popular location for weddings and is so magical it almost seems unreal. In fact, it is absolutely authentic. It’s a small fortified village made up of a handful of houses and mills set along the Mincio River, a tributary of Lake Garda. The symbiosis between the water and the village is total. You can well appreciate this by admiring Borghetto in its entirety from the impressive 14th century Visconti bridge. I avoid going to Borghetto on Sundays or public holidays if I can because it fills up completely with tourists. They crowd the restaurants for the famous pumpkin tortelli. Otherwise, any other day there is a feast for the eyes and the palate.
Soave. When I was a young men going to art school, teachers took us here with canvases, brushes and easels. They wanted us to paint the panorama of this village in the hills of the Eastern area of Verona province. Soave, in any case, is a picture postcard village. It’s dominated by the medieval castle built by the Scaligeri, a genteel and historic family of Verona. Its picturesque lanes offer a succession of churches and historic buildings. A stop in any restaurant there is obligatory in order to try the firm, fragrant white wine that gives the town its name. It’s one of the great Verona wines, second in popularity only to Valpolicella.
Campo. I myself discovered this village on Lake Garda, located on the steep mountainside overlooking Brenzone, only rather recently. It’s perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the province of Verona. Campo had been a trading post on the way to Verona since medieval times. When the road along Lake Garda opened up, the village was actually abandoned. Today, it’s almost a ghost village (only a family of shepherds live there). It’s accessible only by foot and has a small jewel of a church with frescoes. From there, you can enjoy one of the most spectacular views that I can remember. A foundation fighting for the village’s recovery organizes a music and theatre festival in the summer on its narrow streets.