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photo-3 copy 4This month, I headed to the Veneto, the region surrounding Venice, for the Buy Venice show, an excellent place to find stunning, artisanally-made Italian products.

While I have certainly found many new items for my “Things I Love” column in the newsletter, especially these Le Furlane hand-made slippers sold under the Rialto, I have to tell you about something even better than a new pair of earrings or gourmet food to tuck in your luggage:

The Real City of Love

Instead of Venice, get away from all the crowds in Verona. It’s only 1:15 away from Venice by train.

Though romantics flock to Venice for its canals, labyrinthine streets, and myths of Casanova, affluent Verona was the backdrop for one of the world’s greatest love stories, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Try to visit when there is a performance in the Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in 30 AD and remains one of the best preserved Roman structures in the world. All summer, modern renditions of classic operas take place in candlelight in the amphitheater.

What Can You Do in Verona?

During my visit, we rented bicycles through the newly installed bike share program, which allows you to see the whole city, including crossing the Roman bridge on the Adige River many times, for only two euros for two hours.

It’s a great way to get to the cloister and 11th-century church of San Zeno, typically only reachable by car.

The city is predominately flat, so cycling is the perfect way to see it. (Be warned: they’ll put a EU 300 hold on your credit card.)

Beyond Venice, there are many enticing day trips from Verona:

  • the Valpolicella wineries, where wine has been produced since Ancient Greeks settled the area

  • Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake

  • Bolzano, capital of the German-Italian culture mélange that is the Alto Adige

  • the 10th-century Soave Castle

  • the UNESCO World Heritage Palladian Villas

To be honest, “Juliet’s balcony,” which is not necessarily the real balcony of the real Juliet (if there was one), was far from the highlight of the trip. If you go, avoid it or go late at night, after the graffiti-writing teens have all gone home, to give the breast of the bronze statue of Giulette the customary good luck rub.

Indulge Yourself in Verona

photo-3 copy 3We spoiled ourselves at Al Desco, one of Italy’s famous top dinning experiences.

If you go, be prepared to pay for that spot on service and millefoglie baccala mantecato. The decor is stylish, as was the clientele. Not an American was in the copy

There are many hotels worth mentioning, and we will do so in a future newsletter, but for now we focus on The Gentlemen of Verona Relais.

photo-3 copy 2This discreet but seductively luxurious boutique hotel on an side street not far from the Arena opened two months ago. The spacious and stylish rooms have all the modern comforts. Contact us for booking details.

Plan a few days in Verona. You’ll be glad you did.
in Italy 1896 0


Image © Italian Concierge

Travel + Leisure’s announced this week that Italian Concierge has made the Travel + Leisure A-List for the fifth year in a row (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and now 2013).

Travel+Leisure had some questions for me about my experiences in Italy that I wanted to share with you here.

Over years I've led tours and worked as a travel specialist, I've logged approximately 12,000 hours in Italy planning and leading groups. In the last year alone, I've visited Rome, Florence, Venice, the Dolomites, Puglia, Emilia Romagna, Toscana, and Piemonte.

I do not consider myself a travel agent. My desire is only to see and experience everything in Italy. I could not answer one travel question about another country. My goal is to know Italy inside and out from every perspective, be it on foot, train, car, bike, skis, or boat.

The four most important milestone of my time in Italy have been:

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venice san marco

Image © Italian Concierge

This month, Italians celebrate the biggest holiday of the year: Ferragosto. Literally meaning "august vacation," the August 15 holiday coincides with the Feast of the Assumption, celebrating the Virgin Mary's ascension into heaven, but the religious celebration has taken a backseat to the beach in modern times.

In August, businesses shut down, Italians head to their vacation homes on the coast, and cities empty eerily of residents. You can have Italy's greatest cities to yourself for a "golden day" like the day trip I recently wrote about for Susan van Allen's "Golden Days in Italy" blog.

If you're stuck at home, follow the Italian summer on our Pinterest board or through our summer-focused August newsletter:

  • Tis the Season for . . . the Mare!
    To Italians, summer is practically synonymous with the seaside. Many beaches in Italy - usually the sandier, better looking ones - are private beaches or called bagni or stabilamenti. Here's how to navigate them.

  • Events this Month: Aman Resort Opens in Venice
    In a 16th-century palazzo in the San Polo quarter, near the Rialto Bridge, the new hotel is composed only of spacious suites with garden or canal views.

  • Traveler Tip: Italian Gestures
    When I saw a wonderfully tongue-in-check short documentary on Italian hand gestures in the New York Times last month, I couldn't help but smile. Our quick guide will help you learn these gestures at home.

  • Things We Love: In Piazza della Signoria B&B
    Sometimes my favorite things are as simple and stunning as the view from a hotel room window. This luxurious boutique hotel lies right on the corner of Florence's Piazza Signoria, where nearly a century of Florentines have gathered to party, protest, and parade.

  • August Recipe: Panzanella
    Tomato, basil, and old bread -- the most basic ingredients find a surprisingly new life in this summer Tuscan peasant dish.

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