After an uneventful flight (always the best type!) into Milan we picked up our hire car and drove through the torrential rain, via Como to San Giovanni, which is situated some 2 kilometers from Bellagio.

It was a rather moist welcome to our trip to Italy, and the first rain I’ve seen here for many visits, although to be fair I usually come during the summer months and other than the odd thunderstorm at night there has been little rain to speak of during my many visits.

Not this time however, with heavy rain and slick roads to greet out journey to my sanctuary in San Giovanni.

It’s Shirley first visit to Italy and I was hoping that the weather would be still relatively nice…and so we planned a little escape to warmer and sunnier climes to the not too distant Verona to escape the rain.

Waking earlish on Sunday morning, we grabbed a croissant and latte to go from the cafe five steps from our front door and headed to the car.

Verona is a mere 2.5 hours’ drive south east of Bellagio and by all accounts the weather was supposed to be a balmy 23C and sunny.

We were excited to find the sunshine that I had always raved about on my prior trips to Italy and started out heading along the winding road down the lake, via Lecco, Bergamo and Brescia toward Verona.

I love driving in Italy, they have a fabulous freeway (Autostrada) system, with a standard speed limit of 130 km per hour.  Not that many people stick to that, cos’ if you find yourself in the fast lane overtaking someone, at lets say 140 km per hour there is inevitably someone on your tail flashing their lights to get by at 160 km plus.  🙂

We left the rain at Bergamo with the sun starting to peek out from behind the rain clouds. As we neared Verona we were delighted to discover that it was now a sunny and warm day, just perfect for exploring the old city.

We had planned to park near Porta Nuova (one of the entrances to the ancient walled city) and visit the Coliseum adjacent to Piazza Bra first, prior to lunch. This area is by its very nature touristy, and although I’d been to the Coliseum before I wanted to show Shirley this incredible Roman edifice.

Almost impossible to imagine that this building has been in active use for more than 2000 years. Wow!

The Coliseum hosts an annual opera season as well as many live performances. Yep, its in amazing shape considering its age, but most surprising of all is that it seats 30,000 people comfortably… A sign of great architecture!

After making our way through the line up (25 minutes) and exploring this gorgeous building it was time for lunch.

No better place to eat that a Michelin rated restaurant just steps from the Coliseum, but in a tucked away in a quiet alleyway.

The best part about dining out in Italy is discovering these gems…

One of my recommendations when in Italy, if I’m unfamiliar with the food scene is to ask the Concierge at my hotel for their recommendations. Generally, they give you the usual tourist places, so I always enquire with “Ma dove porterebbe la tua famiglia a pranzo domenica? (but where would take your family for lunch on Sunday?)”

This is universally met with a completely different recommendation… 🙂

I’d already done my research and discovered Tre Marchetti, which was a quiet respite from the crowds in the nearby Piazza.

As expected, there were a number of local families enjoying their Sunday lunch with their children, both young and old alike. The sound of Opera tastefully and discreetly playing in the background, the perfect setting for our first lunch in Italy!

Clearly a glass of Prosecco to begin was mandatory, but I demurred on a further glass of wine as I was driving later, but we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of fresh home made pasta.

Shirley had the Tagliolini with Venetian-style squid ragout (typical Venetian dish), while I had the exquisitely flavoured Pappardelle with red Recioto (red wine pappardelle noodles) with hare ragù (rabbit ragu).

Delish!!! 🙂

After a great lunch we set off to explore the old city, with its narrow alleyways and hidden piazzas’ it was a delight to walk in the warm sunshine and discover this beautiful city.

Who can visit Verona without visiting Juliet’s balcony? Verona was of course the home to one of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories – Romeo and Juliet. His supposed inspiration can be found in a small nondescript courtyard with balcony in the center of the old city, which is now a hugely popular tourist attraction.

After a quick look in the jam packed courtyard it was time to carry on to my main destination – the Ponte Pietra!

The Ponte Pietra, is a Roman arch bridge crossing the Adige River and divides the old city from the new. The bridge was completed in 100 BC, and is the oldest bridge in Verona. I just love the closeness of history in Italy…and can imagine the Roman legions stomping their way across the bridge as they set out for the many far flung outposts that dotted Italy and indeed, Europe.

I can hardly believe that its still standing, but stand it does. Having survived a myriad of earthquakes, floods and wars over the centuries. Unfortunately the two easternmost spans were destroyed by retreating German troops in WWII, but rebuilt with the stones found in the river shortly after the way.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent exploring the many little piazzas and narrow streets that make up this gorgeous city.

I would highly recommend a visit to Verona, not just for the obvious history, but for also for its incredible food scene and delightful ambience.

My only big recommendation is to get off the beaten track and explore the ancient city without necessarily following the crowds. This is surprisingly easy to do in Verona with its winding alleyways and maze like streets, you’ll be so glad you did!

Until next week