Verona, Mantua, Padua

October 25, 2007

(October 1-4)  Leaving Ferrara, we had decided that we wanted to spend one night on the Po Delta and therefore booked a nice B&B calledpo-delta-13-400x267.jpg Ca’ Zen, a villa built in 1710 by a Venetian family and now lived in and operated by the widow of one of the original family descendants.

The owner, an Irish lady who has lived in Italy for 35-plus years, helped us figure out our day and then called a local fisherman/guide, Alberto, to arrange a boat trip through the canals for us. She also suggested that we have lunch at the Osteria Arcadia in San Giulia di Porto Tolle, where Alberto would meet us.

 We found the restaurant and were the first table to arrive.  Another table arrived shortly thereafter, leaving two or three empty.There was a menu of sorts but not really understandable. The owners go out in the morning and catch the fish they will serve that day. Some things on the printed menu were available and some weren’t.

Finally, we figured out what was available and what the waitress liked and then ordered one or two portions of those dishes. Of course, we over-ordered but it was certainly fresh and very well prepared.

We started with cold sardines and cipollini onions in a vinaigrette sauce. Next came a lovely carpaccio of branzini, mussels in a wonderful broth, tortelli stuffed with fish, mixed fried fish and a plate of assorted sweets.

With one bottle of chardonnay and some water, the bill came to 88€, more that we had expected since the prices on the menu had mostly been single digits, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

The boat trip with Alberto through the canals was interesting if only to realize the extent of them. This Nature Preserve is supposedly the largest wetland in Europe. A big part of it is land reclaimed over centuries and now keeps the sea at bay. The villa where we stayed once went to the sea but now is several kilometers away. po-delta-9-400x267.jpg

Alberto even anchored on a small island and walked us around, picking up oysters which he opened for us to eat. He also plucked a plant from the wet sand that we chewed raw that was quite interesting and like nothing we had ever had. po-delta-4-300x200.jpg

padua-4-400x267.jpgThere didn’t seem to be much else to see on the Delta so  we headed out bright and early for Padua. This, as is Ferrara, is a bicycle-friendly town made up of loggias and arcades. The high point is the Scrovegni Chapel with its frescoes by Giotto covering the ceiling and every wall.

We decided to pick one place, the Villa del Quar, outside Verona to be our base for the next few days of travel. It is also a Venetian villa, part of which has been converted into a very elegant Relais and Chateaux property.There is a lovely pool, wifi in the solarium and by the pool, gracious living rooms and patios. It was nice enough every day to have breakfast outdoors on the patio. Dinner at their two-star restaurant, Ristorante Arquade, is reviewed separately.

Verona is only a 10-minute drive and we were directed to a lovely parking space just outside one of the main bridges into the old town. We walked through the piazzas and all the markets, of which there were an unbelievable number.

verona-12-350x233.jpgWe climbed with the help of an elevator to the top of the Tower of Lamberti. We wandered into the courtyard of what is billed as Juliet’s house but chose not go inside to see the furniture from the movie set. Ah, tourismo.

verona-23-350x233.jpgWe saw the Duomo, of course, and were able to see areas of the original structure that had been uncovered in one restoration or another and left open.verona-27-350x233.jpgThe best was the Teatro Romano, a lovely amphitheater facing the old town which once could be reached by two bridges at either side of the theater. Andrea Palladio had renovated it in his day so there is that “new” design forged onto the old Roman one.

We tried to eat at the Osteria la Fontanina near the theater but they would only take us earlier than we wanted and then were not using their outdoor seating.  It did look romantic, sort of a fussier, Italian version of the old Cafe Nicholson in New York.

We poked around and found what looked interesting enough to reserve a 1:30 pm table outside and then roamed the town some more. At the appointed hour we arrived back at the Ristorante Antica Torretta (Piazza Broilo,1; 39 045 8015292) and sat on their terrace, with an Italian couple and another American couple.We ordered the Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella 2004, and after it was served and we OK’d it, the Italian gentleman called out to us that we had made a good choice. Yes we had.verona-37-400x272.jpg

The young chef, Fossato Francesco or perhaps, Francesco Fossato, holds forth in an open kitchen in the middle of the first indoor dining room. He is imaginative and likes gutsy, honest tastes.We were quite pleased with our first courses—verona-38-400x267.jpgGary’s, gnocchi with truffles which were more like quenelles because they weren’t a pasta, and Varian’s, tiger shrimp with a dark, hoisin-based sauce served with green beans and cherry tomatoes, were terrific.

Gary loved the grilled branzino with shiitake mushrooms, and Varian was really pleased with her beef fillets, served with grilled fennel and a white pepper sauce dotted with green peppercorns. verona-39-400x267.jpgIt was perfectly cooked, and of note because they didn’t ask us how to cook, but just served it the way the chef wanted—rare. And, perfect. No dessert and no cheese. The bill came to 105.85€ including the wonderful wine. We thanked the chef, and do expect hear more about him as he gains experience.

One Response to “Verona, Mantua, Padua”

  1. Blair Says:

    Varian and Gary,

    I enjoy reading your posts greatly and want to complement your use of photos. In particular using a black border really makes the photos pop off the page, nice technique!

    -Blair


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