Valpolicella, Italy
Thursday:  Wine Tour and Verona
We were taken by a small bus to Valpolicella, near La Garda Lake, the largest lake in Italy.  We were told about the peach orchards, olive groves, cherry trees and the marble for which this area if famous.  Both the white Carrera marble and a pink and red marble are associated with this part of Italy.  Our first stop was Villa Novare, home of Valpolicello Classic, an 18th century villa.  This winery produces 80,000 of Amarone wine, a wine made with grapes which are dried on racks, per year.  The Amarone is aged for six years in barrels and 1 year in bottles.  The last wine released was in 2007.  Needless to say, Amarone is an expensive wine, particularly the older vintages.  We toured the estate inside and out.  As you can see from the photographs it was a stunning villa and is often used for weddings and events.  The tour of the winery was fascinating as we viewed the old, original wine making equipment, large barrels from the early years, as far back as 200 or more years.   When it was time for tasting we were taken to a large room with a table set for all of us.  We each had three glasses, plates and silverware.  The wine was presented along with detailed information and we tasted it along with grana padano cheese, uncured ham, local olives, sopressa, and bread.  We tried Sereole, a white wine, Secco Bertani, a dry red wine, and the Amarone Classico, a full bodied red wine, 2003.  In fact, we “tried” several samples of the Amarone and before too long our entire group was giddy and full of wine.  Mind you, it was not even lunch time yet. We fell in love with the Amarone by itself, but also noted how well it tasted with the food.  The Bertani Amarone can be found at or in some wine stores.  
We headed to the next vineyard, Fratelli Vagadori, also in the Verona area.  We were nearly stumbling around after our big wine tasting at Bertani and were somewhat disappointed by the wines at Fratelli Vagadori.  I was at the point of saturation and could barely drink anymore wine, particularly since some of it was overly sweet or just not that good.  And, guess what else we were served?  You guessed it—platters of monte cheese, mortadello, sopressa, and rosemary crostini and grissini.  We continued to eat and drink until we felt like we would explode, then boarded the bus for the city of Verona.
We didn’t have much time in Verona so it was hard to see all the interesting sights, such as the ancient arena.  We did go to Juliet’s house, the supposed home of Juliet of Romeo and Juliet.  I say supposed, because it was not factual that she actually lived there.  Unlike the movie, Letters to Juliet, there were no love letters pinned anywhere, however there was a statue of Juliet.  People posed for their photos touching the Juliet’s breast in hopes they would be married soon.  The balcony was also  a popular place for photos.  The buildings in Verona were colorful, beautiful, and different from the styles we had seen in Reggio Emilia and Florence.  We really didn’t get to explore much and have it on our list of places to visit again one day. Back to Reggio Emilia where we still had one more event for the day.  We were going to Ristorante Turci, owned by the family of Elisa Lusenti, one of the students in the culinary program who has been to Fort Worth as part of the sister cities program.  The restaurant is located in San Polo d’Enza, a 30 minute drive from Reggio Emilia.  A traditional dinner would be served at the usual dining time of 9:00 PM or later.  I’ll have to admit we were a bit worn out as we waited for the cars to drive us to the destination.  Once we got there we were treated to a wonderful meal, prepared by Elisa and her family.  We were brought a steaming plate of cappaleti con zucca (pumpkin stuffed pasta), cooked perfectly and perfectly seasoned.  Then some pear and parmesan pasta caramella with balsamic vinegar was served.  These little purses were both sweet, savory, and sauced to perfection. 
 Platters of risotto with dried porcini mushrooms came next, followed by erbazonne, gnocco fritto, salami, ham, prosciutto, brie, pecorino, parmesan, coppa, and grissini. I’ll bet you’re laughing by now.  I told you, we ate ham and cheese more than once every day! 
For dessert there were numerous assorted cakes made with amaretto, fruit, custard and other delectable ingredients.  It was a feast.