Verona will be one of our long stops, because we are going to avail of its hospitality to allow us to visit the region. We are staying at the Residence Viale Venezia, named because it is on Corso Venezia, several hundred metres from one of Verona’s iconic gates – Porta Vescovo.
From here we can take the bus or walk into the city and we plan to do both.
Corso Venezia begins and ends at the gate, depending on the direction you are coming from. On the western side of the gate, 20 September Street runs into the university area, where Ship Bridge allows traffic to cross the Adige river and slip into Bra Square, dwarfed by the 2000 year-old amphitheatre known as the ‘Arena’ – a consequence of the city’s inglorious Roman past. These days the entertainment has an aesthetic quality, summer operas that attract thousands of music lovers.
The food of the Veronissima remains very rustic, very traditional and very rural. In osteria throughout the city the products of the surrounding countryside are evident. From the highly prized Amarone, Recioto and Valpolicella wines made from local Corvina, Croatina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes, to the Carnaroli and Vialone Nano rice varieties that feature prominently in risotto made with the salami-sausage mixture they call Tastasal or with the Amarone wine or with the locally grown Radicchio, to the soft wheat flour that is used for the hand-made pasta known Bigoli, Maccheroncini, Tagliatelli and Tagliolini, and for breads which are crumbed and used to make an iconic sauce called Pearà, to the horse meat stew served with potato dumplings or with a creamy Polenta – each dish a melt-in-the-mouth experience.
The Adige river approaches Verona from the west like a snake. Twisting into an inverted s-shape it encloses the beating heart of the city. A short walk from the new bridge over the eastern sweep of the river, through Independence Square – where Garibaldi stands proud, into the alley way named after Dante Alighieri, the sound of muted voices rises into the cold December air. They are muted because we are in one of Verona’s famous linked squares, where culture and history mingle among ancient stones. It is the palace of the old market, a trading place since the 1400s, that we are interested in. Here they sell the traditional foods of the region – biscuits, breads, cakes, cheeses and confections associated with ancient traditions.
We have found a quaint osteria called Morandin a few metres from the Porta Vescovo. It has everything we want, and much more. Their horse meat stew is delicious, their potato dumplings are divine, their pasta is delicate and their little snacks are a delight to behold.
Their menu of the day is written on paper and pasted on a wine barrel lid outside the door. At any time of the year it reads like a window into the regional food and the traditional dishes associated with the fresh produce of the seasons.
In the summer this includes aubergine with parmigiana, pasta with donkey meat, pasta with peas or beans in an aromatic tomato sauce, seasoned pork mince with the ear-shaped pasta called Orecchiette among dishes with Burratina (the small smoked cheeses made with mozzarella and cream), radicchio and mushrooms and fish from the Adriatic.
In the winter the aubergine with parmigiana, pasta with donkey meat and pasta with sauce are joined by filled pasta, grilled chops, horse meat stew with polenta, pasta with octopus and tomatoes, soused sardines and whipped dried cod with polenta.
Most of all Morandin offers the feeling that is always illusive in places that serve food, a combinaton that is superb service, fabulous food and quixotic quality, and a friendliness that cannot be bought.
Morandin also excels with its selection of local wines, but their cellar is nothing compared to our next destination. We have been invited to the Bottega del vino, a stone’s throw from Juliet’s balcony in an alleyway named via Scudo di Francia, near the linked squares and not too far from the Arena.