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Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Veneto Italy. The Arena built around 30 AD is a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre that dominates the Piazza Bra’. The spectacular Piazza Bra’ acts as a staging place for the thousands of people that stroll around the Colosseum. It is the center of this ancient city with its splendid Medieval palazzi surrounded by 10 km of ancient walls. It was mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy and is famous for the setting of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Today the palazzo considered Juliet’s home is visited by large numbers of people. The play is performed every summer and is one of the highlights of the Opera Festival season. The Piazza Bra’ is surrounded by restaurants that cater to thousands of people who attend the Opera. The Arena seats about 25,000 people so you can image the buzz that fills the Piazza with smartly dressed people enjoying an after theater drink or meal.
There are about 33 Agriturismi in Verona; we chose the small winery Nicobresaola located in Custoza about 20 minutes from Verona. Nico Bresaola, Marina and his daughter started this Agriturismo about 4 years ago. They grow Bianco di Custoza and Bardolino grapes, olives, kiwi, peaches and radicchio rosso. They belong to a cooperative that processes the grapes for about 180 vineyards in this area.
The 4 rooms are tastefully decorated with modern furniture and very spacious. Clearstory ceilings with open beans and pretty views over the vineyards gave us a comfortable and peaceful place to spend a few days.
We were greeted by Nico’s daughter Bernadetta who spoke English and Nico joined her, and speaks English and French fluently. They gave us a key to the room, showed us into the kitchen off the yard and invited to enjoy anything in the refrigerator and of course the espresso machine. Naturally as you can guess it was filled with fruits grown on the farm. Later Marina, Nico’s wife arrived with food and drinks for a party they were having in the yard for 2 evenings. We were invited to join the festivities with about 60 people and live music. Full of energy, they are a fun family with great friends who made us feel that were part of their social circle. http://www.nicobresaola.it/
We were off to the opening night at the Area di Verona to see Placido Domingo conduct the Opera Carmen. Domingo is celebrating his 40th year performing at the Area with many events planned. In the past we have always sat on the main floor. Taking the advice of some people I knew, we decided to get tickets in the gallery where I was told that the acoustics was better. Sorry to say this wasn’t the case and I found the seating uncomfortable and the acoustics extremely bad. Not all was lost as we had fun with many of the people sitting around us. Since we had enjoyed the Festival a number of times in the past and never experienced rain with no hint of bad weather in the forecast, we were not prepared for a major thunderstorm during the second act. We were lucky that we were sitting next to an exit and were able to get out quickly before the crowds rushed for all exits in an attempt to escape from the rain.
The opera was captivating, with creative scenery and beautiful music. We were sorry to have missed the second half. I suggest that if you sit in the gallery you choose seats in the E & F sections next to the stage. The acoustics would be better and you can see from anywhere in the Arena, but always be prepared for rain.
This crowd was not going to let the weather get in the way of having a good time as they crowded the restaurants and the Prosecco flowed.
If you are looking for something a little more up scale to stay, I would recommend the Villa Del Quar (a Relais Chateaux hotel). Located in the Valpolicella Valley the charming villa has superior accommodations and authentic period furniture and is a typical patrician dwelling. The elegant restaurant “Arquade” has 2 Michelin stars and 3 Golden Keys classification by the Gambero Rosso guidebook and is excellent. Relax in the afternoon at the outdoor pool surrounded by vineyards before visiting Verona and the opera. There is a large and beautiful wine cellar where we sampled Grappa’s made in the area. The staff is very friendly and helpful and will arrange transportation to the Opera for you. Be sure to make reservations in the restaurant in advance. www.hotelvilladelquar.it/.