Climbing aboard a train in Switzerland and disembarking in Italy provided a shock to our sensibilities. We traveled from order to disarray. It is hard to describe without dwelling in the shadow of the Italian experience, which I do not wish to do. We rent a car and head off to our B&B in Valpolicella, approximately 10 km north of Verona, and proceed to get totally lost. This last piece is a story that won’t get told and remains a forbidden subject among the group as I do not wish to tap the strong emotions that were evoked in the two hours it took us to travel seven miles. Janet has been caught snickering to herself on a few occasions but, as the topic is banned, she cannot reveal the object of her humor.
We are spending our entire stay in the region at the Montericco Bed and Breakfast, three bedrooms and two bathrooms that comprise the daylight basement of the home owned by an enigmatic woman named Mercedes. It is perfectly relaxing here and, while I am dying to know her story, her invisibility does create a sense of freedom and spaciousness, whether we are spending the day lounging by the pool or coming and going on our various adventures.
It seems impossible that we would wind endlessly up sundry one-way goat paths to arrive at a place that has fairly dense housing and restaurants patched together with vineyards and semi-wild countryside. There is a pizzaria and a trattoria just 100 meters from our driveway. From what we can tell so far, most of the business comes from friends of the staff, who are hanging out at the outside tables smoking and trying to avoid eye contact with the non-Italian speaking customers. The risotto, however, was fantastic. The beer was good, the price was right and the sun was warm. We don’t know where those horses were headed but their arrival on the scene added texture to a very colorful experience.
Our first night we went into Verona and there we dined on the street behind the Arena. It was a glorious meal. The Soave paired beautifully with our starters and the Bardolino was a surprise treat, but it took two bottles of Amarone to get all the way through the meat course. We slept in the next morning and took a full day of rest, but for a hike through the countryside.
Pizza and beer the next night and a better than fabulous dinner the night after that. Once we learned how not to get totally lost – or how not to freak out when we did – it was the stuff of dreams.