At the beginning of May, we went strolling around Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, which coincidentally is literally shaped like a heart. After a few days in this historically rich and beautiful city, we escaped the crowds and discovered a hidden gem!
First, let us show you some pictures of Verona. We stayed with the wonderful Serena and Matteo at their prizewinning B&B King Verona. Definitely the place to be when you’re in town!
Now that you have an impression of our background, we’ll now reveal the coordinates of our treasure hunt: 40.7143528,-74.0059731. Here you’ll find the lovely agriturismo* San Mattia. Just a short bus trip or 30-minute walk uphill from the city center, you’ll find this quiet family-run place surrounded by vineyards and lush green hills.
Give yourself some time after your arrival to sit back and relax in the garden with one of the delicate wines and enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the city of Verona.
The story of this place goes back to about 100 years, when Giuseppe Éderle became the owner of this beautiful spot on the Torricelle hills of Verona. Giuseppe worked as a lawyer but longed to combine it with a farm life. Eventually, he managed to work six months a year as a lawyer and spent the other six on his 50-hectare land on the hills. At first the land consisted of a forest, so it took quite some effort to prepare it for agriculture. But Giuseppe knew what he was doing. He sold his vegetables on the pretty Piazza del Erbe in Verona. Also, Giuseppe started a horse riding school and a small agriturismo which he named after St. Mattia, like the church around the corner.
Even though the horse riding school has been closed for many years now, some of the retired horses still graze around the vineyards. Like Ulysse, who keeps the vineyard in neat condition. But those are not the only animals that can be found here. While walking through fields of fig, olive, apple, and almond trees, you get to meet the dogs Thor and Mille (who was born without a tail); the shy, recently adopted goats Aldo and Bella; a row of colorful beehives; and many rabbits, geese, and ducks. Once, the geese held a Chardonnay party – they ate all of the grapes!
Only 27 years old, Giuseppe’s grandson, the young and ambitious Giovanni Éderle, inherited the place and renovated it into a modern agriturismo with comfortable facilities. The restaurant is pretty popular thanks to the delicious creations of the 30-year-old Chef Allessandro, the panoramic view, the organic and homegrown food (including most of the meat), and the wine. Here’s a tip: the heavenly five-course meal will cost you no more than €28!
Together with his friend and oenologist Silvia Baratella, Giovanni started an organic winery around 2005. The plot is 10 hectares big and has four vineyards with six types of grapes planted. Instead of the old school way of working with pergolas, they cultivate the grapes through the Guyot system which protects the grapes from too much exposure to the sunlight. Because of water limitations in the region, the watering of the plants depends on the amount of rainfall – which takes some prayers and rain dances! Every plant produces one bottle of wine a year (1-1.5 kilos of grapes) when it’s three to four years old. The different grape types can be distinguished by their branches and leaves. The harvest is done around August and September by a team of five to seven people who picks the grapes by hand. A big part of the grapes go through a slow, natural process of air drying. About 25,000 bottles of wine come out of San Mattia’s vineyards annually in seven different labels. They are all bottled within three days and exported all over Europe. The design of the labels is done by a local artist, and Giovanni dedicated the fierce Donna Francesca white wine to his mother. Bellissimo.
If you’d like to get a full wine tasting experience, you’ll be in good company with Silvia. She can explain everything about the different grapes and how to distinguish them, how to smell and taste the wine, how to match the wine with food. She’ll also tell you some secrets of their winery. In 1.5 hours, the wine production process is revealed as you walk around the vineyards. The highlight of the tour, an exclusive wine tasting of the different kinds of homemade wine, brings you this dilemma: to swallow or to spit? For more details, visit San Mattia's website.
If you can’t get enough of the delicious homemade goods, don’t cry. There’s enough jam, olive oil, and wine to bring along on your trip back home. Oh, mio dio!
*Editor’s note: Agriturismo, as defined on About.com, is a portmanteau of the words agriculture and tourism and is “a style of vacationing in farm house resorts codified into Italian law in 1985.”