Saturday, August 6, 2022

Pietra e acqua | Stone and water


The foolish are like ripples on water, For whatsoever they do is quickly effaced; 
But the righteous are like carvings upon stone, For their smallest act is durable.

Horace, Roman poet (65-8 BC)

Today I joined a walking tour of Verona put on by the tourist information office. Lucky for me, nine people didn't show up, perhaps due to the heat, so it was just me, two Tuscans and the guide. Can't beat a private tour for 12 euro. :-)

As we walked the streets, we were told of their paving of "Verona marble", a limestone cut from the hills of nearby Valpolicella -- the same area of the great wine. Several paving stones bear the remains of ammonite fossils. Really BIG ones.

Later in the tour we could look down into a two meter hole to see an intersection of two Roman roads made of the same material. It's a wonder there are any hills left to grow grapes on.

Besides the Arena, Verona's other major Roman ruin is the Porta Borsari. The Romans would have called this entrance into their city the Jovian gate after their supreme deity. That name was forgotten by medieval times so it became the gate of the toll collectors. Borsari refers to their purse in which they carried the levied coins (think bourse/purse).

From this beautiful vantage point overlooking the Adige river, the guide explained that up until the beginning of the 20th century it was forbidden to build on the north side of the river because it was demarcated as a military zone. Hence the architecture is very different. For a future trip, the tourist office has a self-guided walking tour pamphlet of the Liberty style architecture in this area.

I was shocked to learn that just one day before the end of World War II, the Germans bombed all the bridges as they retreated from Verona so as to hinder Allied advancement. All of the bridges have been rebuilt from their original materials as much as possible.

The bridge in the photo above was the private bridge of the Scaligeri family. Later in the tour, we passed their very ornate Gothic tombs. It was noted that they built their tombs on elevated platforms so that people would have to look up to them for eternity.

After the tour, I walked to the arcaded portico of Via Sottoriva that runs alongside the river. Here were the old warehouses when the river was the city's thoroughfare for business.

And I found Osteria Sottoriva, an old riverside eatery that serves only wine, beer and grappa (as I was told upon entering and reminded of when I thought I would end my meal with an espresso). Its wine selection is impressive. I enjoyed a glass of Tasi's Garganega Brut for 3 euro to accompany my Vitello Tonnato, which was so delicious that I finished the entire plate.

Thinking I should walk off some of that veal, I wandered over to the Ponte Pietra (the "stone" bridge). It has been reconstructed from the stones of the original Roman bridge. I will return this evening for a better view of the bridge as I dine at the riverside restaurant on the right side of the photo. 

Stay tuned! :-)

A thunderstorm was brewing as I set out from the hotel to the restaurant. The wind was joined by rain just as my 7:30pm reservation was called. Sadly, on account of the high winds and rain, all balcony reservations were moved inside to the restaurant's lower level. While nice, it lacked the view of the Ponte Pietra so I took this photo following my lovely meal . . . after the thunderstorm had passed without almost a trace on Verona's cobbled streets.

When I booked Restaurant Ponte Pietra, following research that took me "I don't know where", I had no idea it was a Michelin star restaurant. This is my first Michelin experience. The meal and service was exceptional. 

A newly-engaged Canadian couple was seated at the neighbouring table. As we all enjoy foodie experiences we struck up an immediate bond. Ivan kindly provided the visual memory for the evening (above). By this point in the meal, I have already enjoyed a glass of Franciacorta and a glass of Il Moggio from Umbria so please excuse my inebriated smile. With the octopus, burrata and green beans I am enjoying a glass of light Valpolicella. A perfect pairing. Dessert of a peach tart with raspberry confit was paired with a Soave Reciotto. Bellissima!

I can't help but sleep well this evening. Buona notte!


  1. looks like you are having a riot...well deserved 👏

  2. You obviously recovered well from Friday's events - must be something to do with the wine and the air...;0)
    Before I read the text for the first image, I was taken aback by the realism of the slab / tile bearing what I assumed was an ammonite "representation" ! You can't beat the real thing...
    Looks like you experienced "...a perfect end to a perfect day..."