If you’ve ever driven the A4 motorway between Venice and Verona, the sight of a castle dominating the view with its’ Medieval walls cascading down the hillside and enveloping the village below beckons you to stop for a visit. After passing by for the umpteenth time, we finally decided to discover what the little town of Soave, Italy had to offer.
On that random Saturday in October 2010, we detoured a few miles off the autostrada on our way home from Parco Natura Viva and were welcomed to Soave’s annual Chocolando festival. Master chocolatiers from all over Italy come to exhibit their homemade and handcrafted chocolates. Over the course of the three day festival, visitors can taste a variety of chocolates, see master chocolatiers try to create the chocolate longest in the world beating the current record of 11 meters and 57centimeters, and enjoy jazz and blues concerts and a striking fireworks display that lights up the castle on Saturday evening.
Oh, the chocolate! We couldn’t resist the chocolate balls filled with liquors like sambucca, lemoncello, and rum. We oohed and aahed at the chocolate espresso makers, tools, and shoes. And then we ate more chocolate, this time cups of fresh strawberries drizzled with melted chocolate.
Good thing there is an imposing military fortress atop the hill to hike up the cobbled streets to, burning off some of the calories from all the chocolatey goodness! The castle dates back to the early 10th century and the medieval walls were added to strengthen the fortress in 1375.
Several of the rooms of the castle can be visited. In one room a slit in a trap door peers into a crude room below, giving the impression a place of cruel agony. Castle records actually state that two meters of human bones were piled up in the room and discovered when the opening was made. Other rooms include a kitchen, a bedroom with an intricately carved canopy bed and a fresco the Crucifix, the Madonna, and Saint John the Baptist, the dining room with an extremely valuable wrought iron candelabra, and a small study where there are four portraits of members of the family and one of Dante Alighieri, as he was a guest here in Soave for a time. Climb San Giorgio’s Tower for panoramic views over the village of Soave, the Lessini Mountains, and the Po Valley.
Trattoria Antica Da Amedeo, located right in the center of Soave, is a great spot to refuel and try local specialties. Depending on what is in season, you’ll find donkey stew, deer, and wild boar on the menu. I highly recommend the homemade pasta with duck ragu and the wild boar served on top of grilled polenta (the only polenta I have ever liked and finished). Order a bottle of local Valpolicella (red wine) to enjoy with the meal.
Stop into Mattielli just across the street from Trattoria Antica Da Amedeo for some of the best, handcrafted gelato in town. The flavors are seasonal and in fall, try the basil, pumpkin with amaretto, or pear with cinnamon.
Before leaving Soave, visit the Wine Shop at Borgo Rocca Sveva and ask to try their Amarone Rocca Sveva (2006 is my favorite year). It is one of few wines to win the Gold Medal and Trophy at the International Wine Challenge for three consecutive years. Dark and inky in color, it is full of flavors of ripe fruit, balsamic, and florals and is a perfect accompaniment to wild game and red meats.
Know Before You Go
- The Castle of Soave is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9am – 12pm / 2pm – 4pm in winter and 9am – 12pm / 3pm – 6:30pm in summer. Entrance €5 per person.
- Trattoria Antica da Amedeo is open for lunch and dinner 12pm – 2:30pm / 7pm – 11pm
- The Wine Shop at Borgo Rocca Sveva is open Monday – Friday 8.30am -12.30pm / 2.30pm – 7.00pm and Saturday 8.30am – 12.30pm / 3pm – 7pm. Guided visits of the winery and cellar are available upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Chocolando festival is annually the second weekend of October.