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TRA I CASTELLI (lunghezza 31 km)10 CAPITELLI (lunghezza 10 km)TOUR IN BASSA VAL D'ALPONE (PERCORSO PIANEGGIANTE – lunghezza 40 km)

 

AMONG VINEYARDS AND CASTLES

Here we are, amongst winecellars, villas, churches, history and traditions, unique flavors and magnificent hilly landscapes, in the land of Soave. We can discover this land by following an itinerary of about 50 kilometres which winds around between farms, sales-point, restaurants, historical and landscape attractions to reach the medieval town from which it takes its name.

Snuggling within its perfectly conserved walls, which climb up to the top of the hill where the castle stands dominant, Soave was once a Roman post, as can be seen from the existing street plan and surrounding land division. It was later almost certainly re-founded by the Swabians who arrived in the wake of the Lombards, and later fortified by the de la Scala family. An inkling of the important presence of art and history is not only given by the structure of the walls, but by the whole urban layout, which still preserves the 13th century Venetian-Gothic Palazzo Cavalli and, facing it, the chirch of San Lorenzo, founded in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 18th. Worthy of note also are the court of Justice, still today the seat of the local magistracy, and the Palazzo Scaligero, once seat of the Verona governors, later of the Commarders of the Venice Republic and today, restored, of the Town Hall.
Once over the bridge crossing the Tramigna torrent, the Route takes us westwards among the vineyards along the provincial road S.P. 37 as far as the attractive hamlet Saint Vittore, whose imposing parish church is notable for its elegant long bell-tower, and for some ancient villas.
From here, an evocative panoramic road take us up towards Colognola ai Colli, a delightful centre perched on the hill, at the entrance to the Illasy valley. Numerous archaeological finds testify to its Roman origin. The riunes of Villa Spinolaand its fine park are noteworthy, as is the 17th century villa Peverelli.
Leaving behind the inhabitated area and having reached Decima, we come to the Val d’Illasi, Provincial road, from which it could be interesting to turn off southwards Caldiero, with its important ancient Roman baths of Juno. The itinerary, instead, proceeds towards Pieve di Colognola ai Colli, where stands the romantic church of Santa Maria. This was probably built over a previously existing temple dedicated to Mercury and converted to Christianity during the early Middle Ages. From here, through Ca’ dell’Ara, we reach Quattro Strade, which presents us with two alternatives. The first means going on towards S. Martino Buon Albergo (motorway exit Verona Est), where the Sanctuary of San Giacomo is well worth a visit, and Marcellise, site of the famous “turning” villa Mirasole, at present being restored (expected opening in 2005). Through Velo Veronese it would also be possible to get to the Parco Regionale at Lessinia. The second option open to us is to set off for San Pietro di Lavagno, the municipal seat of various inhabitated areas, some of which are actually proto-historical. The town is surrounded by villas, dominated by the magnificent 16th century Villa Verità-Montanari known as the “Boschetto”, surrounded by its splendid Italian gardens.
So we arrive at Mezzane Di Sotto, a small town immersed in a magnificent green valley (one can get there also from Marcellise by the municipal road which runs through the high village San Briccio, famous for its olive-groves). A slight deviation through Mezzane Di Sopra and Capovilla and a slope with a fine panorama takes us to Tregnago and its castle, which dominates the hill overlooking the town. It dates back to the early Middle Ages but was rebuilt by the de la Scala family, all that remains today being the pentagonal keep, the towers and parts of the walls. Proceeding northwards, we reach the town of Giazza, the cradle of the Cimbrian culture of Verona, with its Museum dedicated to this people from North Europe.
At this point the “Soave Route” bends towards Illasi, and the ancient manor overlooking this centre, made up of an aggregation of old pratician villas which have survived almost intact.
In the centre stands the Perez-Pompei-Sagramoso Villa, once seat of the government of the fief. Its huge park extends to the top of the hill, where the ruins of the de la Scala castle can be found. This was probably built before 1004 and in 1243 was occupied by Ezzelino da Romano, who razed it into the ground after seizing it from the Montecchi family. The de la Scala family rebuilt it, and it was again demaged during the centuries that followed. In 1509 it was given to the Pompei family. At Illasi the Town Hall and the parish church, both elegant buildings, look on to an ample square which leads to an evocative avenue of cypresses which continues right up to the small town called Monte. This panoramic road, which overlooks the Illasi valley, is really and truly a garden, dotted with century-old olive-groves alternated by vineyards and cherry trees. The view from the summit of the hill sweeps over the two valleys of Illasi and Tramigna, while in the distance can be seen the castle of Soave, the Benci mountains and the top of the Euganean Hills.
The Route now proceeds towards Cazzano di Tramigna, allowing wonderful glimpses of the “Valley of the cherry-trees”, magnificent during the flowering period. Half way along the coast it is a good idea to turn right, towards S. Colombano, where, surrounded by greenery, stands a small church dating from the 12th century.
Here the road narrows and continues downwards among the colours and the woods and the green of the vineyards to Costeggiola. From here one can go up to Castelcerino, a village more easly reachable going down towards Soave as far as Carcera and then, turning left, arrive at the road which climbs up among splendid panoramic views. Both from Castelcerino and from the nearby Fittà it is possible to descend along attractive little roads towards Montecchia di Crosara. From Fittà, for example, the “Castellaro Road” goes to Brognoligo, part of Monteforte d’Alpone. Thanks to it, one may admire some of the most famous Soave cru such as (right) Monte Pressoni, Monte Foscarino, Castellaro, Rugate, Ronchetto and (left) the Val d’Alpone from Roncà to Bolca.
The road goes from Brognoligo to Costalunga and then runs once more up to the Valley of Alpone as far as Montecchia di Crosara, a grape-growing area of great importance in the heart of Valle d’Alpone. From here, the roads bends towards Roncà and Terrossa, both centres of Cimbrian culture. Travelling northwards along the valley leads to S.Giovanni Ilarione, at the foot of the Lessinia, an excellent starting point for getting to the Parco Regionale, passing through Vestenanove and Bolca as far as Campofontana. Bolca  is one of the most important centres of Lessinia and its Museum, which exhibits fossils from more than 50 million years ago, every year attracts thousends of visitors and scholars all over the world.
Our next stop is Monteforte d’Alpone, where, already visitable from afar, stand out the imposing parochial church Santa Maria Maggiore, with its neoclassic faVade, and its toweringly high belfry. Just a few steps from the church, and worthy of a visit, is the 15th century Archbishop’s Palace, erected in 1453-71 by the bishop of Verona, Ermolao Barbaro, and later made more attractive by an evocative cloister. Monteforte too was a fortified town in Roman times and in the 10th century a castle was built there, on whose ruins was constructed in the 14th century the small church of S.Antonio Abate, visible on the overhanging hill.
The “Soave Route” now comes to the church of the Madonnina, which overlooks southwards the town of Monteforte, and returns to Soave. Before this however it is a good idea to prolong the journey to Villanova di San Bonifacio, where the magnificent abbey of S. Pietro should be visited.