For months before our trip I thought obsessively about the villa and agriturismo that we were going to stay at. Staying at standard run-of-the mill hotels in Europe never really appealed to me; I’m of the group that believes that where you stay can have a huge effect on your vacation experience and unlike others, I can’t really sightsee the entire day without knowing that I have a night in a nice place to look forward to. Gee I sound like an old woman don’t I?
Villa San Giorgio, located in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella between Lake Garda and Verona, is a villa located high up on the hill run by the professional and hospitable Gabriele Bertoldo. Between the in-laws and hubby and I, we had the choice of a bigger room with a balcony or a smaller room with a better view. Now when I say better view, let me stress that the bigger room still had a view of the town below, complete with vineyards and a slight view (if I strained my head) of Lake Garda. The smaller room’s view was simply even better, without any modern-day factories blotting the landscape. Hubby and I took the bigger room. After putting away our luggage and refreshing ourselves, Gabriele graciously provided us a welcome drink (one of what would become many many cappuccinos) which we enjoyed out in the terrace.
After spotting quite a few bicyclists riding by, Gabriele explained that it’s a popular road for them as it has an elevation gain of 3,300 feet, with no cars after Sant’Ambrogio. Villa San Giorgio has the added benefit of being right next to a winery Boscaini Carlo, the vineyards of which provide part of the great views, especially from the terrace. You can visit the winery for tastings. The villa also has a restaurant (separate management) on the grounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to eat at La Davinia during our time there but the menu looked great and we did see a few people enjoying a meal there.
Every morning, Gabriele greeted us at breakfast to see whether we wanted a cappuccino, coffee or tea. The breakfast was a tantalizing spread of crusty croissants, fresh fruit, yogurt, prosciutto, boiled eggs and other goodies. Gabriele lent us a converter adapter for our laptop and spent a good amount of time advising us how to best explore the Lake Garda towns. Every night, after a day of sightseeing, I would throw open the balcony doors and stare out at the twinkling lights below. We slept with the curtains open so that we could be awakened by the sun, which often felt stronger earlier in the morning than later on in the day for me. Upon our departure, Gabriele graciously gifted us a bottle of local wine, which we enjoyed at our Tuscan agriturismo.
An agriturismo is basically a working farm that welcomes overnight visitors. It’s a big trend now and people pay big bucks (not us) to experience the simple country life. It was quite an adventure when we tried to find Agriturismo Savernano, located in the small town of Reggello. As we got close, we took a wrong road but it luckily led us to a man who cheerily sign languaged directions to us. As Hubby drove our van, a decidedly un-sexy boxy Fiat, up the steep hill, mother-in-law laughed hysterically and yelled that we were really going to the middle of nowhere. Exactly!
The agriturismo is owned by David, a man who doesn’t speak English fluidly but who obviously takes pride in his creation. He literally took a shack that was about to fall down and painstakingly turned it into a top-class farm and B&B, complete with vineyards, farm animals, a pool and beautiful flowers. He showed us photos of what it looked like before, saying that he has always been a bit crazy in the head. We had actually arrived on Republic Day, a public holiday that commemorates the country becoming a republic, without having had lunch or bringing anything with us (silly us…). As everything was closed, David graciously made us prosciutto sandwiches. Unlike Americans who like to stack their sandwiches with multiple ingredients, like avocado, pickles and onions, Italian sandwiches are much simpler, relying instead on the quality of a few items to satisfy your taste buds. We gobbled up the sandwiches and spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool. The rooms are decorated with rustic furniture, with exposed wooden beam ceilings.
David’s wife is a great cook and you can have a three-course dinner there for 17 euros. A bottle of their wine that they produce will set you back a mere 5 euros. We dinner at the agriturismo twice and they were in the top three meals we had in Tuscany in terms of quality and value. I actually pressured Hubby to convince his parents to stay in one night so that I could eat the second meal.
Our last night in Italy was spent in the cozy dining room, enjoying a meal (not pictured – too busy eating!) of tomato penne, chicken in white wine sauce and spinach and tiramisu, topped off with a bottle of their red wine. After saying goodnight to the in-laws, Hubby and I walked off and sat in the gazebo, watching the stars above us shine.