The next time you visit Italy take the time to visit the charming and ancient town of Soave, just 23 km east of Verona in north-eastern Italy. If you thought you had to travel to Tuscany to see a walled hilltop village you are mistaken – Soave has all the necessary attributes and more!
Most people will be familiar with the name Soave – the wine of the same name, produced all around the town, is world famous and probably the best known Italian wine after Chianti.
Soave is a white wine produced from predominantly Garganega grapes grown on the many hillside vineyards all around the town of Soave, and has been awarded DOC status.
Soave is produced in large quantities and in the past few decades the quality has been a little inconsistent. The introduction of stricter requirements for a Soave Superiore (minimum of 70% Garganega grapes, minimum alcohol content of 11.5% and at least 8 months maturation) has resulted in the production of some very fine Soave wines with much more character and flavour than was the case in the past. Some of the very best wines from the region are produced on family-owned and operated wineries and some of them are open to the public for cellar tours and tastings.
What to see and do in Soave
At the very top of your to-do list should be a cellar tour and tasting! Three of the foremost Soave wineries that you can visit and tour are:
Rocca Sveva: A visit to this winery is an experience you should not miss even if you are not a wine lover. You will be amazed at the sight of hundreds of meters of tunnels that have been excavated into the hills of the countryside – these tunnels are filled with thousands of oak barrels lined up along cool underground walkways. At the end of your cellar tour you will be treated to a tasting and both lovely Soave and other local products such as Olive Oil and honey are on sale in the winery shop
I Stefanini: A completely different experience awaits you at Il Stefanini where the last generation of the Tessari family, who have farmed the land since the 1800’s, have decided to combine elements of the old traditions and modern technologies. No Oak barrels here…(traditional Soave was never matured in oak)
Instead expect massive stainless steel tanks; not as romantic perhaps, but their wine is gaining acclaim in all the major guides and reviews.
Coffele Winery: This is one of the oldest wineries in the area and is situated right in the heart of the town. Their Soave Classico is a very well-balanced wine with an exceptionally mild acidity making it a perfect accompaniment to fish and risotto dishes. They also make two other complex Classicos and are well worth a visit.
After you have toured a couple of wineries, it is time to explore the town of Soave. The Castle and Medieval Walls are superbly intact and are the main attraction in the town. The castle is a traditional elevated defensive structure and dates from around 934. The medieval walls were a much later addition; they surround the town and lead up to the castle. On your visit to the castle you can see the remains of a 10th century church, visit the various castle rooms and the museum.
Also worth a visit are the Palace of Justice in the centre of town and the Palazzo Cavallli and the Scaliger Palace. There are also a few churches where you can see examples of 16th and 14th century art.
When it comes to food, you will not be disappointed. There are several good restaurants serving regional cuisine with plenty of emphasis on Risotto (Italy’s best Risotto rice is produced in the area) and Polenta, rather than Pasta, the more well-known Italian basic.
Make sure to accompany your meal with a glass of Soave made just around the corner!