Three different itineraries represent the sum of the Volcanic Wine Park. Together, they give the newcomer to Soave an idea of the history, the culture, the geography and the wines. The first Shakespeare itinerary embraces a medieval tour of the history of Romeo and Juliet, which begins in the city of Verona, travels through Soave on its way to Vicenza, considered by most to be the true origin of the world’s most famous love story.
The second is a circular tour of the original Soave wine road that touches on the most significant Cru areas. The third tour “10 Capitelli” is best accomplished on foot or on mountain bike. Following the paths of the recently restored votive shrines, the visitor travels ten km through the heart of the Soave Classico.
ROMEO & JULIET
Soave is the wine of “youth and love”, said Gabriele D’Annunzio. Shakespearean prose is also imbued with youth and love in the most famous tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet”. The itinerary retraces the places where the bloody feuds of the Montecchi and Capuleti families took place. In the idyllic scenery of this itinerary, it’s easy enough to imagine how suddenly and secretly love could blossom despite the hatred that ran between the families.
No one can truly verify the legend of the two unfortunate lovers of Verona. However, as in all legends, there are many elements of the story that are reflected in the reality of the time. The bloody feuds between the local Guelphs and Ghibellines are well documented facts that took place in 12th century Verona.
Two Hours: The first leg of the itinerary begins in the center of Verona at the presumed home of Juliet, called “Stallo del Capello”. It is a medieval 13th century palace in Verona near the central Piazza delle Erbe. Once past the wrought iron gate bearing the Capulet family’s coat of arms, you enter a corridor that collects stratums of lover’s messages left by the daily stream of tourists. Beyond the corridor is a bright inner courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet cast by local sculptor Nero Costantini. On the 1st floor of the palace is the balcony immortalised in Shakespeare’s play. The historic house, adorned with frescoes was restored in 1935, and is open to the public.
The next stop is at Romeo’s house in via delle Arche Scaligere. It is an austere medieval building with a typical Ghibelline swallowtail ornamentation, symbolic of the feuds that raged throughout Verona and Italy at the time. The poet Dante Alighieri describes it in the 6th canto in Purgatory. It is not open to the public, however it is home to an Osteria which serves traditional local dishes. The Veronese portion of the tour ends with a visit to Juliet’s tomb. Starting from Piazza Brà, you walk past the Arena in the direction of Palazzo Barbieri. When close to the municipal walls you arrive at the intersection between via del Pallone and via del Pontiere and continue for about 100 yards to the former convent of San Francesco al Corso. Juliet’s tomb is inside the crypt. The poet George Byron described it as follows:
“The sarcophagus of Giulietta, simple, open is sad as his love was sad “.
Leaving Verona, the route heads east on the ancient Roman Via Postumia towards Vicenza. After a few kilometers, past the center of San Michele, the road winds through the numerous valleys that descend from the Lessinia mountains to the plain lands. When you see the recently restored Montorio Castle, you are in the eastern hills of Soave. Once in Vago, turn left and leave the congested main road, Statale 11, to the Soave Wine Route. The road is flanked by olive groves and vineyards as you head towards Colognola ai Colli. Further on, in the Pieve area it is possible to visit the well restored Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Pieve.
Continue north to the village of Illasi full of villas and dominated by the mighty remains of the Castello d’Illasi. The 13th century Castle also belonged to the Montecchi family. The castle presents the classic “mastio”, or the main residence of the lord, flanked by the “cassero”, the troop dormitory. The whole area is enclosed by an elliptic wall with a panoramic view of the hill below dotted with centuries-old olive groves that flank cherry orchards and vineyards. Legend has it that the spirit of a woman wanders the rooms of the castle. Could it be the ghost of Juliet who is looking in vain for her beloved?
Back on the Via Postumia, continue on towards Vicenza, passing through Soave. In the distance, the silhouette of the mighty Scaliger Castle is visible. Here, it is clear that Soave is not just wine, but maintains a staunch religious identity that links the peasant to the earth and the supernatural in a territory dotted with churches, monasteries and shrines. The route then continues in the direction of Monteforte d’Alpone where it is possible to visit the Palazzo Vescovile with the suggestive fifteenth-century cloister.
The Via Postumia leads on to Sarmazza and the ancient church of Santa Croce and continues to Sorio di Gambellara. Proceed in the direction of Selva di Montebello, and then downhill to the center of Montorso Vicentino.
A few meters further towards Montecchio you’ll reach the Villa Da Porto monumental complex, once upon a time among the most sumptuous villas in the Vicenza area. The building is the result of various phases of restructuring, enlargements and renovations made from the second half of the fifteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century. On the back façade sixteenth-century elements are still visible.
The grandiose “pronaos” with four Ionic columns was erected in 1724. It is an interesting moment, because here the writer and historian Luigi Da Porto wrote the novella “Rediscovered histories of two noble lovers” that inspired Shakespeare to pen Romeo & Juliet. In fact, Villa da Porto has a clear view of the duelling hillside castles of Montecchio.
The Castle of the Villa and that of the Bellaguardia tower are known respectively as Romeo’s Castle and Juliet’s Castle. Da Porto lived from 1485-1529, but his novella was published posthumously. His work was elaborated upon by Bandello, and subsequently translated into French by Pierre Boaistuau until Shakespeare brought the story to life on stage.