Villas and parishes

Difficulty: medium
Tour's lenght: 20 km
Travelling time: about 4 hours
Season: all the year
To do by camper

Valpolicella has always been a fertile area, with abundant sources of water and vegetation which encouraged human settlements even in the earliest of times. The first inhabitants started to farm the land and when the Romans arrived, they found endless cultivated fields and long-established vineyards.
Due to Valpolicella’s wealth and fame for its healthy airs during the Risorgimento, the area attracted many noble families who abandoned the city to take up residence in the country. As a consequence, the Veronese and Venetian aristocracy built sumptuous villas in the hills of Valpolicella, which were surrounded by exquisite gardens and huge parks, not to mention the ever-famous vineyards. These summer residences are still one of Valpolicella’s great attractions: most of them are still inhabited, others have been transformed into farm businesses and luxury hotels.

Located in the village of Bure, Villa Buri Avanzi is representative of the traditions and history of the Valpolicella area. During the Middle Ages, the villa belonged to the Abbey of San Zeno; it then passed into the hands of the noteworthy De Buris family at the beginning of the XVIII century. The square ashlar tuff walls and the round arched windows visible from under the portico date from this period. The villa’s most extraordinary historical-artistic heritage consists of a variety of thirteenth and fourteenth century fresco cycles, and, in particular, the fresco to be found on the wall of a first floor bedroom, with its geometrical patterns that follow the traditional styles of mock medieval tapestries. Further decorations appear on the inside wall of the fifteenth century loggia, around the mullioned windows and under the eaves, with a splendid frieze depicting plant life, ornaments of various kinds and beautifully represented putti musicians. These works of art were commissioned by the noble Avanzi family who were owners of numerous properties in the valley; during the second half of the sixteenth century the family enhanced the complex with an impressive tower and a series of frescos, discovered during the restoration of the villa. Particularly beautiful is the so-called “camera delle delizie” (chamber of delights). Saved from decay and oblivion, Villa Buri Avanzi now belongs to the Veronesi family.

The little town of Gargagnago is home to Villa Serego Alighieri, which once belonged to Pietro Alighieri, son of the famous poet Dante Alighieri, and it is still in the hands of his descendants. In the early 1800s, this prestigious residence was one of the most popular salons for the nobility of the time. It has been modified and extended over the years and its present structure is a mix of different styles. Surrounded by the vineyards of Valpolicella, Villa Serego Alighieri represents a perfect combination of agricultural history and tradition.

To reach the next destination, San Giorgio di Valpolicella, take the road that goes through Gargagnago that passes in front of the church, either by car or on foot. If you choose the second option, there are some very interesting woods - the last in lower Valpolicella – that can been seen by taking the “Sentiero della Salute” or “Fitness Path”.
The path, which ascends rapidly and is well-marked out, begins from behind the church where cars can be left. It is easy to follow and you can stop along the away to take a break or do the recommended exercises posted along the way. Once you reach the end of the path, continue left towards the town. (Approx. 2.7 km. There and back: approx. 50 minutes).
San Giorgio di Valpolicella, also called San Giorgio Ingannapoltron, is an enchanting medieval village surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, with stone houses and narrow alleys, and is a small, unexpected jewel of a place, especially for its But the greatest treasure offered by this village is sweeping panoramas of Lake Garda and the city of Verona.
The stupendous Romanesque Parish Church, one of the oldest in the province of Verona, built in the XII century on what remained of an ancient Roman temple. This impressive stone structure contains precious frescoes from the XIII and XIV century, while outside you can admire the splendidly conserved cloisters. Of great interest is the ciborium wich was sculpted by Mastro Orso and his disciples in 712 AD.
Next to the church, you will find the Museo della Pieve, with an archaeological section containing Roman tombstones, Longobard and Carolingian sculptures, and other local finds and discoveries. The museum also tells the history of the Arusnates, an ancient population living in what is now Valpolicella before the Romans arrived. They had their own culture, political structure and administration which the new arrivals decided to preserve, granting them a pagus (a territorial district) where they were allowed to continue their way of life. One of their activities was certainly metalworking, as testified to by discoveries at San Giorgio: a cistern excavated in the rock and the foundations of the workshop where metals were worked, both dating from the IV century BC.

Not far from San Giorgio you can find Monte, a tiny hamlet of old houses famous for its Austrian fortress and stupendous panorama that attracts many visitors. The fortress was built between 1849 and 1852 and is named after General Anton von Mollinary. Unfortunately, only the ruins of the fortress remain today, because the German troops set fire to the gunpowder stored there before their retreat. However, the view is breath-taking. The fortress, in fact, overlooks the path that winds around the fortress before it starts to wind down in wide loops down towards Valdadige and you only have to go a few steps up the valley floor and the last part of the river as it flows through the valley and into the vast plains that bring it to the sea.

By taking the road down from Sant’Ambrogio of Valpolicella and then up again towards Monte Poia (towards Località Ca’ Verde), you will arrive at the Romanesque church named San Zeno in Poia, situated among cypress trees. Built in local pink stone, this small church is overlooked by a bell tower with a crenellated roof, the bell being visible from all four sides. The church still conserves the 18th century alter and medieval frescoes on its internal walls. It usually opens only once a year on the occasion of the local Patron Saint’s Day. In 5 minutes you can walk to the top of Monte Poia and admire the wonderful view of the vineyard-covered hills and Lake Garda in the background. It is a full 360° view and takes in: Lake Garda and the Sirmione peninsula to the west; the moraine hills to the south; the vast plains and Valpolicella with its characteristic village of San Giorgio, while northwards lie Monte Pastello and Monte Baldo.


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