The tricoloured flag of flavours
Green, white and red are the colours of the Italian flag. These are also the colours of three typical products of this area, for which our country is famous world-wide: wine and oil.
Green is the colour of the olive groves and the Garda PDO extra virgin olive oil (1). Back in the days of the ancient Romans, olive trees were already being cultivated near Verona, along the shores of Lake Garda: the so-called “Olive tree Riviera” is the ideal habitat for this plant species.
White is the colour of Custoza DOC (2) wine. The production area of this superb white wine goes from the moraine hills of Castelnovo del Garda, south of the Lake, to the outskirts of Verona.
Red is the colour of Bardolino DOC (3), a wine of very ancient origin.
The trail and its slopes are not particularly gruelling, but its length and the abundance of dirt-tracks require a reasonable degree of fitness.
The start is in Bardolino: a short stretch of uphill road leads to the panoramic route. From here, you head towards Cavaion Veronese, on a lane winding its way through the vineyards and olive groves that are so typical of the Bardolino hills, until you reach the Fratelli Turri olive mill (5). You then head towards Calmasino, and a gentle climb takes you behind the Parish Church (6). After crossing over the road to Lake Garda, narrow lanes take you across an expanse of olive groves to a paved, but quiet road near Lazise. From here on, the route continues along dirt tracks in and out of more olive orchards. Once you reach the Borgo Mondragon resort (www.borgomondragon.com), you cross over the Verona-Lago road and return onto another dirt track. This leads to the hamlet of Colà and the first of the surrounding moraine hills, on the boundaries of the Custoza wine production area. The next stop is Castelnuovo del Garda (7), a charming village of ancient origin. The route continues north, and after cycling through the centre of the neighbouring hamlet of Sandrà, you will find yourself once again surrounded by vineyards. A level dirt track brings you back to the Bardolino DOC production area. Narrow lanes and paths lead to the hills overlooking Lazise and from there to the outskirts of Calmasino. Shortly afterwards, you are back in Bardolino.
(1) Garda PDO oil is an extra virgin olive oil produced in the environs of Lake Garda which has been granted Protected Designation of Origin. This oil is mostly made with Casaliva, a variety of olives that is native to this area. Lake Garda is the olive growing area located furthest north in the world. Olive trees can only grow because despite being at the foot of the Alps, the lake creates a typically Mediterranean microclimate. As a consequence, Garda PDO oil is quite unique: it is delicately fruity, and therefore ideal for many dishes, but also possesses a persistent and very pleasant flavour.
(2) This wine is named after Custoza, a town near Sommacampagna where two important battles were fought during the Italian Wars of Independence. Its production area is not particularly vast, and roughly coincides with the southern moraine hills that lie between Verona and Lake Garda. Various native grape varieties are sanctioned for use in Custoza wine, the main ones being Garganega, Trebbianello (a local biotype of Tocai Friulano) and Bianca Fernanda. This is a pleasantly fresh, delicately aromatic wine that is quite easy to pair. Select Custoza wines age well. Custoza is considered an excellent white wine, ideal both as an aperitif and a complement of meals. It pairs extremely well with lake fish and seafood.
(3) As testified by the archaeological finds in this area, dating back to the Bronze Age, grapes have been growing since time immemorial in what is now the production zone for Bardolino wine. Ancient artifacts show that in Roman times, wine was often used in religious ceremonies. It would seem that the first vineyards were established back then, and the wine produced was stored and transported in amphoras, many of which have been unearthed in this region. Bardolino wine is mainly made from Corvina grapes, but also contains a small percentage of Rondinella and may include other varieties as minor components. It has a bright ruby-red colour and a delicately fruity flavour, with notes of cherries, sour cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant and spices (cinnamon, cloves and black pepper). It is an exceedingly pleasant wine that pairs well with a wide array of dishes.
(5) One of the oldest olive mills in Verona, its history goes back even further, deeply rooted in this territory and its ancient farming practices. Traditions that even today the company has not abandoned: the Turris are scrupulously careful about protecting the genuineness of a product that is the perfect marriage between Nature and Culture. The olive mill lies at the foot of the Cavaion Veronese hills, close to Lake Garda, in the heart of a production area famed for its unique microclimate, which is such a precious ally for olive tree cultivation.
(6) This parish Church, erected in 1774, is dedicated to St. Michael. It was built on the summit of the ancient hamlet and on a clear sunny day, offers a magnificent view of Lake Garda, the Lessini mountains, the upper Valpolicella and the top of Mount Baldo. 7. Archaeologists have revealed that the territory of Castelnuovo has been inhabited since pre-historical times. The first settlement was known as “Beneventum”, but soon afterwards, it started to be referred to as “Quadrivium”. In the 12th century, Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa) razed Quadrivium and the surviving population decided to build a new, fortified citadel, whose name, “Castrum novum”, in time became Castelnuovo. Throughout the centuries it passed into the hands of a variety of rulers – from the Scaliger family to the Viscontis, from the Republic of Venice to the Austrian Empire. On April 11 and 12, 1848, the town was the scene of the infamous battle of Castelnuovo, at the end of which it was sacked and raided by Radetzky’s troops, and many of its defenceless inhabitants were killed. Worthy of mention are the Castle overlooking the town, which was erected in 1387 by Giangaleazzo Visconti, and the Gran Torre (Great Tower) adorned with the Bissona, the coat of arms of the family, which depicts a snake eating a child. The battlements and the clock were only added later, in the 1800s. Near the tower you can admire another interesting building: the Church of St. Mary, with its octagonal design, was rebuilt in the 1700s but still preserves its original, Romanesque bell-tower dating back to the 15th century. On the hill of San Lorenzo is the charming Chapel of the Madonna of the Angels, not far from St. Lawrence’s Church. Worthy of mention are also the Neoclassic Church of Sts. Philip and James, and the Parish Church of St. Andrew, constructed on two previous buildings dating back to the early Middle Ages and the Romanesque period, respectively.