A perfect day-trip from Verona, Soave nevertheless sits nearly completely unknown in the rolling green hills of Veneto.
Pronounced “so-AH-vey”, like the Spanish “smooth”, it means “sweet, pleasing to the senses.” And isn’t it though?
We stopped for lunch in the fortressed town on our way home from a weekend in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Just another name on the map, I would have never thought to stop here but luckily my friends did. The castle, wine and pretty fields of vines and wildflowers that surround it make Soave a delightful stop.
More than a town, Soave is a fortress. Surrounded by 13th century brick walls, this explains the small size of the area as well.
The Soave Castle was built in the 10th century to protect the area against the Hungarians, probably by the Romans. It was then further restored by the Scaligeri family, who added the walls. The family (who are confusingly known as de la Scala in English) ruled Verona for 150 years, from 1262 to 1387, in part because they committed to protecting Verona’s important outposts. Little Soave was one.
The walls surrounding the city have perfectly maintained its medieval nature. Walking through the tiny town it’s hard to imagine it running in the 21st century, and yet we passed through a bustling market and were turned away at more than one completely booked restaurant.
It’s biggest claim to fame, however, isn’t the red-brick castle on a hill, but the sweet flavor of its grapes.
Soave is a wine town.
Soave owes its worldwide fame to the Garganega grapes, which are used to make Soave and Recioto wines. They’re dry white wines, both designated a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) zone and a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) meaning their origin is controlled, protected and guaranteed.
Though smooth – some might even say, soave (sorry, I had to) – the variety of Soave wine can meet any need. Ordering a meat-heavy lunch, we presented the waiter with our problem: We wanted to taste the town’s namesake wine, but we wanted a wine that could hold up to our meal (usually, meat pairs with red). He brought a Soave with 14% alcohol – a rare find in a white wine! It was clear yet robust and not the least bit overshadowed by our meal.
Like wine? Keeping reading: A note or two on wine tasting.
Venture out of the fortress to tour the top cantinas of Soave wine in the area. The Strada del Vino Soave, or Soave Wine Road, runs about 30 miles (50 kilometers) among vineyards, castles and ancient churches. The road runs through thirteen different municipalities each with their own DOCG-protected product (products with controlled production methods and guaranteed quality).
So along the way you can pick up some shepherds’ cheese from Lessinia, Valpolicella oil from Verona, chestnuts from San Maura or Mora cherries of Cazzano.
Soave doesn’t have many specific sights to see per se or one specific attraction to draw visitors. It doesn’t have a Leaning Tower or an ancient Roman highway or thermal baths. It’s a small town surrounded by medieval walls with a curious castle, beautiful surroundings and plenty of world-class wine.
For me that’s reason enough to visit!
How to Get There:
Soave is about 14 miles (23 kilometers) east of Verona, between Verona and Venice on the A4 highway. By far the easiest way to get there is by car. The town is a perfect stop in a longer road trip (maybe one from Milan to Venice!) but you it’s possible to get there by public transportation as well.
You can take a train from Verona, Vicenza, Venice, Padua and Milan to San Bonifacio, the nearest town with a train station and from there take a 10-minute bus ride to Soave. According to Wikipedia, the #30 bus directly connects Soave to Verona in 45 minutes and San Bonifacio in 10.
Italy has hundreds of small towns and villages to be charmed by:
Here’s how – and why – to find them.