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Local Specialities

The Ancient Tradition of Local Specialties on Verona's Tables

For fruits of the earth, originating in the Veneto territory acts as a sort of mark of quality and authenticity. The harvested produce is also often protected by dedicated labels and consortia, while local specialties often have to rely on a combination of elements. On the tables of the Veneto, flavors are known to return and mix, although some tastes and traditions are firmly linked to the land of Verona.

In 2003, Vicenza sopressa was awarded DOP status, however, Verona also has its very own traditional sopressa veronese. It takes the stage every year at the fair in Brenton di Roncà, halfway between Verona and Vicenza – could it just be a case of the third dog running away with the bone, while the other two are fighting over it?

Verona sopressa is a kind of pork sausage which was made for the first time around 1200: pork meat (usually the noble cuts) is coarsely minced and mixed with fat, garlic and spices; it is then left to age for at least five months.

Ancient tradition – but also modern palates! – expects it to be accompanied by a few slices of polenta roasted on charcoal, so that the heat can render the fat and let all its flavor and aroma burst through together with the spices. Polenta was a poor food that has remainen 'dear' to local families.

Nowadays, it is served with delicious dishes such as cotechino, another traditional charcuterie product, or baccalà alla vicentina (Vicenza-style stockfish), which since 1987 has been protected by the “Venerabile Confraternita del baccalà alla vicentina” (Venerable Confraternity). Sandrigo, just a few kilometers from Vicenza, is the birthplace of this specialty, but Verona has happily welcomed it to its tables. And don't forget that, along with Padova and Vicenza, Verona is one of the provinces that produces Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo, recognized as a DOP product since 1996. The label with the lion vouches for the quality of this prosciutto from the Veneto. Its taste is delicate and sweet, as it is only lightly salted. Traditional recipes pair it with two other local specialties from the area of Verona: chicory and Vialone Nano rice.

There are also products whose story is kept alive by a community coming together to celebrate their tradition each year. The most picturesque historical event in Verona is the carnival and especially the Bacanàl del Gnoco, held on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. The streets come alive with floats, celebrations, masks and amusements, and every year on this day, since 1531, Verona elects her papà del gnoco ('Father of the Gnocco') in Piazza San Zeno. Many bearded contenders, all dressed up in baroque costumes, with their red cape and staff shaped like a big fork stuck into a gnocco, parade and give children sweets. Adults get gnocchi with butter and cheese or tomato.

And the wine flows and flows, just like it does during the festival of the 'knot of love', that is to say, of the Valeggio tortellino. In June, for more than twenty years now, on the Visconteo Bridge in Borghetto (close to Valeggio sul Mincio), the romance between a captain and a river nymph is brought back to life. Legend has it that the symbol of their love was a knotted golden silk handkerchief. But for centuries now, the silk has been 'spun' by mixing flour and eggs.

The pasta dough is worked until it is wafer-thin and then filled with mixed meats cooked with herbs, spices and wine. The commemoration of this romance looks like a fully fledged medieval banquet: a table almost one kilometer long is lavishly set with food and drink; more than half a million handmade tortellini are enjoyed with liter after liter of Lugana DOC wine.

In homes and restaurants, tortellini are often served in a bouillon, and the boiled meat used to flavor the broth is then served with mostarda or pickled fruit from the close city of Vicenza or with local pearà, a sauce made from butter, bone marrow, Grana cheese, breadcrumbs and pepper. The comune (township) of Verona has granted the De.Co. status (a local designation of excellence) to this recipe and traditional product.
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