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Home Activities Sweets and Cheese

Sweets and Cheese

The Sweets and Cheeses That Tell Verona's History

Verona's history of sweets has a special tie with the magic of Christmas. At this time of year, Verona's pandoro becomes the king of feasts all across Italy. It is still unclear whether the origin of this sweet bread should be traced back to nadalin, a Veronese Christmas cake with an ancient tradition, or to Venetian pan de oro (“golden bread”). Pan de oro certainly seems to have inspired Domenico Melegatti, who in 1894 became the first of Verona's pâtissiers to register a patent for the pandoro: a sweet bread, shaped to resemble an eight-pointed star.

Its ingredients and elaborate recipe, which calls for it to be left to rise as many as three times, meant this sweet found its way chiefly to the tables of the wealthy. Nowadays however, for better or worse, it is no longer an exclusively artisan product, and its vanilla aroma delights all Italians.

Another specialty born in 19th century Verona is Villafranca sfogliatine: small, buttery and crumbly donuts that go perfectly with a glass of “Recioto della Valpolicella” wine.

Veronese pandoro has been recognized in Italy as a traditional regional food product (“Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionale” or PAT). The same goes for another traditional Christmas specialty, mandorlato from Cologna Veneta, which is linked to Cologna Veneta and the Veneto, rather than just Verona. The Mandorlato festival (“Festa del mandorlato”) at the start of December officially ushers in the holiday season. Mandorlato is a kind of very hard nougat; it is prepared with a lengthy cooking process that lasts over eight hours and is still primarily tied to artisan production. Along with egg whites, sugar and almonds, honey is the main ingredient.

In the hills around Verona, honey production has developed intensely over the last decades. Even though it is a relatively 'recent' product, for 30 years already honey has been celebrated during the “Sweet Days in Lazise” (“I Giorni del Miele”), close to Verona, in what is now one of the biggest exhibition markets dedicated to honey and beekeeping in Italy. Here, in early October, you can taste products from the whole country and learn about techniques and tools to produce this food for the gods which is so healthy for us.

In Veronese cuisine, honey and “Monte veronese di malga” cheese make up a much loved combination. This cheese obtained the DOP label (Protected Designation of Origin) in 1996, and it is now protected by its own Consortium, as well as a Slowfood Presidium.

“Monte veronese” is produced in the mountains around Verona, the Monti Lessini, but this isn't actually where the name comes from. It refers to the different kinds of milk (montate) used to produce the cheese in the malghe or mountain huts. The cheese comes in two kinds: a fresher one (fresco), made from whole milk and aged for 3 months, and the “Monte veronese d'allevo”, made from partially skimmed milk and aged for at least 6 months. They are both made between May and September, while the cows are in the high pastures – a season which, in Erbezzo, is welcomed with banquets and feasts that crown the mastro casar, the best cheese-maker of the year. Finally, Asiago DOP cheese also deserves a special mention among the dairy products of the region, although its DOP-certified production areas actually lie within the provinces of Vicenza and Trento. Asiago also comes either fresh and pressed (pressato) or in a riper variety (d'allevo) which is aged up to two years. Both cheeses are easy to recognize with the mark branded into each pressed form or wheel, and thanks to the DOP label.

Festivals:

  • I giorni del Miele in Lazise, in October
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