As some of you know, several years ago Marko and I decided to stop giving gifts to each other. For us, it was one of the best decisions we have made, besides moving to Europe ;). It lifted the pressure to come up with the perfect most thoughtful gift for every occasion, that let’s face it many of us fail to pull it off every time and are left scrambling every birthday, anniversary and holiday. We have saved thousands of dollars every year that we would have spent on “things” and instead spend it on traveling together and making unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.
Living in Istria, we are blessed with having Italy as our backyard! If you look at the map below you will notice the area surrounded by red arrows is Istria:) You see this heart shaped peninsula was a hot item back in the day being the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea and it was ruled by Venice. It’s no wonder Istria was once the Roman emperor’s retirement home. Today it abounds in ancient ruins with Italian roots spread across the region – including a Roman Colosseum, Diocletian’s Palace, columns, temples, and Venetian looking homes. Since Istria used to be part of Venice, Italian influences are pretty much everywhere. From the street signs that were written in Italian first, then Croatian. To Istrian food that consists of fresh fish, homemade pasta, risotto, farm grown meats, and truffles. It is no wonder Italians drive to Istria on the reg to indulge in delicious Istrian cuisine in Konobas (small family run restaurants). Finally, you will also see it in the language the Istrian dialect is a mix of Croatian and Italian, a very interesting mix!
We are very fortunate that we can hop in the car and can easily drive to many places in Italy in 45mins to a few hours, we even grocery shop there! We spent our Honeymoon driving through the vast vineyards of Tuscany (I will share another post about that trip!). It has always been one of the most special and romantic places in Europe for us to travel together. Last year we started a little tradition that we would pick a different place to go to in Italy every year for Valentine’s day and last year we picked the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet, and Risotto! Verona.
Verona is widely known as the most romantic cities in the world. The breathtaking medieval city is the backdrop to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Looking back on the trip I can honestly say I have never seen a city take Valentines so seriously. Valentine’s day is SACRED in Verona because it is the the city of love. Think New York City during Christmas. Verona is the only place I have ever been where the entire city participates in decorating their shops, streets, windows and squares with elaborate V-day decorations. The city is covered in pinks and reds for the month of February and it is something I believe is bucket list worthy. Here I will share our entire trip from where to stay, the incredible places we ate, and vineyards and spas you must visit! I hope some of you will venture to Verona to experience a Valentines Day unlike any other!
Where to Stay
Approx. $80- $130 per night
This hotel was one of my favorite hotels we have stayed in! I originally booked it for the rooftop view and hot tub overlooking the coliseum, but it well exceeded our expectations and we ended up extending our trip a night. The rooms were very comfortable and styled beautifully. We found the shower hilarious because it lights up in different colors while you shower so it’s like you’re in a disco club, LOL. The breakfast was great, as well, filled with an array of freshly squeezed juices, freshly baked Italian breads croissant’s, and cheeses.
The location was amazing. I can’t emphasize this enough, when you walk outside, you are in the main square, it was absolutely perfect. Highly, highly recommend this hotel!!
I always use booking.com because I trust their reviews and have never had a bad experience using them. Also on their non-refundable bookings I have had to cancel a few times since one of us got sick or something urgent came up and they have always either refunded me or agreed to change the dates which I have always greatly appreciated.
Where to Eat!
One word RISOTTO…
Il Punto Rosa: Small adorable place with an attentive staff who know their extensive wine list. We stopped here when we first arrived to have some wine and snacks. We LOVED it. They recommended an amazing bottle of wine and we ordered some cheese and meats to go along with the wine. Everything tasted amazing and we tried to come back for dinner but, they were fully booked so I strongly suggest you make a reservation.
Osteria del Bugiardo Go here to try some Italian tapas called Cicchetti and wine! The place gets packed around happy hour and is very adorable inside!
Antica Bottega del Vino: One of the oldest restaurants in Verona the atmosphere is perfect for Valentine’s day. When you walk in you will see the quote written archway Dio mi guardi chi non beve vino! that translates to show me who doesn’t drink wine! The walls are covered in old bottles of wine and book shelves covered in old books and lit candles spread throughout the restaurant. Situated in the old city we stumbled upon this place while walking around and it was so incredible that we went back again. The staff is extremely attentive and so nice. They remembered us when we returned and brought us out some appetizers and pasta on the house to try with our bottle of wine and they made room for us in the front since we didn’t have a reservation. Verona is the birthplace of Risotto so you should eat as much as you can while you’re here. The Risotto with Amarone Wine for 16 € was so mind blowing good here we ordered a second portion after we finished the first. My second favorite dish was the Bigoli Pasta with Meat Ragout also 16 €. This would be my number one restaurant recommendation when in Verona.
A Memorable Cocktail Bar
Archivio House of craft cocktails and beers: Tell the bartender what base alcohol you prefer and if you like sweet, bitter, or spicy and he will mix you up something amazing!
What to Do!
Attend the St. Valentines Festival in the streets of the historic center, Juliet’s balcony, Piazza dei Signori and the Lamberti Tower, the Old Market Courtyard. They set up a massive red heart outlined with various local vendors in Piazza dei Signori full of live bands, poets, festive drinks, food, homemade chocolates, souvenirs and more. Its something you won’t forget! It usually lasts a week long the Saturday before Valentines day until the Sunday following it. Click here for the 2019 list of events.
During Verona in Love Festival, the Lamberti Tower, the tallest building in the city, will be lit red … Do not miss the opportunity to climb to the top and enjoy a breathtaking view of Verona and Piazza dei Signori (especially at sunset!)
‘Tours in Love’, themed guided walks proposed by the associations of tour guides and the province of Verona
Visit Juliet’s Balcony and visit the Museum: We loved visiting Juliet’s house. See where Shakespeare got his inspiration to write Romeo and Juliet and steal a kiss on Juliet’s balcony:)
You can purchase a lock to put on Juliet’s wall look for C&M! Inside the house they have recreated Juliet’s bedroom that they have turned into a museum.
Take a drive to the Masi Vineyard and do a tasting. Learn all about the infamous Valpolicella Wine Region. Valpolicella is one of the most prestigious Italian wine making areas in the Veneto region. You Can find some Masi Wines in your local wine store in the United States they are very well balanced and delicious. (20 min drive from Verona)
Drive to the town Sirmione on Lake Garda and enjoy their several thermal baths (about a 35 min drive from Verona).
Don’t forget to stop for an aperitif! My favorite is called a Hugo: Mint, elderflower syrup, prosecco, and peligrino. Marko’s is a classic Aperol Spritz.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading:) Suscribe if you want to recieve more travel itineraries and comment if you have any questions!