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Dec 29, 2008 05:17 PM


Over the past fifteen + years we have been fortunate to eat and drive our way through much of Italy. One of the most beautiful drives of all was on the autostrada from Innsbruck to Verona passing through the Dolomites. Incredible beauty. An area that I swore that one day I would return to in a rental car with several days and nothing planned...and get lost.


We are going to do this in April using Verona as a base for the first several days followed by two or three more of just winding our way through villages and towns in the mountains. Has anyone on here done this? Restaurants, inns you can recommend? Whether a Michelin star or a warm, friendly inviting cabin we are in search of an adventure and any suggestions.

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  1. There's a wonderful little place called "L'Insonnia" at Forno di Zoldo which you shouldn't miss if you're in the vicinity. I went back there in February after a gap of twelve years and found that while they've expanded a bit (it used to be very rustic, has lost some of that charm) the menu and quality are unchanged. It's all you can eat for a fixed charge of I think 15 Euros per head, and they've been offering the same items for years: polenta, stew, beans, pastin (a mixture of minced meat and spices which is typical of this region), toasted cheese, salad, and the house wine. Enjoy!

    3 Replies
    1. re: afds

      My wife and I did this in early March of this year. We stayed in Bolzano at the Magdalener Hof, which has a fine restaurant. It was warm when we arrived and we wanted to take the cable car up the mountain for the reasonably short hike down (with two Hofs on the way for refreshment), but it snowed that night. We saw the “Iceman” at the museum , which is really fascinating. We drove through the back country with 2+ inches of fresh snow. I spend a lot of time each year in the Cascades, Sierra and Rocky Mountains, but I was wowed by the “incredible beauty” of the Dolomites.

      We tried to return to Bolzano three weeks ago but were turned away at the autostrata exit by the police. It seems that Bolzano is a center for Christmastime activities and this was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception holiday weekend. All the parking in town was full. We retreated to Verona and really enjoyed our meal at Trattoria Tre-Marchetti in the old town. We chose it for the wine selection and were pleased with the wine and the food. The owner is a character. The previous night was spent in Soave, where we ate at Lo Scudo Soave. Perhaps, that was the best meal of the trip. It started with a glass of bubbly, then a Valpolicella Ripasso with dinner and ended with glasses of Recioto di Soave along with just outstanding food.

      The picture is March in the Dolomites.

      1. re: BN1

        Really interesting post. Thank you, BN1. I've been to Lo Scudo three or four times. I stay at the Roxy Plaza (adjacent to the gates to the walled city) and use this as a base on business every year. Over the past several years my dinner has been at Lo Scudo. I've also been to Tre Marchetti and the two star Il Desco which I am not a big fan of. But the restaurant I absolutely love in Verona is Osteria La Fontanina which I've posted about on here in other threads. It is one of the most personal, most eccentric, most romantic restaurants I've been in anywhere; it is also a labor of love for wine. You will feel like you are literally having dinner in a wine cellar. A complete, well stocked wine cellar! It has a Michelin star but this is much more about the experience of the rooms.

        If you go back to Lo Scudo: continue on the road into the town of Soave. As soon as you pass through the gates on the left will be a wine shop associated with a restaurant. Incredible selection of amarone and valpolicella with what I believe are the lowest prices in Italy. Serious. Tre biccheri Tenuta Sant Antonio Valpolicella for E 16, Dal Forno Amarone for E 250, etc. Dal Forno Valpolicella was E52 last spring.

        We will probably stay one night in Bolzano.

        Again, thanks to you and Afds for your suggestions. "Rustic" is a real plus for me; Osteria La Fontanina more than defines it!

        1. re: Joe H

          Thanks for the mention of Osteria La Fontanina in Verona. It brings back memories of a dinner there over 12 years ago. I hope to get back there some day.

    2. I think this is an intriguing and beautiful region, but I havent been able to do any eating. the area is transitional between italian and germanic cuisines, between wine and beer drinking tho an italian friend notes that they cant cook pasta once one moves over to the Germanic side. We were in Trento for a quick visit last summer (no time for dining and it is a fantastic city, highly recommended. Id like to return to the Trentino/Alto Adige area , as well as do more touring in the small wine communes on the Valpolicella side of Lago di Garda.

      10 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        Thanks, Jen. Appreciate the response. I've turned up a few places (including Zur Rose ) but my expectations are now different from what they may be elsewhere in Italy. Still, having driven through the Dolomites on an Autostrada this is one place on earth that I have always wanted to return to-with more time.

        1. re: Joe H

          From what I have read in slow food, plotkin, willinger, etc. I believe the food may be more rustic in this area than in other places. Im looking forward to reading your report.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Visiting Verona and surrounding Valpolicella area for our 1 year wedding anniversary in June 2009. We fell in love with Verona, amarone, and Lake Garda from our previous trip 2 years ago. Back then, we literally just stumbled on amarone at a restaurant serving Amarone Risotto. After our trip, and learning more about the best amarone producers, I wished we had known about Dal Forno, Quintarelli Giuseppe, etc. to schedule a wine tasting visit -

            This brings me to my question: To the amarone lovers out there that have visited Valpolicella, where are the best vineyards for amarone wine tasting - delicious amarones and overall experience?

            It goes without saying, I would also love to hear any great restaurants in small towns in Valpolicella, as far west as Lake Garda (would love to incorporate Lake Garda in our itinerary).

            Joe H, I also look forward to your report!

          2. re: Joe H

            Although I have only had my big meals in the cities, Trento in Trentino (Italian dominant) and Bolzano in Alto Adige (Austrian dominant), I have no lesser expectations. I’ve had an outstanding meal at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento. Additionally, I requested and they immediately produced a wine that wasn’t even on their wine list, I realized afterwards. In Bolzano, the menus are expanded beyond just Italian food to include Austrian dishes. At Cavallino Bianco, an incredible potato salad came with my secondi. A lady nearby was enjoying just one plate of the potato salad for her total meal, it’s that good. So I look forward to expanded dining options based on my experiences. However, at the expensive, skiing destination of Cortina in the Veneto, I was disappointed by the food but impressed with the cost.

            1. re: BN1

              Had a lovely lunch at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento yesterday, right off the main piazza with it's beautiful painted stucco buildings. DC and I enjoyed a delicate but meaty goulash soup, grilled game hen, tempura fried vegetables and fish, and a warm walnut souffle with chocolate. Always amazing how you'll find restaurants of this caliber in relatively small towns in Italy.

              1. re: cassis

                Thanks, cassis, for the recommendation.

                1. re: cassis

                  So glad you discoveredTrento. But I find it amusing that you find a city of over 100,000 to be a relatively small town. Its a regional capital, of historic importance and one of the wealthiest cities in italy. There was a cooking equipment store on the street up from the centro to the castle that had some amazing stuff. Hope you did get to see the castle and its art collection and frescos.

                  Im eager to get back and do some additional touring and serious dining the next time we are in this region.

                  1. re: cassis

                    I think we will be spending a day/night in Trento this June. - wondering whether your meals were in the downstairs restaurant at Scrigno del Duomo or the wine bar area? any more info on the food you ate (I know its been a while) The other dining options in Trento?

                    For our principal meal of the visit, wondering if a choice can be recommend between Al Scrigno del Duomo and Osteria a Le Due Spade? It may be either a lunch or a dinner.

                    In addition I see recommendations for , Osteria Astra, Al Tino, Antica Trattoria Due Mori, Old Bar and Food (winebar) and Il Libertino. Any experience with these?

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Due spade is reasonably the top. It's a gloomy cave, probably best in the evening.
                      Scrigno downstairs is ok for dinner as well, lunch in the garden is probably the best choice in June.
                      Quite frankly, I wouldn't experience all the others you mention.
                      Astra is a good snack at the cinema.
                      Consider "Il Cappello", city center as well.
                      If driving, I'd also consider Maso Cantanghel and Locanda Margon.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Been to Scrigno del Duomo two times. Great food, bad service. In fact, pompous, embarrassing service -- one time to the point of ridiculousness. I love Due Spade.

                        I would recommend the trattorias before any of the starred places. Due Mori is Ok, even good at times. Il Libertino (across the river, an easy walk) is even better. And you might try right next door at Piedi di Castello (Mayeb that's the name. It's right next to Libertino.) It is waaaaaay low key but the food is great, cheap, and I guarantee -- for a while at least -- that you'll be sitting next to the local folks.

                        Another recommendation, if you have a car, woudl be my ABSOLUTE top pick: drive west (starting toward Mt. Bondone) to a small town called Lon, make a right WAY uphill and look for Fior di Roccia. You'll think you're lost on this skinny road heading high into the mountains; you're not. I've been there three times and now go every year. I do NOT miss this place. The chef is exceptional, his sister is one of the most gracious hostesses yo ever will meet, and this places boots the hell out of Michelin starred place at a third the cost. It is a bit rustic, but not to miss.

                        In Trento itself, again, I like Al Volt, and I want to try Al Tino (as mario picked the place!) But it has been closed two times I've tried to go -- bad timing is all.

                        Scrigno del Duomo
                        piazza Duomo 29, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 38122, IT

                        Il Libertino
                        Piazza Piedicastello,4, Trent, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol , IT