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If you’re looking for a dreamy place for a weekend getaway or a Sunday stroll, look no further than the medieval village of Soave in Veneto. Located just twenty kilometers from the city of Verona, Soave is easily reachable by both car and train. Let’s find out why Soave was named the Borgo dei Borghi in 2022, the “Village of All Villages”!
History in Brief
Today, this village of about 6,000 is probably best known for two things: the magnificent Scaligero Castle and its Soave DOC wine. You may not associate northern Italy with the Roman Empire, but actually, Soave was located along the Via Postumia connecting Aquileia and Genova.
Most historians believe that a city was founded here by the Lombards in the sixth century and was named “Suaves”. There is evidence that the castle dates to the tenth or eleventh century and was owned by the Sambonifacio Counts of Verona. The Scaligeri restored it and built the walls that are still visible today. Over the next few centuries, it would fall under Venetian possession multiple times and eventually to Napoleon Bonaparte before the unification of Italy.
The Scaligero Castle
As you have already gathered, the Scaligero Castle is Soave’s most important landmark and an absolute must-see. You can walk to it from Piazza dell’Antenna in the historic center and enter on the north side of the castle via the old drawbridge. The first courtyard (15th-century construction) contains an ancient church that probably dates to the tenth century and the Hungarian invasions. The second courtyard is much older and has a beautiful fresco of the Virgin Mary dating to 1321. The final courtyard contains the castle’s keep, or lookout tower, which was also used as a prison and for torture during Medieval times.
You can also visit the living quarters containing numerous original paintings and artifacts recovered in the ancient necropolis. The castle is closed every Monday and hours vary throughout the year. Visit the official website for specific details.
Inside the Village Walls
The village is enclosed by over 1,600 meters of walls with twenty-four towers and three magnificent gates built by the Cansignorio (Scaligeri) rulers. Don’t miss the Palazzo della Giustizia built in 1375, and also Scaliger Palace near the Aquila Gate of the city. The latter is also referred to as the Palazzo del Capitano because it was the residence of the Venetian Captains during their rule in Soave.
Right next to Piazza dell’Antenna is the very Venetian-looking Palazzo Cavalli built in 1411. This Venetian-Gothic palace’s namesake is Nicolò Cavalli who was Captain of Soave. It was once completely covered in magnificent frescos, but they are unfortunately no longer visible.
Religious buildings include the Church of San Lorenzo, also referred to as the Duomo or the Parish Church, which was built in 1303, but underwent a major remodel in 1744 with numerous additions in the 1800s.
Also a few steps from Piazza dell’Antenna is the fifteenth-century Church of Santa Maria of Monte Santo of the Dominicans built in 1443.
Even older is that of Saint George which dates to the year 1000 AD built by the Franciscans. There is still an original bas-relief depicting Saint George on the facade but almost all of the original interior was destroyed during the seventeenth century.
Lastly, don’t miss the Church of Santa Maria della Bassanella originally built around the year 1000. In 1836, it was completely rebuilt and inside, you will find numerous sculptures, frescoes, and relics.
And When in Soave…
The Soave Wine Road is a fantastic itinerary for any food and wine connoisseur. Soave itself has many wine bars offering tastings and pairings with some of the local products such as cured meats and cheeses. From there, you can continue on to Colognola ai Colli where you can sip on Valpolicella wine. Illasi is next on the route and in addition to wine, it is also famous for its Veneto Valpolicella DOP extra virgin olive oil. Cazzano di Tramigna and Val d’Alpone complete the tour and the latter is famous for the Lessini Durello sparkling wine as well as cherries.
Events Throughout the Year
Events in Soave are truly magical and evoke the true essence of the hamlet’s Medieval atmosphere. The most important food and wine event occurs on the third weekend of May each year: Soave’s Medieval White Wine Festival. There is also a grape festival in September, during the harvest, and in October, chocolate aromas fill the air with its chocolate festival. In December, Soave transforms into a Christmas wonderland with its Christmas market and Nativity scenes throughout the town.
Once you have had the pleasure of visiting this magical Medieval town, we are certain that you will understand why it was voted the “Village of All Villages”.
For further reading, we suggest Five of Italy’s Most Beautiful Walled Towns You Need to Visit