Valpolicella, a region in Northern Italy, is ideally suited to enjoy la dolce vita. Preferably outside the high season, given the crowds who flock to this part of the world in the summer. Saying that, almost all places are more pleasant without the masses. But, of course, there is a reason why a high season is a high season. The explanation, in this case, is the weather in Northern Italy. In winter, it can be pretty cold, with temperatures below freezing.
Valpolicella and Lake Garda
Valpolicella is just a stone’s throw away from Lake Garda. At least, if you can throw twenty kilometres. Theoretically, the region is a good base for excursions to the nearby Lake Garda to swim or sunbathe. But, of course, that does not apply in winter. If beach life is low on the agenda, one can combine the pleasant with the pleasant in Valpolicella in winter. Namely water and wine. You drink one and bathe in the other.
But first things first, let’s talk about wine.
Valpolicella wine region
The wine region of Valpolicella is located north of the city of Verona. Red wine has been produced in the Valpolicella area for over two thousand years. The Romans loved the locally produced wine, known by the name Rhaetian. Nowadays, the regular Valpolicella carries the DOC quality mark. These are often lighter wines and are best drunk young. Whereas the Amarone and the Ripasso are excellent choices for lovers of fuller red wine, intense wines with a high alcohol percentage.
Valpolicella Ripasso consists of a combination of the regular Valpolicella wine and the yeast residues of Valpolicella Amarone. The wine is, therefore, cheaper than the Amarone and, at the same time, a lot fuller in taste than the normal Valpolicella. Valpolicella Ripasso also has the DOC quality mark.
But if you have the choice and a wallet to match, go for the Amarone. This has the DOCG stamp of approval. The highest possible quality in Italy. There are three different types:
- The regular, very tasty Amarone must be aged for at least two years.
- The Amarone Riserva must age at least four years and
- the sweet Amarone Recioto.
To get the most out of your wine experience, book a tour to taste the different wines in a beautiful location. If you can also be picked up at your accommodation, that would significantly enhance your venture. This way, you can drink a few glasses of wine without worrying about driving.
But of course, la dolce vita doesn’t stop with sipping wine. When the wine tasting is over, head to the thermal baths, the water from the Aquardens well.
Gyozvr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Thermale baden Valpolicella – Aquardens
At the baths, life feels quite bearable under the moonlight with jazzy music in the background, floating in the water between 35°C and 37°C. Especially in winter, when you can see yourself surrounded by snowy mountain peaks from the outdoor thermal pool. Step into the ‘river’ from the outdoor pool to walk against the current in the flowing water.
Alternatively, find the warm saltwater pool for a ‘dead sea experience’ inside. Then, float effortlessly on your back in the salt water.
The other baths, inside and outside, are also warmer and warmest. It is therefore recommended not to stay in a bath for more than fifteen minutes and then relax on dry land for half an hour. Use this time wisely by having a drink, a spa massage or a cold water dip.
Health effects of thermal baths
As a bonus, you also get the therapeutic properties of the water. The thermal water from the Aquardens spring is rich in sodium, bromine, iodine, calcium, magnesium and iron. Due to the naturally high temperatures and mineral content, the water stimulates the immune system. As a result, it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects. In addition, it reduces swelling. These effects are especially beneficial when one suffers from arthritis, like me.
Furthermore, there are countless hydromassage options for tight back and neck muscles.
Eating and drinking in the baths
If you are less concerned with your health, visit the bar in the indoor pool. You don’t even have to get out of the water. The bar stools are in the bath. You pay for your glass of Valpolicella with your bracelet. The account is settled on the way out.
Combine this with a visit to the indoor spa and/or sauna (at an extra cost), and you will leave the baths feeling rejuvenated.
The complex has several outdoor and indoor pools, sun loungers and restaurants. You can go there till late at night. Payment is by the hour, with a minimum of two. Although one can also easily laze away a day in these surroundings, four hours will be enough for most.
It is possible to rent towels and slippers. But of course, it is cheaper to bring your own.
The thermal baths of Aquardens are located in the town of Santa Lucia di Pescantina on Via Valpolicella.
If you prefer to avoid standing in line at the checkout, buy your ticket to Aquardens online.
Practical tips Valpolicella
- July and especially August is the high season in Northern Italy. Most catering establishments are closed between November and March. You may depend on B & Bs in the low season unless you look for a hotel in Verona.
- In the low season, many restaurants open on weekends but are closed during the week. For a more authentic experience, frequent the cafes available all year round. Here you will mainly find Italians.
Combine Valpolicella with
- If you want to do something different for a day, go skiing in Brentonico. The small ski resort is an hour’s drive from Valpolicella.
- An excellent alternative to the thermal baths in Valpolicella is the one in Sirmione on Lake Garda.
- Or take a day trip to Venice, Verona of Padua.
- Climb the stairs in Madonna de Corona.
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