There was once a small village guarded by mighty walls and ancient watchtowers. It was surrounded by rolling, vineyard-covered hills that were crowned by olive and cherry trees. In the highest part of this village stood a castle, home to Imperatrice, princess of Antioch. One day, she made a special decree: the most prominent and deserving women were to be honored with a knightly order. We are talking about Soave, a remarkably beautiful and enchanting village.
Soave is located in the eastern part of Verona province. Today it’s a small municipality, but it’s still overlooked by that striking castle of 24 turrets, which stands on Mount Tenda. Built in 934 as a military fortification to protect against Hungarian invasions, it’s one of the best examples of castle architecture in Veneto.
Although Castello di Soave is a private property, it’s now open for public events and visits (by appointment). From the castle, you can see the village – which is well worth a visit.
The village of Soave
Soave is a hamlet of Roman origin, and its look preserves both the simple lines of the Roman structure, and the charm of the medieval days of princesses and knights. Its main street passes by small squares, churches and mansions dating back to the Renaissance. Some of them are now the headquarters of renowned wineries, which is not surprising, because Soave is the center of an important wine region of the same name.
Along with the wine, there’s plenty of great food to eat as well. Look for the many bakeries and stores selling cheese and ham. Typical products include the rufioi (special stuffed biscuits) or Soave ham; the best time to experience them is in May or September, when the region shows its best.
Until Covid-19 disrupted everything, May was also the time of the Festa della Castellania e del Vino Bianco Soave street festival. It was a historical evocation of the times of Princess Imperatrice and her ladies. It culminated with an emotional ceremony in medieval costume in the castle. In the presence of the people and the personalities of the village, women who had distinguished themselves — as writers, wine producers, scientists, musicians, and so on — became Ladies of the Castle of Soave. In memory of the historic knightly order, it is the only female wine brotherhood in the world. Sometimes the fairy tales come true: I’m one of those ladies, too.
Another popular festival is September’s Festa dell’Uva, the oldest festival in Veneto, which celebrates Soave’s wine. For three days celebrations went on with feasting, art, music and wine — there was even a wine fountain.
When Soave is open again, pay a visit and immerse yourself in magic. Because Soave is an enchanted place.
Photos by Elisabetta Tosi