Grand European Travel guest Cheryl V. shares a story about how the decision to try a cafe off the beaten path lead her to meet a local celebrity in Verona on her recent Italy Guided Vacation.
It was mid January 2014 when the excitement began. Our friends sent us a Grand European Travel brochure. They had dog-eared the page for Italian Intermezzo Guided Vacation, along with a post-it telling us this tour was perfect for us.
Before we knew it, my husband and I, along with my husband’s brother and sister from Detroit and three of my best friends signed up. We were going to Italy! We had talked about it for years. With the last name Ventimiglia, people were always eager to tell us of their adventures to Italy and how wonderful it was and that we should really try to make it there someday. Our someday had arrived.
Our first stop on the trip was Milan, then onto the Lake District. After our first night in Italy we boarded the bus. I had no idea where we were going and didn’t have any expectations. After a short bus ride we arrived in the town of Verona. This was my first introduction to Italy. The architecture, the cobble stone pathways and Romeo and Juliet’s balcony awed me.
Our guide suggested a place for us to have lunch. It was a nice café, but I wanted to experience the real Italy. So we roamed the streets looking for a place. This restaurant didn’t have what someone in our group wanted, this place was missing this or that.
I made a left turn off the main strip and fell into Antica Bottega Del Vino. It is a quaint little restaurant that had an assortment of Italian deli food.
There were several elderly gentlemen gathered inside for an early afternoon glass of wine. We didn’t speak any Italian and the waiter’s English was limited. We figured out we could wait and be seated in the dining room for lunch or we could order from the counter and eat in the bar area. We looked around and didn’t see any available seats that would accommodate all of us.
Soon three locals stood up and gave some of the ladies we were with their booth. My husband and I found a table for two in the center of the bar. I got up to get a closer look at the menu and an elderly gentleman took my seat. The waiter saw this and spoke to the elderly man in Italian. I can only guess that they told him he had taken my seat. He got up and sat right next to the ladies in the booth.
They didn’t mind and he loved the attention from these lovely young ladies, even if they were all sixty, to him they were babes. Through a kind of game of Italian and English charades we learned that the elderly man’s name was Bruno and that it was his patron saint’s birthday that very day. We offered to buy him a drink to celebrate but he declined.
The waiter motioned to us and said, “Jagermeister.”
Funny we couldn’t communicate our lunch order but we all understood Jagermeister. The waiter proceeded to tell us that Bruno was Mr. Jagermeister back in the day. The waiter then showed us a framed picture of a Jagermeister ad and told us that it was Bruno a couple of decades ago.
The food and wine were absolutely wonderful, the service impeccable, but the company of the locals was priceless.