Pianaura Suites

Marano di Valpolicella, Italian Lakes & Verona, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A beautiful hilltop B&B in the Valpolicella wine region, with gorgeous gardens, 2 stylish suites and easy access to Verona and Lake Garda
You’ve probably drunk its wine, but chances are you’d struggle to pinpoint Valpolicella on a map. And good thing too, as it means this trio of leafy valleys, tucked away in the hills above Verona, has remained blissfully tourist-free. It’s a well-kept secret that’s worth exploring - not only for its grapes, but for its stunning landscapes, its sleepy medieval villages, and this rather special B&B.

Standing sentry over a terraced hillside, it occupies a pair of tall 17th-century farmhouses that have been lovingly restored by owners Mara and Filippo. One is now their dream home; the other, a guest block housing 2 spoiling suites and a lounge. Inside, all is white and bright, with beamed ceilings, shuttered windows and a stylish mish-mash of contemporary furniture and flea-market finds. Outside, lawns burst with lavender, poppies and fragrant herbs, and easy chairs sit under pergolas whose gauzy curtains billow in the breeze. If you want to stay put, find a secluded spot among the flowers and gaze out over the vines to the silvery mountains glinting on the horizon. Head out and you can hike through meadows, picnic by waterfalls or dip into the sights of Verona and Lake Garda. And of course, there are plenty of wineries to visit, too.

Highs

  • A rural setting away from the crowds, but well-placed for exploring - Verona is 20 minutes in one direction, Lake Garda half an hour in the other
  • A sensitive transformation of beautiful old buildings, with chic interiors, restored stonework and an ingenious new tunnel linking the towers
  • Perfect for romance and relaxation: four-poster beds, a spa room for massages and yoga, an outdoor hydrotherapy pool (i-escape guests get exclusive use for 3 hours per day, so you can bubble away in total privacy!)
  • Mara and Filippo are exceptional hosts - and their golden retriever Seta will quickly become your new best friend
  • Everything has been designed to make you feel special - complimentary carafes of local wine, jars of homemade biscuits...

Lows

  • Breakfast is in a state of flux - it's currently served in the lounge, but from January 2017 it will be provided in room (and both suites will have simple kitchenettes)
  • No lunch, dinner or bar, and the nearest restaurants are a drive away; you'll need a car
  • No children under 14 are accepted
  • It's accessed via a single-track lane with a vertical drop on one side. Be prepared for some careful manoeuvring if you meet a car coming in the other direction
  • Credit cards aren’t accepted, so you’ll have to bring plenty of cash

Best time to go

Summer is busy around Verona and the Italian Lakes, but the Valpolicella valleys make a wonderful escape from the heat and the crowds, with plenty of cooling breezes. They're just as delightful in spring, when wild flowers carpet the hillsides, and in autumn, when the vines turn orange. Unlike many hotels in the region, Pianaura Suites stays open all year round, so you can also visit in winter and make the most of the snowy alpine landscapes and cross-country skiing in the nearby Lessina National Park.

Our top tips

Verona arena hosts a world-renowned opera festival from June until September. It’s worth catching even if you’re not an opera fan, as watching an open-air performance in this ancient setting is a magical experience. You’ll need to book well ahead, as tickets often sell out months in advance.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 2
  • Breakfast only (restaurants a short drive away)
  • No children under 14 accepted
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Fitness bike
  • Yoga classes
Room: Lower Suite

Rooms

Mara has a natural flair for design, pairing modern pieces with vintage finds (Murano glass mirrors, 60s sideboards, artfully deconstructed armchairs). The resulting mix is eclectic but extremely chic, and works beautifully against the whitewashed walls, beamed ceilings and resin floors; it’s no wonder the suites have graced the pages of several Italian style magazines.

Accessed via a steep staircase, they occupy the top 2 floors of the guest block, with a lounge and breakfast room underneath. Each has a large open-plan bedroom and sitting area, plus an ensuite with a walk-in shower. Mara loves playing around with the décor, so the little details are constantly changing, but permanent features include heavenly four-poster beds, sofas piled with cushions, hanging rails for clothes, and shuttered windows peeping out over the hills.

We stayed in the first-floor Lower Suite, which is flooded with light thanks to a glass door with steps down to the courtyard beneath. We loved the bright splashes of apple green and mustard yellow, and the kitsch collection of tasselled lampshades hanging above the table. The ensuite is particularly snazzy, with a glass shower cubicle and a wall of windows screened by paper blinds.

The Upper Suite sits under sloping rafters on the floor above - a space once used to dry grapes for the area’s famous Amarone wine. It’s similar in size to the Lower Suite but has a cosier feel, with subtle Oriental notes in the black furniture, red accents and lantern-like lamps. Its bathroom has funky cobalt-blue walls and a waterfall shower.

Both suites are filled with treats - carafes of wine, jars of biscuits, pampering Rituals toiletries, tea- and coffee-making kit, iPod docks. You also get WiFi and a hairdryer.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Carafe of local wine, plus homemade biscuits
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Kitchenette in the Upper Suite
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Small fridge
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

For breakfast and you’ll find fresh bread, pastries, local Monte Veronese cheese, prosciutto, yoghurt and fruit from the garden, with pots of tea and coffee. At current this is taken in the lounge, where there are a couple of little tables, spaced well apart for privacy. Every now and then Mara will pop up as if by magic from the tunnel between the 2 buildings to check you have everything you need, but otherwise you'll be left to linger and plan your day.

From January 2017 breakfast will be taken in your suite instead, where you will find a simple kitchenette (fridge, sink, kettle, microwave and toaster) and a handy basket of ingredients.

Mara also provides a complimentary carafe of Valpolicella wine in both suites every day, so just pour yourself a glass and find a quiet corner in the garden for a sundowner. There are glass jars of homemade biscuits for when you get peckish, plus little fridges, kettles, tea bags and coffee.

You’ll have to drive out for lunch and dinner, but there are plenty of fantastic restaurants in the surrounding villages - just ask Mara for recommendations. Many of Italy’s most popular dishes have their origins in these parts - risotto, tiramisu, tortellini pasta - so expect a feast, wherever you end up. We headed a few minutes down the road to Antica Osteria Paverno, a friendly little place with a vine-shaded terrace, to sample a Valpolicella speciality - risotto made with Amarone wine. It was delicious: rich, creamy and ruby red, with a wonderful sweetness from the wine, whose grapes are aged before fermentation.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurants within a short drive
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

    Sample the wares at Valpolicella's many vineyards. They're scattered across 3 pretty valleys - Marano, Negrar and Fumane - and many of the finest are within a 10-minute drive of the B&B (Mara can arrange transport for you)
  • Tour the area's grand country villas, medieval villages and ancient Romanesque churches. Mara will suggest itineraries and point out places for delicious lunches along the way
  • Spend a day in Verona, just 20 minutes away. Admire the Roman arena (the third largest in the world), gaze at the frescoed buildings lining the Piazza delle Erbe, and practise your swooning on Juliet’s balcony
  • Lake Garda is also within easy reach. Avoid the theme parks around its southern tip and head north to the pretty villages of Torri del Benaco and Malcesine, or hop on a boat to elegant Salò on the western shore
  • Go walking or mountain biking (Mara can arrange bike hire) in the hills behind the B&B, or venture further afield to the Lessina National Park (20km away) for beautiful nature trails, otherworldly rock formations, alpine meadows and, in winter, cross-country skiing
  • Wander among cascades of water, tumbling mountain streams and prehistoric caves at the Molina Waterfall Park, 16km to the east. There are signposted circuits of varying lengths, as well as chairlifts which swing out over the falls
  • There’s water of a more relaxing kind at the Aquardens Thermal Park (14km away), a vast spa complex with mineral-rich lagoons, hot tubs and indoor and outdoor pools
  • Back at Pianaura Suites, soothe your muscles in the hydrotherapy pool, bliss out with a massage or a spot of yoga, or sit back and watch the sun drop behind the distant mountains, glass of wine in hand

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

No kids under 14 are accepted - the many steps and slopes would present a danger for young'uns, and the peace would be shattered by noisy bambini. Both suites have sofas which can be made up as extra beds for teenagers aged 14 or over; the Upper Suite accommodates up to 4 people.

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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