Discover Custoza: Wine Tourism Close to Verona

The village of Custoza, Italy surrounded by the vineyards

Even frequent travelers to Italy aren’t likely to have heard about the small village of Custoza and its rich wine heritage that awaits discovery.

Custoza is tucked—you might even say hidden—in the municipality of Sommacampagna, in the province of Verona, in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. It has a population of less than 1000 people.

Custoza: Close to Verona and Sirmione on Lake Garda

The famous balcony in Verona
The famous balcony in Verona

This quiet, rural village is only one half-hour by car from Verona, one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. 

Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best known for the spectacular operas and concerts performed in its Roman amphitheater and for its association with the timeless story of Romeo & Juliet.

Custoza is also less than an hour from the southern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake and a popular summer playground for tourists from around the globe. The picturesque medieval town of Sirmione is at the end of a peninsula jutting into the lake.

What to see and do in Custoza

Italian flag at the Ossuary of Custoza
Italian flag at the Ossuary of Custoza

In Custoza itself, Ossario di Custoza memorializes the two battles with Austria that took place during the Italian Wars of Independence. The monument houses the remains of soldiers who died for their country during these battles.

Apart from that, this tiny village has no other real tourist attractions. 

Instead, it’s an ideal destination for slow, authentic travel by bike, e-bike or horseback, a place where visitors can fully enjoy the scenic countryside and sample outstanding food and wine at their own pace.

For example, the Tamburino Sardo path (about 1.8 miles in length) starts at the church of San Pietro in Vinculis and meanders through the vineyards, countryside, and grounds where the battles for Italian unity were fought.

Casa Tamburino Sardo (House of the Sardinian Drummer Boy) in Custoza
Casa Tamburino Sardo (House of the Sardinian Drummer Boy) in Custoza (Wikipedia CC, Massimo Telo)

The area is also close to spectacular natural parks like Mincio Park and Parco Giardino Sigurta.

See a glimpse of Custoza on YouTube


Festivals and special events in Custoza

The local restaurant association (Associazione Ristoratori Custoza), representing all the restaurants in the municipality of Sommacampagna (the Custoza DOC area), partners to organize several interesting events.

In September, it collaborates with the municipal administration to organize the Gran Gala del Vino Custoza DOC. This wine festival offers local specialty dishes, wine-tasting stalls, exhibitions, music, and family-friendly activities. (Reservations for the Grand Gala must be made in advance).

At the Broccoletto Festival that takes place each January, all the restaurants prepared broccoli-based dishes.

On the third Tuesday of June, an open-air dinner celebrating the Nodo d’Amore with a fireworks display is held in nearby Valeggio sul Mincio.

Best times to visit Custoza

Cycling through the vineyards in Custoza
Cycling through the vineyards in Custoza

The best time to visit is between May and September when the weather is warm, there is plenty of sunshine, and the chance of precipitation is lower.

July is the warmest month of the year, with temperatures averaging 85℉. January is the coldest month of the year and November is the rainiest.

Sipping the white wines of Custoza

Custoza, the region’s white wine, derives its name from the location where its grapes are grown in the soft, morainic hills southeast of Lake Garda. It, too, is less well-known than most other Italian wines.

Evidence suggests that this wine has been produced in the area since prehistoric times. But according to Vinography, it wasn’t until the late 1700s, that the wine was identified with the name Custoza.

Bianco di Custoza, the blended wine of the region, was established as a DOC in 1971; its name was more recently changed to Custoza DOC. The area includes some 1200 hectares of vineyards with a mix of local producers and wine cooperatives.

There are four different types of Custoza wines: Custoza, Custoza Superiore, Custoza Spumante and Custoza Passito.

On her blog, Briscoe Bites, Stacy Brisco, a senior editor at Wine Enthusiast, writes:

“The main soils are calcareous clay, interspersed with gravelly rocks and sand. It is this soil structure that greatly differentiates Custoza from surrounding DOCs. 

It is the soil that creates a uniqueness to the white wines produced, providing a savoriness that will make any doubter of the reality of ‘minerality’ a true believer.”

Monte del Fra: Custodians of Custoza

Monte del Fra winery and vineyards in Custoza, Italy
Monte del Fra in Custoza, Italy (credit: Monte del Fra)

Monte del Fra, a three-generation, family-owned winery, is one of the larger producers in the area. In 1958, the Bonomo family rented two rooms in an old 15th-century monastery as well as some land to cultivate wheat, strawberries, peaches and grapes.

The winery founder, Massimo Bonomo, produced a small quantity of wine and sold it directly on-site—way before the advent of websites—advertising its availability with a small sign on the road.

However, over six decades— through the family’s hard work, passion, and commitment to the land and sustainable agriculture—it now owns vineyards in all the main denominations of Verona: including Valpolicella Classico, Lugana, Soave and Bardolino.

The winery’s vineyards are among the most extensive in Verona, covering 137 hectares, which they own, and another 68 that are leased.

The Bonomo family of Az. Ag. Monte del Fra
The Bonomo family of Monte del Fra (credit: Monte del Fra)

Monte del Fra produces about 1,500,000 bottles yearly; about 60% of the production is exported to 64 countries. Some 38 employees work at the winery, including every member of the family.

Here, the experience and stability of older family members are coupled with the tech-savvy, inventiveness, and energy of younger ones.

“We are an experimental cellar,” Marica Bonomo told me in an interview, representing the third generation of the family. “Our goal is to learn from nature and translate the terroir into wine.”

“Being the largest vineyard owner in the area, we consider ourselves ambassadors of the high quality of Veneto wines with a strong commitment to protecting the land for successive generations,” she adds.

Cà Del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC

Ca del Magro Superiore DOC
Ca del Magro Superiore DOC

Cà del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC is the Monte del Fra wine that is most representative of the terroir. It has been awarded Tre Bicchieri by Gambero Rosso for 12 years in a row; in 2021, Wine Spectator rated it among the Top 100 Wines of the Year.

Cultivated in a single vineyard, this elegant wine is a blend of indigenous Garganega, Trebbiano Toscana, Cortesese and Incrocio Manzoni grapes trained on the Guyot system. The vines on which the grapes are grown are more than 50 years old, sited on a morainic hill in the heart of Custoza, with soil composed of calcium, clay and gravel.

It tastes fresh and fragrant with chamomile and white flower floral aromas with some fruit notes. Easy to drink, it offers strong minerality without too much acidity. Although intended to be savored while young, the wine has the potential for aging.

In the glass, the wine has an intense straw-yellow color with shimmers of gold. The first sip cleanses the mouth; subsequent ones remind you that you’re thirsty.

The wine is versatile and reasonably priced, making it perfect as an aperitivo and for pairing with pasta, pizza, risotto or seafood at lunch or dinner. It is often served by the glass in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Visiting Monte del Fra in Custoza

The vineyard where Ca del Magro Custoza Superiore is grown.
The vineyard where Ca del Magro Custoza Superiore is grown.

Should you decide to visit this four-season, family-owned and operated winery, be prepared for a bespoke experience that goes well beyond a traditional wine tasting.

Marica’s cousin Silvia helps visitors experience picnics in the vineyards; blind and vertical wine tastings; cooking classes showcasing local recipes for handmade Tortellini di Valeggio, Amarone Risotto and Sfogliatine from Villafranca (a donut-shaped pastry); and organizes events pairing wine with music, art, or yoga for small groups.

She also arranges gourmet meals in the nearby village of Vallegio sul Mincio and recommends stays at Boffenigo Panorama & Experience, a four-star hotel and wellness center perched on a hilltop with a view of the lake.


The village of Custoza


Distance From Custoza to Verona and Sirmione


Reservations for winery visits should be made in advance:

Vicenza is another fascinating city in the Veneto region:

This is an updated and expanded version of an article previously published on Forbes.

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