Northeastern Veneto Itinerary - Treviso to Marostica and Return
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After spending several days in Venice, most tourists that want to further sample the charms of the Veneto typically head west to Padua or Verona and bypass some of the Veneto’s most interesting but small, off-the-beaten-track towns. Well, they’re not entirely undiscovered – what place within an hour’s drive of Venice could be? – but they are less publicized and less visited but well worth seeing. Travelers that take the time to stop and visit will be pleasantly rewarded by picturesque, culturally interesting and just plain fun sites.
While this tour of the northeastern part of the Veneto can begin at any one of the towns indicated below, let’s start in historic Treviso, the closest point on this itinerary to Venice.
TREVISO Only 20 miles north of Venice, Treviso is often compared with Venice because of its network of ancient canals and rivers that meander through the town. Although often compared with Venice it has its own distinctive, polished personality and nobody would confuse it with the larger, more tourist-laden Venice.
Treviso is a modern yet old town replete with stylish shops and chichi restaurants appropriate for one of Italy’s wealthiest cities (Benetton’s vast fashion empire has its global headquarters here) but also a treasure trove of historically significant and interesting sites.
The Piazza dei Signori is the historic center of Treviso and is bordered by the Palazzo dei Trecento (Palace of the Three Hundred) where the town council used to meet until the late 1300’s when it came under the control of Venice. Not far away is the Renaissance cathedral (“Duomo”) with an Annunciation over the altar by Titian. The Civic Museum (Museo Civico), not far from the Cathedral, and the Dominican church of San Nicolo, near the city wall, are also worth visits. After viewing medieval frescoes, stroll along the canals and bridges and admire the modern and more lively frescoes on the walls of houses bordering the canals. When you tire of touring, you can repair to one of the numerous restaurants, cafes or wine bars bordering the canals with their tables with gaily-colored umbrellas that spill out onto sidewalks and patios.
ASOLO A half-hour’s drive northwest of Treviso, Asolo may well be the most elegant and enchanting hill-town in northern Italy. The town is filled with small, interesting shops selling books, maps, jewelry, and antiques. Asolo may have more gold jewelry stores than does Arezzo. The Asolo antiques fair, held the 2nd weekend of each month, features high-end bric-a-brac and is one of the area’s best.
When you tire of visiting the antique shops, you can tour the Queen’s Castle, a medieval structure with a massive clock tower, the Cathedral, the Monastery and, if you still have the energy, hike up the hill to the medieval fortress, La Rocca (only open for a limited time on Sunday). About six miles east of Asolo in the small town of Mazer is the magnificent Villa Barbaro. Designed by Andrea Palladio and built in the 1550’s as a country estate for the Barbaro brothers, it is a masterpiece of late Renaissance architecture. Close by the villa is a small circular, enclosed chapel also by Palladio. See www.villadimaser.it for visiting hours.
BASSANO DEL GRAPPA Bassano del Grappa is an attractive town with narrow streets, frescoed houses and attractive piazzas bordered by arcaded walkways. However, the most famous tourist attraction in Bassano del Grappa is the Ponte Vecchio, the wooden bridge that traverses the Brenta River that was originally designed by Andrea Palladio in 1569. The view of the river and the mountains from the bridge is outstanding.
However, the town’s real claim to fame is the town’s namesake, the clear brandy known as grappa, the sometimes-fiery but always popular Italian after-dinner drink that has been produced here for centuries. The Poli family is one of several that has been making grappa since the late 1800’s and they have raised the profile of grappa around the world. They have a grappa museum and sales room a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio. At the Poli Museum you can get an educational tour of the process for making grappa, view antique grappa-distilling equipment and – need I say? - buy bottles of grappa. It may also be worth a trip to Schiavon, south of Bassano del Grappa, to tour the Poli distillery and afterwards sample some grappa. See the Poli website at www.poligrappa.com.
MAROSTICA Just a few minutes drive west of Bassano del Grappa is Marostica, a small, medieval, walled town perhaps most well known for its very original chess game. Held on the second weekend of September in even-numbered years, the main square (Piazza Castello) serves as a life-size chessboard with costumed people as the chess pieces. For a more physical endeavor you can hike from the lower castle to the upper castle where there is an outstanding view of the chessboard piazza below and the fully-intact, medieval walls encircling the city. The hike is very steep and not for the faint-of-heart. Of course, if you have a car you can drive up to the castle in just a few minutes, but what’s the fun in that?
CITTADELLA Just a short 20 mile drive south-east of Marostica is the town of Cittadella. This small town is famous for its medieval fortifications – the town is encircled by a sturdy stone wall almost a mile in circumference which, in turn, is surrounded by a moat. It is one of best examples of medieval military defensive architecture in Europe. The streets of the medieval city are neatly laid out in a north-south and east-west grid pattern. While you can drive into the city through any one of the four entrance gates, there is adequate parking outside the city walls so that you can leisurely explore the city on foot. Shops, bakeries and pleasant cafes are sprinkled throughout the old town. Cittadella’s cathedral is on the Piazza Pierobon in the center of town where the two main streets that connect the four entrance gates intersect. You can walk along a footpath that goes around the outside of the walls or you can walk along the ramparts of the walls for great views of the city and countryside.
CASTELFRANCO VENETO If you’ve not yet overdosed on small medieval walled towns, Castelfranco Veneto, 12 miles due east of Cittadella, is an interesting place to spend a morning or afternoon. On the way, take a short detour to the village of Fonzolo to visit Villa Emo, another magnificent villa by Andrea Palladio. Less frequented but no less interesting than the more famous Villa Barbaro, Villa Emo is surrounded by lavish gardens and the interior is embellished with frescoes. See Palladio Villas - Emo for details and visiting hours.
Like Cittadella, Castelfranco Veneto is completely enclosed by tall defensive walls. Celebrated as the birthplace of the Renaissance Venetian painter Giorgione, the city’s neo-classical cathedral contains a famous altarpiece by Giorgione. While there is not a lot going on in the historic center of the old city during the day, starting at dusk a slow strip stream of people begin converging on Piazza Giorgione, immediately outside the city gate. They come for a bit of convivialità – a chat with friends, a meal, a glass of wine - and the restaurants, tavernas and enotecas that line the Piazza quickly come alive with activity that spills over onto the near-by streets.
Where to eat and sleep
Locanda alla Colonna, Via Campana, 27 - Treviso. This restaurant has a great location in the historic center of Treviso. Moderate prices. Ph: +39.0422.544.804. www.ristorantelacolonna.it
Trattoria Toni del Spin, Via Inferiore, 7 – Treviso. Close by the Piazza dei Signori, this proudly old-fashioned trattoria serves wholesome food from the Treviso countryside such as pasta with artichokes and beans and tagliatelle with duck sauce. Good selection of local wines are listed on a blackboard. Moderate prices. Ph: +39.0422.543.829 www.ristorantetonidelspin.com
Cantinetta Venegazzu, Piazzetta Ancilotto, 2 – Treviso. Good selection of appetizers and cold dishes to accompany selections from an impressive wine list. Patio seating available with a great view of Piazza dei Signori. Moderate prices. Ph: +39.0422.546.543
Borgo Cavour B&B, Via Borgo Cavour, 19 – Treviso. This small B&B in the center of Treviso has three very attractively-furnished rooms. Moderate prices. Ph: +39.0422.419.145 Borgo Cavour B&B
Vineria, Via Castellana, 4 – Treviso. This enoteca stocks a vast range of wines, including many from hard-to-find producers, at relatively low prices. Over 40 wines are available by the glass. Vineria is the recipient of Gambero Rosso’s Best Wine Bar award. Ph: +39.0422.210.460
Osteria La Trave, Via Bernardi Pagnano, 15 – Pagnano d’Asolo. Just outside Asolo, this osteria has good, rustic food in the country tradition. Inexpensive. Ph: +39.0423.952.292. Closed noon and on Tuesday.
Alla Torre Wine Bar and Restaurant, Via Castellaro, 25 – San Zenone degli Ezzelini (about 4 miles south of Asolo). The wine bar is adjacent to the restaurant. Moderate prices. Ph: +39.0423.567.086 www.allatorre.it
Col de Sol B&B near Casonette di Asolo. Rooms and suites in a Italian modern building. Inexpensive. Ph: +39.0423.951.065
Bassano del Grappa area
Ristorante Al Ponte, Via Volpato, 60 – Bassano del Grappa. This restaurant is just a short distance across the Ponte Vecchio. From its patio there is a great view of Bassano’s colonnaded city walls and Castello degli Ezzelini across the river and when the floodlights are turned on at dusk the view of the city against the night sky is especially dramatic. Al Ponte serves regional dishes using local produce in season. Well prepared dishes, good wine list, friendly service and moderate prices. Ph: +39.0424.219.274 www.alpontedibassano.com
Villa Brocchi Colonna, Contra San Giorgio, 98. An agriturismo located 1-1/2 miles from Bassano del Grappa. Eleven elegantly furnished bedrooms in a rural setting. Moderately expensive. Ph: +39.0424.501.580 www.villabrocchicolonna.it
Nardini, Ponte Vecchio, 2 – Bassano del Grappa. Just off the Ponte Vecchio, this bar and shop has been selling grappa since the late 1700’s and is still popular today with locals and visitors alike. Ph: +39.0424.527.741 www.nardini.it
Ristorante alla Veneziana, Piazza Liberta, 11 (in the aptly-named Sweet Hotel) – Longa di Schiavon (a few miles south of Marostica). The restaurant specializes in creative as well as traditional fish dishes from the Veneto such as Baccala alla Vicentina. La Brassiere in the hotel serves brick-oven pizza and lighter fish and pasta dishes. Friendly, courteous staff and an outstanding wine list. Highly recommended. Moderately expensive. The La Brassiere is also good and less expensive. Ph: +39.0444.665.766 Ristorante alla Veneziana
Pasticceria Chiurato, Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, 50 - Marostica. This elegant pastry and gelato shop with a few tables outside is the perfect place to relax and rest one’s feet after hiking up to the old castle. Inexpensive.
Pasticceria Chiurato, Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, 50 – Marostica. An excellent pastry shop serving cakes, pastries and gelato. Inexpensive. Ph: +39.04214.72134.
Enoteca Bei, Piazza Scalco, 10 – Cittadella. This wine bar and restaurant with patio is located in the geographic center of Cittadella. It has a trattoria-type menu with traditional pastas and local regional specialities. The impressive wine list features over 30 interesting wines by the glass. Inexpensive. Ph: +39.0499.403.500.
© Richard Marcis
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