OTHER SPECTACULAR DESTINATIONS OF VENETO
The heart of the Veneto region is charming CASTELFRANCO, a medieval town defended by perfectly preserved walls and towers. Castelfranco Veneto’s historic centre is a maze of narrow streets and tiny squares, protected within remarkably preserved, red-bricked ramparts. The town was established when the rulers of Treviso had a castle built in 1199 to defend against the neighbouring Padovans. Over time, it grew into a key trading post between Venice and northern Europe. Every corner of Castelfranco Veneto proudly evokes the presence of its most famous resident, the artist Giorgione whose pièce de résistance, the Madonna and Child, can be found in the town’s magnificent cathedral. Also worth a visit is the beautiful 18th-century Academic Theatre with some of the best acoustics in Italy. Just beyond the walls and a stone’s throw away from your hotel is Piazza Giorgione, one of the largest squares in the region.
To the west of the Veneto region is picturesque LAKE GARDA, Italy’s largest lake, surrounded by pretty villages on its flower-laden banks.
VICENZA, one of the world’s most beautiful cities and still one of Italy’s wealthiest, celebrated for its splendid and varied architecture. The perfect marriage of old and new, this thriving cosmopolitan city is home to some of Palladio’s best works. Vicenza is an open-air museum dedicated to the legacy of Palladio, a miller’s son who became the most prominent architect of the Italian High Renaissance and gave rise to the Classical style of Palladianism. The local gentry, eager to decorate their city with grand new buildings, gave him plenty of opportunities to realise his vision; as a result, many of central Vicenza’s streets are graced by a Palladian mansion. Whether you’re passionate about architecture or not, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the classic sophistication of the Palladian buildings, which were bold innovations miles ahead of their time. At the heart of Vicenza is the Piazza dei Signori, dominated by the Basilica with its marvellous clock tower and distinctive, green roof surrounded by statues of Greek and Roman gods. Not a church but a remodelling of a Gothic courthouse, the basilica’s most notable feature is the loggia, one of the earliest examples of the Palladian window. Nearby is the renowned Teatro Olimpico, Europe’s oldest surviving indoor theatre, seemingly constructed from marble but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover masterfully painted wood and plaster. Its atmospheric auditorium is simply stunning, intended to resemble the outdoor theatres of ancient Greece and Rome. This astounding landmark, together with the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
BASSANO DEL GRAPPA, a beautiful town nestled serenely in the foothills of the Prealps, where the river Brenta flows from the valley and traverses the lowlands on its meander to the Adriatic. This wonderfully photogenic yet unassuming town is renowned for its “grappa”. Connecting the halves of the town is the wooden Ponte degli Alpini bridge, cleverly designed to withstand the meltwaters in spring.
PADOVA exudes a youthful exuberance thanks to its prestigious university, affiliated with two of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers who ever lived: Galileo once taught here and Copernicus was a student! The university was founded in 1222 and it’s Italy’s second oldest. But Padova deserves to be recognised also for its piazzas in the historic centre and the diverse architectural styles: the Baptistry of the Duomo contains one of the country’s most complete medieval fresco cycles; the Renaissance Loggia della Gran Guardia once housed the Council of Nobles; and bustling Caffè Pedrocchi, ever-popular with students and intellectuals, was built to resemble a Classical temple. Particularly outstanding is the exotic Basilica di Sant’Antonio, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Italy. Beneath its distinctive Byzantine domes rests the tomb of Padova’s patron saint. Another unmissable jewel is the extraordinary Cappella degli Scrovegni. The chapel’s interiors are entirely covered with Giotto’s lyrical frescoes, which greatly influenced the development of European art. On the same site is a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th-century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani, a reclusive Augustinian order.
Over the centuries, the rivers flowing into the Venetian lagoon were ingeniously diverted to prevent siltation. As the canalised Brenta became a popular transport route, elegant Venetian villas, holiday homes of the elite, began to appear along its length. The wealthy used to travel between Venice and their villas on the Burchiello, a typical Venetian barge, finely wrought and decorated.
VERONA is situated on the banks of the Adige and it is renowned for the tragic events of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Verona is, in the collective imagination, the ‘City of Love’. The places associated witht the adventures of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are impossible to miss, and impossible also not to experience the emotion when you see Juliet’s house, with its famous balcony, her tomb, and the house of Romeo. A cultural itinerary should also not fail to omit the Basilica of S. Zeno and the Duomo, which houses works by Mantegna and Titian, Piazza delle Erbe (with the Domus Nova, Palazzo dei Mercanti, Palazzo del Comune, the tower of Gardello, and Palazzo Maffei with its fountain), Piazza Bra, Castelvecchio, and the Civic Museum of Art. Last but not least, Verona is indissolubly linked to the Arena, the Roman amphitheatre, which today hosts one of the world’s most prestigious opera festivals.
Defined by Giosuè Carducci the City of a Hundred Horizons, ASOLO is one of the most picturesque old town centres in Italy. Contained within the ancient walls that branch off from the 12th century fortress, in every corner it preserves testimonies of its thousand-year old history. Asolo was a destination for poets and writers, artists and travellers that found inspiration and harmony here. Among them the English poet Robert Browning, the Divine theatre actress Eleonora Duse, the composer Gian Francesco Malipiero, the English writer and traveller Freya Stark.