Veneto off the beaten path – unusual things to do
Veneto is one of the most interesting Italian regions, full of things to do and see.
From Verona to Venice via Padua and Treviso. From the enchanting Palladian villas to the astonishing Arena of Verona, an unforgettable journey through some of the wonders of this region, waiting to be discovered.
The Veneto region, located in northern Italy, is known for its variety both in terms of the landscape, and in terms of its cultural and artistic treasures.
Are you looking for jagged mountain peaks, never ending sandy beaches and fertile green hills?
In Veneto there is a bit of everything: from the stunning Dolomites peaks, to the clean and Blue Fag beaches of Jesolo and Lignano up to the hills, land of Prosecco and Amarone wines.
And if it is history that you are looking for, you can admire the beautiful frescoes of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, take a romantic walk in the footsteps of Romeo and Juliet in the streets of Verona or contemplate the genius of Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
But those are some of classical things which you can do in Veneto – what all tourists do.
What I would like you to discover, instead, are some fun unusual things which you can do in Veneto!
So follow me on this itinerary of fun and off the beaten track activities which you can engage in Venice, Padua, Verona and the rest of Veneto!
You have visited the crowded but still beautiful Saint Mark’s Square, you have seen the wonders of Rialto Bridge, you got lost among the little alleys of the city but you still feel you want to discover more?
Well, what about taking an unusual tour of the city with a local food guide, discovering the real food of Venice, which was once the Queen of Spices?
You could take a morning sugar rush Cake & Chocolate walking tour, visiting some of the most re-known cake shops in the city, tasting amazing pastries and mouthwatering chocolates, not feeling too guilty because you will be burning the calories while you walk (yeah right!).
Or you could join a late afternoon Cicchetti Food walking tour, hopping from one osteria to another, sampling the famous snack food of Venice, whilst learning all about Veneto wines and Venetian culinary history.
And if you are a real foodie, why not join a cooking class with real local Venetian ladies, learn to cook like a real Italian mama, get your hands in the dough: learn to make pasta or gnocchi and of course the real Tiramisu’!
You may not know it, but they say that Padua is “the city of the cafe’ without doors, the meadowland without the grass and the saints with no name” – meaning that there is only one saint in the city and it is by definition St. Anthony; that the meadow without grass is Prato della Valle (the largest square in Italy and whose name means valley meadow) and the cafe’ without doors is the famous Caffe Pedrocchi which used to be open 24/7.
If you are passionate about history, then you should know that these stones have been walked by the likes of Giotto, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Titian, Casanova, Galileo and Mozart.
Padua is also the city of religious tourism, of the thousands of pilgrims and worshippers from all over the globe who come to the Church of the Holy. It ‘s the “city of the doctors” for the secular history of his university.
The city and its people: a world that revolves around the three squares dedicated to Frutta, alle Erbe ed ai Signori (Fruits, Herbs, and the Lords). Padua is the city of the Euganean Hills, keepers of great spirituality and art masterpieces.
So, once you have visited the Basilica del Santo as well as the city center full of fashion shops and small cafs, what about taking a stroll in the Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens), Via Orto Botanico 5, phone +39 049 656 614, open from 9 till 13, closed Sundays.
Founded in 1545, it is the oldest university botanical garden in the world. At first dedicated to the cultivation of “simple” herbs, i.e. medicinal plants, here were planted the first specimens of the European potato, lilac, sunflower, jasmine, cyclamen, which still have a place of honour, such as the famous ” Goethe’s palm”.
Among many, there is a path for the blind with herbs or special plants which can be touched and a path dedicated to the carnivorous plants. To appreciate the visit you need no special scientific knowledge and you’ll be struck by the beauty and variety of the rare and exotic plants. But keep an eye, however, on the strict rules and regulation, as the sign says “offenders will be punished with fines, imprisonment, and exile“!
And if you are tired of walking, what about taking a Sedge-way PT Tour of the city: a unique experience and an original idea to discover the city in a fun and adventurous way, without any effort!
And don’t forget to take a Wine and Food tour in the Colli Euganei, one of the most famous areas of Veneto for amazing wines, like Manzoni Bianco, Garganega and Riesling Italico, as well as Raboso and Barbera. In the Colli Euganei they have also cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot since the 19th century, and these grapes are widely used.
And don’t miss all the stunning villas which are spread all through the hills, like Villa Valsanzibio,
When viewed from above it looks a bit like Venice. But Treviso is more gathered, in its canals there are no gondolas and there aren’t even the fleets of tourists dropped like wormsin St. Mark’s Square by waterbus.
It is elegant, picturesque, romantic and humane. The town is quite altogether a fascinating work of art. Surrounded by well-preserved city walls and canals, all the small lanes as well as the many old houses and buildings give off a very special charm.
In addition to the main square and the religious buildings, it is mainly the fish market and the many oases of tranquility, scattered throughout the city, which enchant its visitors. This is the place to walk and walk! But once you have visited the Duomo di San Pietro, Piazza dei Signori, the fish market, the walls and its canals, make a point to go out of the city and visit the area which surrounds this amazing town.
Take a trip to Asolo, the “city of the hundred horizons”, so beloved by the British traveller Freya Stark, the actress Eleonora Duse and the Queen of Cyprus, Catherine Cornaro who, in the beautiful town, today dominated by the imposing profile of the fortress, built her castle.
Visit the Rocca (the fortress), the little museum dedicated to the Queen of Cyprus and then go and have a coffee or a glass of Prosecco in the famous Caffe Centrale, with its two centuries of history. Created as a recreational and cultural center in the ‘700, the Caffe Centrale has all the charm of the historic Italian cafs.
Many famous artists and intellectuals loved to stop here for a drink, among the most famous Ernest Hemingway, Robert Browning, Henry James, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Eleonora Duse, Arnold Schoenberg, Freya Stark, Anne Labouriau, Prime Power, Horace Celeghin. I love to sit and have a large cup of ice cream here!
And then take a short drive to Possagno, the birthplace of the sculptor Antonio Canova, whose works can be appreciated in the Plaster Cast Gallery, which displays his drawings, sketches and plaster. Just above the museum there is also the beautiful Temple, designed by Canova himself, but concluded after his death.
Vicenza is a city that you do not expect,. All too often regarded as a route for travellers who prefer the other wonders of Veneto, this little town nestled at the foot of the Monti Berici and crossed by two rivers, is, on the other hand, a gem.
A real open-air museum, with lots to see. Better if you walk with your eyes turned upward. Only in this way, in fact, you can admire the masterpieces of Palladio, the Renaissance genius who traced architectural history through centuries, until today. Wonderful buildings, that “fill the eyes and satisfy the spirit,” as Goethe wrote, and have allowed the city to become, in 1994, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These are a must-see: Piazza dei Signori, Basilica Palladiana, Teatro Olimpico, Piazza delle Erbe and of course a walking tour with a local guide who will explain all about the Palladian works of art.
But once you have done that, take a trip to Bassano and Marostica, discover the real Veneto. In Bassano you can taste the most typical drink of Veneto: grappa, the extra strong liquor, a grape-based pomace brandy contaning 35%60% alcohol by volum! You can visit the Grappa museum.
Take a walk on the Palladian wooden bridge and also appreciate the works by the sculptor Antonio Canova.
The city is also famous for being a remembrance landmark: during World War I, Bassano was right in the middle of the war, right on the front line and here thousands of soldiers lost their lives. Ernest Hemingway spent many days in Bassano and eventually settled here the incipit of “A Farewell to Arms“.
And then go to the small medieval town of Marostica, where in 1454 a noble knight won his wife’s love thanks to his skill in a famous chess match that was played in the main square and which is repeated every year ever since.
Here you can take beautiful walks surrounded by greenery in the hilly paths! You start off near the historic center and within 5 minutes it seems to have moved many miles, experiencing a sudden change of scenery and you only know you are still near Marostica, thanks to its castle which continues to be visible in the distance.
The best time is during the Fall and Spring seasons when the fall colors or a carpet of flowers make everything more exciting!
Who goes to Verona should not miss the occasion to spend a bit of time in this city and take a short walk through the old town. Even if you have not planned to visit Verona and you are just passing through, do not worry! The city can also be seen in a couple of hours.
The atmosphere of this unique city, however, will make leaving very difficult. Once there you can not miss the Piazza Bra, the Roman Arena, Castelvecchio as well as Juliet’s house – there are thousands of reasons to take a short walk through the old town.
But you can also take an unusual tour of the city: Verona Underground, a new, exclusive itinerary organized by tourist guides of Verona which will take you in the amazing and mysterious underground city. An unusual tour for those who are looking for something special for their trip to Verona: go three feet below the ground where there still remain many testimonies of the Roman and early medieval Verona.
Or you can go for a Food and Wine tour in the land of Soave, Valpoliccella and Amarone wines, tasting some of the best wine which this area can offer, as well as some of the best cheeses and risotto dishes of Veneto.
But Veneto is much more than: this is only a little taste of what this amazing region can offer.
This post is part of an event#ItalianFWT – which is taking place today live all over the world.
” Thanks for joining again our 1st Italian Food, Wine & Travel event on the Veneto, but it doesn’t stop here. Follow along with some other great blogs featuring different aspects of living in the Veneto and what it has to offer.
Vino Travels – Sensational Soave
Food Wine Click– Veneto Food & Wine from Half a World Away
Curious Appetite– Traditional Artisan Cheeses
Just Elizabeth- Venetian Shadows
Italian Journeys– Asolo and Bassano del Grappa
Monica Cesarato– Veneto Off the Beaten Path
We also post on #ItalianFWT throughout the month so feel free to join us all the time and share your Italian experiences! Make sure to check back on December 6th for our 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event. Next month’s feature will be one of my favorites, Piedmont!