This article aims to answer one simple question: If you had a car and a weekend in Veneto, and wanted to get away from the crowds, where should you go?
As requested by a friend (hi Rudi!) I thought I’d do a few posts on lesser-known tourist destinations for the regions of Italy that I am most familiar with. Look out for words in red in the article. Where you find one, there will be a little fact at the end which corresponds to it. Consider these my gift to you, which you can use to blow your travel partners’ minds.
Before we start, a word from my legal people….
DISCLAIMER: The title is misleading: anywhere you go in Italy (especially during peak season) you will encounter tourists. Wander into a three-house hamlet in the depths of Molise in darkest December, and you can be sure you will encounter a fellow traveller holding a map upside down in one hand with a camera around his neck, exclaiming excitedly how “authentic” it all is. Nonetheless, it makes a catchier title than “Places in Italy Where You Might Be Able to Move without Being Harassed by Street Vendors Selling You Crap You Don’t Need at Prices You Can’t Afford,” so it stays.
Day 1 (AM) – City(e)scape
Chances are you’ve landed either at Venice (EasyJet) or Treviso (Ryanair) Airports, so the first thing to do is get the car, and put some distance between yourself and the city. Treviso is pretty enough, but short on tourist sights. As for Venice, there seems to be an unwritten rule among Italy travel writers that you can’t criticise it, even though it is an over-rated, wallet-draining, funky-smelling, tourist-infantilising, water-logged tourist-trap. Venice is the clickbait of cities. You go there on the promise of something amazing, and end up feeling disappointed and (literally) robbed.
For those of a city-break persuasion, head 45 minutes south-west to Padua instead. There’s easily enough art, architecture and gastronomy to keep you busy for two days.
Venice is the clickbait of cities. You go there on the promise of something amazing, and end up feeling disappointed and (literally) robbed.
Even Padua is not niche enough for this post though. Instead, we’re heading westwards, an hour from Venice Airport (less from Treviso), towards Cittadella. This tiny, perfectly circular medieval fortress town is surrounded by 15m-high, 2m-thick walls. It won’t take up much of your time, but by the time you’ve gone for a walk around the walls and popped into the church, you’ll have had a lovely morning and shaken off the presumably early start.
Day 1 (PM) – Hunter-Gatherer-Drinker
Depending on how you’re doing time and hunger-wise, either have lunch at Cittadella or wait for Bassano del Grappa, at the foothills of the Dolomites. Bassano is a bigger town, so will have more places, but bear in mind a golden rule for Italy: post-2pm, good restaurants close until the evening.
Bassano is bigger than Cittadella, so will have more places, but bear in mind a golden rule for Italy: post-2pm, good restaurants close until the evening.
On the way to Bassano, stop off at a distillery or winery that offers tastings. This is a prime wine-producing area, and for those who like their drinks (hi again, Rudi!) it is also the birthplace of the eponymous spirit, Grappa, made from the discarded parts of the grape after the wine-making process is complete (hence the distilleries). The Poli Museum of Grappa within Bassano itself offers tastings alongside a history of the spirit. Afterwards, spend a nice quiet evening in Basssano by the river, under the shadow of the mountains.
Day 2 (AM) – Time to Asiago
Depending on how much grappa you consumed last night, set the alarm for an appropriate time and, after breakfast, which in Italy usually consists of cappuccino + solitary pastry + hunger pangs by 10am, keep pressing on northwards, up into the mountains. Your target is Asiago, part of an area known as the Sette Comuni (<– remember to go to the bottom of the article for the associated fun fact), or Seven Villages, located on the Altopiano di Asiago.
The traditional Italian breakfast consists of a cappuccino, a solitary pastry, and hunger pangs by 10am
For a successful Italian culinary trip, wherever you might be, there are two local products to taste: wine and cheese. The wine/grappa was taken care of yesterday, and here in Asiago, famous for its eponymous DOP cheese, you can take care of the other half. Not to be missed is the monumental and deeply sobering war memorial to those who fell during the fierce battle fought here in World War I, located on the outskirts of the town.
Day 2 (PM) – Dolomite = Right
The rest of today should be spent driving. The Dolomites are among the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and you really can’t go wrong driving around them. Pick a road, the smaller the better, and enjoy the ride.
As a general indicator of direction, aim to reach Belluno by early evening. Depending on when your flight leaves the next day, you can spend the morning exploring the town. You’re about an hour from Treviso Airport, and maybe a bit more from Venice. Buon viaggio!
Fun Facts to Impress Your Travel Partners:
- Much like Washington D.C. and Washington State, Venice (Venezia in Italian) is not located in the region with which it shares a name, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
- The Sette Comuni are grouped by their common dialect, the high-German-based Cimbrian. Fascism all but put paid to Cimbrian and today it is spoken by only a handful of people.
- DOP = Denominazione di Origine Protetta, known as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in English (you’ll get bonus points with your travel partner for being able to say it in Italian though). Refers to products which can only be called a certain name if they come from a specific region, such as Parma Ham or Champagne.
- The Dolomites are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of 51 in Italy, which is more than any other country in the world!
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-The Wandering Jew-