By Edward Kiersh
Sitting alongside the Grand Canal outside the Grand Hotel Monaco, a glass of sparkling Prosecco in hand while watching the gondoliers ply through the dark water, it’s easy to understand why Venice is such a fabled city. It’s frenetic, throbbing with energy, a city on the brink of environmental disaster due to the surging lagoon, but still a place of mystery, surprises and seduction.
Go to any bar in the non-touristy Cannaregio district or away from San Marco Square and enjoy a giro d’ombra, a night crawl between cafes to savor plates of cicchetti, small fried fish dishes that come with prosciutto, olives, cheeses and other wonders.
Drink a Bellini at the tiny and romantic Harry’s Bar.
Stand on the Accademia Bridge to watch the vaporetti navigating through the Canal.
And for dinner head for Vini da Gigio, a small family-run trattoria owned by two incredibly-friendly owners who have been serving Venetian fish dishes for 40 years. Here the pasta with crab is a must, as is the squid in black ink with polenta.
Equally delightful—and a way to discover Venice’s intriguing artistic life—stay at Silvia Onda’s elegant apartment (firstname.lastname@example.org) that is conveniently located to the city’s most iconic attractions. Onda is an artist who helps guests discover “hidden Venice,” cafes, palazzos and experiences that leave indelible memories.
But a trip to this part of the world would be very incomplete without visiting other parts of the Veneto—the lovely region surrounding Venice and leading to the mountainous Dolomites.
Visit Romeo and Juliet in Verona. Their reputed, Shakespearean love nest is usually thronged with tourists, so feast on a pizza at Sapore, or climb the city’s famed Roman arena.
Nearby is the even more inspiring, arcade-lined town of Padua, the medieval home to the exquisite Giotto Frescoes. Remarkably-colored and transcendental, these 14th Century masterpieces in the Cappella degli Scrovegni are only one of the wonders in this charming town. Sit in the busy marketplace outside a small cafe, take a long walk under the arcades to various, architecturally-exquisite squares flecked with bell towers, and then go to the Villa Spagolla (email@example.com), where Giuliana Banzato, a seasoned travel tour operator, offers a quiet and very spacious apartment in an historic villa complete with a large swimming pool. There’s also a restful garden, and the villa is close to two golf courses, Montechia (with an array of water hazards) and Valsanzibio.
Padua is so well located in the Veneto, it’s also easy to visit the heart of Sparkle, Italy’s winding Prosecco Road connecting about 30 cantine in the mountainsides close to Valdobbiadene and Asolo.
Here the views of vineyards perched precariously on hillsides are spectacular, as is the breathtaking terrain at the Asolo Golf Club. Throughout this fascinating area there are numerous picturesque abbeys and cloisters, and as for a beautifully-silky Prosecco stop at the Ruggeri winery. Modest, always-hospitable owner Paolo Ruggeri is often seen working in the vineyards, and his Giustino B. has been awarded “Best Sparkling Wine of Italy” several times. It’s a unforgettable treat.
So is Asolo, a town dating back to the 6th Century where there are numerous stunning churches, squares and castles. Several famed 1950s French writers like Simone de Beauvoir used to summer here, and as for lodging, that poses a very difficult choice. There’s the intimate, 29-room Hotel Cipriani with an enchanting restaurant, garden and swimming pool, or equally-luscious villa accommodations in Alessandra Cappellotto’s vineyard house (firstname.lastname@example.org) situated in nearby Monfumo.
A competitive cyclist who participated in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, she’s passionate about her Prosecco vines and olive trees that surround her in the serene countryside—and is equally dedicated to providing her guests with a calming, rejuvenated oasis where time seems to stand wondrously still. A stay here, or anywhere in the idyllic Venice and Veneto, will long be cherished.
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