Despite the fact that I studied art history at university, after Rome and Florence, we were on historical and cultural ‘overload.’ We knew that like fine wine and great food, we needed a break to experience ‘la dolce vita’ and not rush our Veneto & Venice experience. Firmly believing that the charm of the Veneto community extended well beyond the lagoon, we grabbed a rental car at the Maestro station and headed for the countryside before venturing to Venezia, reportedly the most visited city in the world.
Travelling by car was much easier then I expected since Italians drive on the same side of the road as North Americans and the GPS system made navigating a synch (well almost!). Gradually the urban landscape gave way to the rolling hills of the Vicenza valley, and 65 km later we were in the heart of the Grappa Mountains and Valboddiandene wine country. With little effort we soon found ourselves meandering along the Prosecco Road, popping into small local vineyards to sample the region’s specialty before checking at the Asolo Golf Resort. As we headed to our guesthouse, we couldn’t help but notice the lushness of the golf course on one side of the winding drive and the orderly rows of grapes on the other – ‘nine and wine’ in total harmony. It was at that moment that our decision to temporarily escape the hustle and bustle of the big cities was the right choice.
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.
Written by Edward Kiersh (Photos supplied by properties)
It was a mystery that went unsolved, at least for this one day in Paradise.
No one in the inviting Menaggio and Cadenabbia clubhouse knew where their most famous member was, so the speculation grew. Was he off shooting a movie in Sardinia? Or just lying low in his villa on the shores of Lake Como, away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi?
Amid these swirling questions about the fame and fortune of George Clooney—the club’s 12-handicap golfer who everyone described as “just a down to earth regular guy”. Playing this heavily-forested, stunningly-beautiful hillside test of precise drives, painfully-narrow fairways and dramatically-contoured greens often becomes an afterthought. The shaded outdoor terrace, along with the cozy library, stocked with the second largest collection of golf publications in Europe (1200 volumes) is that relaxing.
by Edward Kiersh
Go back in time. Way back in time, over 1000 year to the days of feudal defense systems, medieval castles, and to a serene, undisturbed setting near the Po River in Italy that still epitomizes all the glories once enjoyed by noble families.
All this awaits those explorers who want to combine discovering a Golf Eldorado along with famed culinary delights in this Emilia-Romagna part of Italy, a region where the legendary prosciutto is as glorious as the scenery.
The jumping off point for this golfing/culture adventure is the Antico Borgo di Tabiano Castello. Built on the ruins of an 11th Century Roman settlement, this painstakingly-restored village/boutique hotel, while once the center of the struggle between Vatican and Imperial forces, is now a citadel of calm.
So indulge, be rejuvenated, whether that means a spa treatment, a long dip in the pool, visiting a few other nearby castles, or enjoying some famous Parma ham. But then comes difficulties, the tough choice. In this valley of rolling hillsides and dairy farms, which of the 9 nearby courses (all within 1 1/2 hours from Tabiano), will be tackled?
by Edward Kiersh
Bergamo Italy – 3378 yards, extremely-tight fairways, and countless blind shots to microscopic greens all add up to pure deviltry, a par-seeker’s Hell.
So how does one prepare for the undulating fairways, sharp doglegs, and Alpine streams that complicate and doom even the best of shots?
Before heading to Bergamo’s L’Albenza Golf Club, once home to famous European Tour player Constantine Rocca, extreme measures might be necessary.
In intriguing Bergamo, an often-ignored, medieval-walled, “upper city” between Milan and Venice in northern Italy, that may well mean invoking golf’s gods—praying to them and asking for a blessed touch on L’Albenza’s dauntingly-slick, treacherously-sloped greens.
It’s unknown if Rocca, a runner-up at the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews believed in such saintly intervention, but before tackling L’Albenza’s 27 holes it’s best to get a good night’s sleep in the “upper city’s” boutique Gombit Hotel—and to find some heavenly inspiration in the towering Santa Maria Maggiore church.
As published in the July issue of Planet Golf Review Magazine
by Jane Finn
I love my wine … sometimes a little too much … especially on a Friday evening after a long week of too much work and too little fun but a ten day Tuscan golf and wine vacation has taught me not only how to swirl, sniff and sip a fine glass of Chianti but even more importantly, how to be in the moment and savour the entire experience.
Every month in Tuscany offers endless possibilities to indulge your passion for golf and wine but if you are as fortunate as we were to visit in September, every corner of the region is a whirlwind of festivals dedicated to the celebration of the grapes. The medieval village of Greve sits at the epicentre of the verdant Chianti valley that lies between Florence and Siena and I can’t think of a better place to start your own personal nine and wine odyssey.
by Edward Kiersh
Villa Castagnola Italy – The adventure begins by first snaking past long-abandoned border outposts, into and out of Switzerland and Italy every few miles. Houses and small hillside farms also seem to be forsaken, and that’s understandable. The one lane roads here, twisting and turning, are mean and harrowing, edging precariously close to cliffs dropping off into oblivion.
It wasn’t easy leaving the comfortable confines of the five-star, Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola, an 1880-built getaway once home to a noble Russian family that sits wondrously right on Lake Lugano. Instead of braving “mad” Italian drivers hurtling through hairpin turns, it would have been far less blood-curdling to sit at one of the Villa’s bars smoking a Cuban cigar, dining in the Michelin-starred Gallery Arté al Lago restaurant, or simply watching the world go by in the Castagnola’s sculpture garden.
“Asolo Mio” Asolo Golf Club – Italy by Dave Finn
Not exactly the words penned by the famed Italian poet Giovanni Capurro in 1898 for the classic song “O Sole Mio” but the lyrics definitely inspired me as we left behind the hustle and bustle of the Venice train station.
What a beautiful thing is a sunny day … But another sun, that’s brighter still…It’s my own sun that’s upon your face!
My ever smiling face reflected how truly blessed I was to be able to freely enjoy Italian history, heritage, food and wine in my quest to write these articles for you, but I had another reason to smile that I am sure you will appreciate. You can’t go to Italy and not check out the cathedrals, museums, famous fountains and statues. Everything we saw was fabulous, don’t get me wrong but I was feeling the need for wide open spaces, preferably with a club in my hand, and I knew I was less than a couple of hours away from hitting the links!
by Jane Finn
Siena Italy – If you are a history buff or a horse-racing fan then more than likely you know that Siena continues to operate as a true medieval city. Ruled by its 17 contrades, every year the city hosts the world renowned Il Palio, a serious, no-holds barred, bareback race around the stunning Piazza del Campo, where the winning team earns nothing more than the all important victory flag and a year’s worth of bragging rights.
Have you ever dreamed of playing golf among the ancient landscapes of Europe, so steeped with history that you can almost taste it? Well I can! It’s September and the roads and hillsides of the Chianti region of Tuscany are lined with row upon row of grapes almost ready to harvest. Last night, we’re in Greve celebrating the season and sampling wine and olive oil. Today I played my first round in Italy at the oldest Golf Club in the country. How cool is that?