Treviso and Surrounds

img_1695
Breakfast provided ample fuel before heading out.

Jim read that Treviso is a lovely city on the banks of a river with the friendliest people in Italy. Today, we went to fact-check. Well, it is lovely, and it does have a largish stream running through it, and the guy in the gelato shop was indeed friendly.

img_1696
The river splits and goes around the town.
img_1699
This is known as the men’s square. We never found the women’s square. Hmm.

We did have a little issue with the tourist information office though. There are two signs in the city that direct you to the tourist information office and one of them is on the door. We found the office pretty much by accident after “touring” for an hour on our own. Here’s the part that got us. They don’t have maps of the city to provide information to tourists, which seemed to us to be the point of having tourist information. They did let us take a photo of the one map they had. When asked about how to get to the weekly market, the answer was, “Go right until you see it.” What she really meant was, “Go away until you find it.” We wandered for another long stretch and did indeed find it by accident.

img_1698
We walked along the walls of the city until we saw the weekly market.

Anyway, the town was pretty, and folks were out and about. The gelato shop was an A+.

img_1700
Treviso says they invented tiramisu. We don’t know how many other towns claim the same thing.
img_5260
A gelato shop that has been in business since 1947 has to be doing many things right.

Fueled with gelato, we drove to another Palladian villa. We got our first clear (but distant) view of the snow-capped Dolomites on the way.

img_1703

There was a wedding at the villa today and the setting was lovely with no additional decorations needed. The walls of the villa are painted with gods involved in various deeds of derring-do or debauchery.

img_1704

A lovely peacock mosaic on the porch
A lovely peacock mosaic on the porch
You may be able to make out a small robot lawn mower. Poor little, determined thing.
You may be able to make out a small robot lawn mower. Poor, little, determined thing.
The view the bride and groom have
The view enjoyed by the bride and groom.

For our final dinner of the trip, we went to La Loggia in Vitterio Veneto for some pasta. Oh my. We had a salad with bacon, shrimp, green olives, tomatoes, and creamy hunks of gorgonzola. Cindy had pasta with mushrooms, speck, and cream that would make a person feel like singing. Jim had pasts with sausage, black olives, tomatoes, and pecorino. Both were awesome. A little panna cotta with chocolate and strawberries topped it off nicely. We had a bit of prosecco in honor of this lovely part of the world.img_1718 img_1719 img_1717

img_5292

It has been great. This is the image of the Veneto we’ll hold in our heads as we think back. We’ll mentally sit down in these chairs, exhale, and try to hear the church bells again.

img_0274

The Dynamite Dolomites

Cindy took an early morning stroll around our inn and managed to take a couple of photos of the area before the buzz of the day began.

img_1639 img_1640 img_1641 img_1642

Another day, another breakfast on another terrace overlooking the countryside. We are celebrating every moment of it. Italy mean lots of things to lots of people, but chocolate hazelnut spread on tables rather than salt or pepper is as good a generalization as any. We love that.

img_1646

Enough frescos for a while—today we headed up into the mountains to visit Mother Nature. The song running as the backdrop for much of the morning was Barbra Streisand singing, “On a Clear Day.” Today wasn’t. I bet on a clear day you can see forever, but today we could just see what was in front of us for a rather short distance. We walked around the mountain town of Belluno for a while this morning and realized that if we wanted to see the mountains, we’d need to get closer to them.

img_5221
Belluno is a sister city of a place we like a lot—Bend, Oregon.

We drove to the Dolomite National Park. We stopped at a Kanguro (that’s how it is spelled) grocery to pick up picnic supplies and just wander around the grocery looking at what they sell versus what we can find at home. Some of the major differences are the meats, cheeses, chocolates, and juices. Cindy really wanted some goat cheese and we finally found some fresh goat cheese that was sitting looking lonely among the aisles of cow cheeses.

We headed into the national park and managed to find the perfect lunch spot. I trust that the scenery made every bite taste better. It was hard to focus on our bread, cheese, fruit, and peach juice with such beauty around. We kept stopping to take pictures of the clouds dancing among the rocks on mountains you could almost touch. I was reminded of a favorite hymn.

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

img_1677

img_1657 img_1676

 

At breakfast we asked our innkeeper about a type of prosecco that Chef Isa had suggested. It is called cartizze. We have since learned that it is the “grand cru” of prosecco and comes from one hill near the V-town we visited yesterday. We plugged in the GPS and headed out on our quest. After many twists and turns, we ended at Garbara Winery and met the owner/winemaker. An early birthday gift is coming home with us to be tasted with the Webers in the near future.

The former town of Serravale got a good bit of our attention this afternoon. I say “former” because Serravale and the nearby town of Ceneda were combined in 1866 to create the city of Vittorio Veneto (to mark the inclusion of Veneto in the Kingdom of Italy). We have to assume King Vittorio Emmanuel II liked the new name.

In Serravale there are the ruins of a 1st century B.C. wall.

img_5239

The arched walkways were perfect for a walk on an afternoon with a bit of a drizzle. img_1679

img_5243
We are certain there is a great story that goes with the canal, but we do not know what it is yet.

We stepped into a church with a Titian alterpiece. Serravale also has a tree-lined boulevard with beaux arts versions of McMansions on both sides of the street. This town had, and still has, some serious money. At one point, the sun broke through and sent shafts of light onto the mountains. It was magical.

img_5247

Rather than a lavish feast for dinner, we stopped at a local shop and picked up some marinated artichokes, marinated mushrooms, stuffed tomatoes, and small meatballs to enjoy with a glass of our innkeeper’s wine for dinner. What a lovely way to cap off a full day.

Driving in the Veneto

For many months Cindy has been thinking about waking up at La Scuola and sitting out on the terrace to watch the world wake up. It happened this morning. Ahhhhh.

img_5184

When the rest of the world did wake up, we were treated to a breakfast of warm pear tarts, granola, yogurt, breads, local apple juice, and a cappuccino for Jim (he’s getting very used to cappuccino each morning). We don’t remember breakfasts at school being like this when we were kids.

img_5188
Local cheese and speck
img_5190-1
Pear tarts
img_5187
Can you tell that the host has a graphics design background?

We then headed down the mountain, past several dozen hairpin turns (we are so glad that we have a tiny Smart car — primarily for maneuverability). After driving the better part of an hour, we located another Palladio villa. The Villa di Maser (http://www.villadimaser.it/en), also called the Villa Barbaro, is another pleasure palace built by Palladio. Here he broke away a bit from the Roman temple format and created more of a country estate, complete with a grotto behind the building. They didn’t allow pictures at this villa either, so we can’t show you the lovely frescoes that adorned the interior. They were quite playful, showing family members, dogs, and creating a not-too-stuffy trompe-l’oeil effect that was enjoyable to peruse. A family lives in the home today. Imagine.

img_5194
Curb appeal? Indeed.
img_5198
The two horses help with the mowing.
img_1628
Isn’t the fence cool?

As we pulled away, the heavens opened for the first time this trip. It’s been warm and humid for much the time we’ve been in Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy, so today’s clouds and rain were actually quite welcome.

We pointed the car to Prosecco country, starting in its capital — Valdobbiadene (hard to pronounce, so we call it V-town). We had lunch there, which included a salad (something green!) and a glass of a variety of Prosecco called Cartizze, which we found out later is grown on a special hill near to V-town.

img_5202
A little porchetta lunch
img_1632
At last, a green salad!
img_1631
Valdobbiadene sits at the base of some impressive hills. This is their war memorial.

We left V-town and started driving toward the number two Processo town — Conegliano. The countryside around V-town was stunningly beautiful, even in the rain. Unlike France’s Champagne region, which has fields of champagne grapes one after the other in a monoculture, the Prosecco region is very hilly, with forests, fields of very tall grapes, little villages, and a much less formal feeling than France. A great bottle of Prosecco costs $20, while the best Champagne is four or five figures a bottle. And frankly, our untrained palates can’t detect differences that would justify paying more than $20.

We stopped at one winery to see if they had a special type of Prosecco creation called Passito — they pick the grapes late, after they’ve shriveled up on the vine and basically become raisins. When pressed, they produce a sweet, raisin-y, amber liquid that’s great as an after-dinner drink. In the States, it would be hard to find, but it’s readily available here and cheap. Add another bottle to the suitcase.

img_5205img_5206

For the next few nights we’re staying at a small inn near Vittorio Veneto. The owners also have a vineyard and produce lovely wine.  http://www.alice-relais.com/en/index.html

img_1637
The view from my chair on the terrace
img_1635
A glass of the owner’s wine with some nibbles as we watch the sky clear and the sun shut down for the day

img_1634  We had dinner at a very local spot, Al Larin, where grilled meat is the specialty. The meat is grilled on a open hearth in the dining room. We enjoyed perfectly cooked steaks.

img_5213

img_5212
Nothing makes a place cozy like a roaring fire.
img_5214
Vegetable terrine with a sauce of local cheese
img_5215
Potato gnocchi with duck ragu
img_5218
Perhaps not a great place for vegetarians

Time for School and the Best Lasagna in the Universe

We bid a fond farewell to Vicenza and to our home in Portico Rosso. We could not have asked for a finer place to call home or for a hostess who could have made us feel more welcome.

We started our day’s touring at La Rotunda. This Palladian home/villa/suburban palazzo, was one of the buildings that gave Jefferson his idea for Monticello. Unfortunately they don’t let you take photos inside the villa, so you’ll need to look here. http://www.villalarotonda.it/en/homepage.htm

I thought it would be non-homey inside, but it was oddly comfortable. Okay, there were frescoes of gods and such everywhere you turned, but the rooms seemed human-scaled and there was beautiful light and airflow in every room. It really was impressive without being overpowering.

Palladio influenced the “vocabulary” of architecture in the late 1500s by writing four books — I quattro libri dell’architettura (The Four Books of Architecture). He studied Roman buildings and created a “pattern book” of sorts for other architects to follow. Much of the formal, civic architecture in Europe and North America in the centuries that followed used aspects of Palladian design. We’ll see another one of his villas tomorrow.

img_5120 img_5132 With Stephen Fry and our little Smart car, we headed toward our next stop­—Asiago. You know how much we love cheese. We had to make a pilgrimage. Stephen and his GPS brain kept trying to send us one way and we were determined to go a different way into the hills. We knew we were on the route we needed to be on when every single billboard was about cheese or butter. When in doubt, go in the direction of cheese and butter. Asiago felt very Alpine compared to the stucco of Venice, Padua, and Verona. We felt like we were back in the mountains of Slovenia.

img_5135

We purchased some aged Asiago, speck (ham) from Asiago, and little pastries from a cute little shop. These came together for a lovely picnic lunch.

img_5138

img_5136
Dessert wrapped as a present with care

Our next stop was Bassano del Grappa. Grappa? Yes, that grappa.

img_5140-1

Bassano del Grappa has a covered wooden bridge that crosses the river and there are grappa tasting rooms at both ends. Jim had a little taste and is still alive to tell of it.

Hemingway spent time in Bassano as part of his service in World War I (parts of A Farewell to Arms take place around Bassano), and Fitzgerald and Dos Passos also served there. The wooden bridge has been destroyed numerous times in wars over the centuries, and there are still bullet holes in the buildings at one end. It has special significance for the Alpini — the Alpine units of Italy’s military. After a walk around the old town, we stopped for some — wait for it — gelato.

img_5147
Note the bullet holes in the wall
img_5150
An old photo of cod fishermen
img_5141
View from the bridge
img_5143
Alpine soldier

We plugged in the GPS and headed over the hills, around the hairpin turns, past the bikers who need their heads examined, and toward our most unusual B&B. La Scuola is located in an old school high in the mountains, with wonderful views over the Veneto plain. Each room is themed to relate to a content area and we are in the Science room. The hosts have a very refined eye for design. You’ll enjoy seeing the photographs on her Web site. http://www.locandalascuola.com

img_5152 img_5156 img_5157 img_5160

Osteria Sciessere is a quick drive from the La Scuola. Sit back and let us wax poetic about our meal. Chef Vittorio came out to greet us and by the smile on his face and his warm welcome, we knew we were in good hands. He told us about the menu and we just suggested that he choose for us and give us tastes of whatever he thought we would like. The first course provided tastes of pasta with speck and cherry tomatoes. It was so flavorful! Then there was mushroom lasagna that was the best lasagna I’d had until I tasted the meat lasagna. Let me just say that I may never make lasagna again because there is no way it would come close to the first course of the gods that this lasagna was. It was not layers upon layers. It was perhaps two layers of cloud-like pasta with just the best mixture of meat, cheese, and stardust. I’m starting to get emotional just writing about it. The second course was a sample of thin chicken, polenta, spinach, green beans, fried cheese, and sausage that will live on in folklore. We each had semifreddo for dessert. Without a single question, this was the best meal of the trip. Other meals need not apply. If you are ever within a day’s drive of Lusiana, make a point of checking out Osteria Sciessere. This is why we travel.

img_5172
Lasagna of the Gods
img_5171
Mushroom Lasagna of the Arch Angels
img_5175
A tasting of sausage, chicken, cheese, and vegetables
img_5178
Chocolate hazelnut semifreddo
img_5177
Semifreddo of blue fruits