Villas and Vines - A Wine Tour through the Veneto | Italy / by Leslie Rosa

In the picturesque region of the Veneto, renowned wine-producing vines mingle harmoniously with classically-proportioned Palladian villas, offering visitors an insightful and multi-sensory experience of the Venetian Empire’s rich history.

By the 16th Century, the Venetian Republic had fortified its defenses and carried out important public works on the mainland. The sense of security it ushered in along with the newfound infrastructure made it possible for Venetian nobility and wealthy merchants to build villas (country homes) where they could delight in the joys of bucolic living.

Villa di Maser – View from the Vineyard | Copyright Villa di Maser

Villa di Maser – View from the Vineyard | Copyright Villa di Maser

Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), whose name will forever be synonymous with the revival of classical Roman architecture, quickly became the nobility’s architect of choice. His consideration of the dualistic nature of the villa—as both retreat and working farm and vineyard—resulted in the harmonious blending together of art, life and nature.

Most Palladian villas are found in the provinces directly outside of Venice: Treviso, Vicenza, and Padua. (In 1996, UNESCO added “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto” to the World Heritage List.) It was thanks to the settlement of these areas that the wine regions we love today—from the prosecco-bearing hills of Valdobbiadene, Conegliano and Asolo, to the mostly Bordeaux variety-producing Berici and Euganean Hills—were able to flourish.

This Itinerary takes you on a journey full of Palladian wonder, exceptional wineries, charming hill towns, traditional trattorie—all at a provincial pace. Are you ready?

 

Monday—Day 1

The Hills Are Alive With Prosecco

10:30 a.m.—Winery Visit and Lunch: Borgoluce

What better way to kick off your Villas & Vines tour than with a little bubbly. Located in the town of Susegana, Borgoluce is an ecologically-conscious, working farm and winery that produces a plethora of products including D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore, mozzarella di buffala, extra virgin olive oil and various charcuterie. Enjoy a tasting (call for an appointment) of the Brut, Extra Dry and Rive di Collalto Prosecco as well as several still wines: the Belgelso (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano blend) and the velvety Merlot are not to be missed. If the Estate’s osteria is open (Wed – Sun, 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.), reserve a table and enjoy a menu incorporating the farm’s labors of love, otherwise, visit the shop and select supplies for a picnic the likes Hemingway would approve of.

2:30 p.m.—A Tale of Two Sisters Winery Visit: Sorelle Bronca

Tucked away in the small town of Colbertaldo, just further up the River Piave from Susegana, is Sorelle Bronca, a stellar winery run by two sisters (sorelle) and their families. Stop into the tasting room (Mon – Sat, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sat morning only) and be sure to try Particella 68, a complex and elegant prosecco made from the best grapes from a particularly prized vineyard block, and Ser Bele, a Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend that offers hints of cassis and black pepper.

4:30 p.m.—R & R

Check into one of the four harmoniously appointed rooms in Salis House, a boutique hotel and spa in Valdobbiadene. Enjoy your access to the wellness center and pool or book a spa treatment before dinner at the Salis’ fine-dining restaurant that overlooks the most prized prosecco real estate address of them all: the craggy hill of Cartizze.

Paolo Veronese – Bacco e i pastori | Copyright Villa di Maser

Paolo Veronese – Bacco e i pastori | Copyright Villa di Maser

TuesdayDay 2

Have No Fear, Palladio is Here

11:00 a.m.—Villa di Maser and Lunch

Villa di Maser (also known as Villa Barbaro) was created in the mid-16th Century for the Barbaro Brothers, important ambassadors in Europe at that time. Andrea Palladio as your architect + Paolo Veronese as your fresco artist = one amazing-looking villa. The richly painted interior rooms includes a room dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine and good times—a fitting theme as today the estate is a working farm and winery. Call ahead to make an appointment for a tasting and “light lunch”, which consists of four courses and five wines (Prosecco, Manzoni Bianco, Carmenere and two proprietary red blends).

3:00 p.m.—Villa Emo

Thought to be one of the purest expressions of Palladio’s classical ideals, the simple elegance of Villa Emo does not disappoint. The interior frescoes were created by one of Palladio’s favorite artists, Giovanni Battista Zelotti, and depict mythological scenes related to agrarian life and the commitment to the land, highlighting the harmony between man and nature—a common motif in Venetian villa decoration.

Villa Emo

Villa Emo

5:00 p.m.—Hill Town of Asolo

One can’t miss the chance to visit Asolo—referred to as “the pearl of the Veneto.” Wander the quaint cobblestone streets and have an aperitivo at Caffé Central before dinner at La Trave, a friendly osteria on the outskirts of town. Enjoy a meal of traditional recipes and seasonal goodness, such as the gnocchi with quail and vegetable ragu, before heading back to Salis for sogni d’oro (golden dreams).

WednesdayDay 3

Bridging the Grappa

 11:00 a.m.—Ponte Vecchio and Lunch

Ponte Vecchio or Ponte degli Alpini, the covered bridge that stretches over the Brenta leading into the heart of the town Bassano del Grappa, was designed by Palladio in 1569. Though not the original (whisked away by a severe flood), nor the second (blown up by retreating Germans forces during WWII), this third rendition of the beloved wooden bridge was reconstructed using Palladio’s original drawings. Take in the lovely mountain views and socializing locals, then explore the charming city center before lunch at Ristorante Cardellino, a historic restaurant serving traditional recipes such as risotto con asparagi in the heart of Bassano.

2:30 p.m.—Museo della Grappa

Next up is a visit to the museum dedicated to Bassano del Grappa’s main claim to fame: grappa—the potent brandy made from the remains of pressed grapes. Poli, one of the city’s important grappa distilleries, created the museum and offers tastings of their grappa—from the giovane (young) to the stravecchia (aged) grappas to the various infused versions—at the end of your tour.

View from Ponte Vecchio | Photo Credit-Leslie Rosa

View from Ponte Vecchio | Photo Credit-Leslie Rosa

5:00 p.m.—A Taste of Vicenza and Dinner

Settle in at the trendy Glam Boutique Hotel in the heart of Vicenza, aka The City Palladio Built, then venture out for a tartine and glass of wine from the region, such as Gambellara, a mineral-driven white wine, or Barbarano, made from the fruity, native grape Tai Rosso, at Fiaschetteria Da Renzo just off of Piazza dei Signori. Save some room for dinner at Antico Ristorante Agli Schioppo, where you must try the baccalà alla vicentina (salted cod cooked with white wine, onions, anchovies, cinnamon and milk) preferably on a bed of piping hot polenta.

ThursdayDay 4

Palladio on a Pedestal

9:30 a.m.—Teatro Olimpico

The Teatro Olimpico was designed by Palladio to be a permanent theater for a Vicentinian artists club, the Accademia Olimpico, in 1580. Palladio died before its completion, leaving his son and Vicenzo Scamozzi to breathe life into his Roman theater revival plans. As one of the city’s architectural gems, they certainly did not let Palladio down.

11:00 a.m.—Palladio Museum + Lunch

To learn more about Palladio’s genius, make your way to the Palladio Museum. Housed in Palazzo Barbarano—the only palace Palladio ever completely oversaw (architecture and decorative interiors)—the museum displays a rotating collection of Palladio’s drawings and plans, together with models, photographs and state-of-the-art video displays. After such an orderly visit, head to lunch at the chaotic Righetti, a self-serve cafeteria in Piazza Duomo popular with the locals.

2:00 p.m.—Palladio Crawl

With two dozen palazzi designed by Palladio within the city’s walls, just wandering the streets of Vicenza is a lesson in Palladian history. The Palladio Museum will provide you with several Palladian walking itineraries to choose from (or you can check out the ones on www.visitpalladio.com). Take your time admiring the classical façades, perhaps stopping along the way for some caffeine or sugar in the form of espresso and gelato.

4:30 p.m.—Villa Rotonda and Dinner

A couple of miles outside of Vicenza, majestically stands Villa La Rotonda, commissioned to be the residence for a retired Vatican priest. This perfectly symmetrical villa with four façades and a circular central chamber topped by a cupola is one of Palladio’s greatest legacies to the field of architecture. The lavishly frescoed salons full of religious imagery reflect the owner’s pious lifetime. After promenading the grounds, drive 15 minutes south to Trattoria Zamboni, a family-run restaurant with a lovely panorama of the surrounding Berici Hills. Their 800+ wine list (mostly local wines from the D.O.C. Colli Berici region) and seasonal tasting menu will tantalize your palate.

FridayDay 5

The Euganean Hills

10:30 a.m.—Winery Visit: Ca’ Lustra

Today, we start making our way back to Venice, but not without a romp through the often overlooked Euganean Hills. The tasting room at Ca’ Lustra, a winery run by the Zanovello Family right at the foot of a beautiful regional park, is our first stop. Must trys are the structured white Pedevanda (D.O.C. Colli Euganei Manzoni Bianco) and the Sassonero (D.O.C. Colli Euganei Merlot), a unique and rich expression of the volcanic soils and red limestone of the Euganean Hills. The D.O.C.G. Fior d’Arancio Spumante and Passito (both made from 100% Fior d’Arancio aka Moscato Giallo) will ensure your tasting ends on a sweet note.

Ca’Lustra in Valle de Faedo

Ca’Lustra in Valle de Faedo

12:30 p.m.—Arqua Petrarca and Lunch

Lunch is at Ristorante La Montanella, just a 20 minute drive south in the lovely town of Arqua Petrarca, home to the poet Petrarch during his final years. This elegant restaurant owned by the Borin family offers local specialties that pair perfectly to the regional wines, such as gallina padovana (Paduan hen) stewed with pine nuts and raisins. If the weather permits it, dine al fresco surrounded by the restaurant’s lovely garden.

3:00 p.m.—Winery Visit: Vignalta

After lunch, head up the hill where Vignalta’s bright and cheerful tasting room awaits you. Take in the hilltop views while you savor the D.O.C. Gemola Colli Euganei Rosso (70% Merlot + 30% Cabernet Franc) and I.G.T. Marrano Rosso del Veneto (50% Cabernet Sauvignon + 50% Merlot).

4:30 p.m.—Castello di Lispida and Dinner

Check into your enchanting digs at Castello di Lispida, a monastery turned private residence turned wine resort. If you visit between April and October, soak in the heated swimming pool with hydromassage jets in the historic greenhouse before getting ready for dinner at the nearby Trattoria La Tavolozza. Try the roasted pigeon or duck breast with a honey-balsamic glaze made entirely will locally-sourced products.

SaturdayDay 6

Palladian Ancore! + A Fond Farewell

11:00 a.m.—Villa Visit: La Malcontenta

If you happen to drop off your wheels in Venice or Treviso on a Tuesday or Saturday, stop by Villa Foscari, more commonly known as La Malcontenta (The Discontented Woman)—a nickname given to the house when the wife of Signore Foscari supposedly strayed from her conjugal vows and was put under house arrest. Ironically, of all the Palladian villas in the Veneto, La Malcontenta is often noted for being the most jovial thanks to its small scale, location right on the Brenta canal, jovial mythological frescoes by Zelotti, and its“secret gardens”. Definitely worth the slight detour!

Close your eyes.

Now open them.

Did romantic villas and luscious grape vines flash before you?

Good… My job is done.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Salis House | Strada di Saccol, 54 | 31049 Valdobbiadene, Treviso | +39 0423 900655

G Boutique Hotel | Via A. Giuriolo, 10 | 36100 Vicenza (VI) | +39 0444326458 | www.gboutiquehotel.com

Castello di Lispida | Via IV Novembre, 4 | 35043 Monselice, Padua | +39 0429780530 | http://www.lispida.com/

RESTAURANTS

Osteria Borgoluce | Via I Morgante 2 | Susegana (TV) | +39 0438 981094 | Hours: Wed–Sun | 12:00–2:30 p.m. and 7:30–10:30 p.m

Salis Ristorante Enoteca | Str. per Saccol, 52 | 31049 Valdobbiadene (TV) | +39 0423 900561 | Hours: Daily 9 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

Osteria la Trave | Via Contrada Bernardi, 15 | Asolo (TV) 31011 | +39 0423 952292

Ristorante Cardellino | Via Bellavitis 17 | Bassano Del Grappa (VI) 36061 | +39 0424 220144 | Hours: Fri–Wed  12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. and 6:30–10:00 p.m.

Trattoria Ponte Delle Bele | Contrà Ponte delle Bele, 5 | 36100 Vicenza (VI) | +39 0444 320647 | Hours: Mon–Sat 12:00–2:15 p.m. and 7:00–10:00 p.m.

Self Restaurant Righetti | Piazza Duomo, 3 | VIicenza (VI) | +39 0444 543135 | Hours: Mon–Fri | 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. | 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. (Sun lunch only)

Antico Ristorane Agli Schioppi | Piazza Del Castello SNC | 36100 Vicenza (VI) | + 39 0444 543701 | Hours: Tue–Sat 12:00–2:00 p.m. and 7:00–10:00 p.m. (Sun lunch only)

Trattoria Zamboni | Via S. Croce 73 (Strada per Lago di Fimon) | 36057 Lapio di Arcugnano (VI) | +39 0444 273079 | Hours: Wed–Sun 11:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m.

Ristorante La Montanella | Via dei Carraresi, 9 | 35032 Arqua Petrarca (PD) | + 39 0429 718200 | Hours: Mon–Fri (Closed Wed) 10:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m. and Sat–Sun 10:00 a.m.–12:00 a.m.

La Tavolozza | Via Boschette, 2 | 35038 Torregli (PD) | +39 049 521 1063 | Hours: Mon–Sun (Closed Wed; Thu Dinner only) 12:30–2:00 p.m. and 7:30–10:00 p.m.

HOW TO GET THERE

The two major airports in the vicinity are Venice Marco Polo and the Treviso International Airport. Rental Car companies are available directly at the airports and in the town centers of Venice (Piazzale Roma) and Treviso (Various locations).

POINTS OF INTEREST

Borgoluce | Via I Morgante 2 | Susegana (TV) | +39 0438 981094 | Hours: Tasting and Tour by appointment | http://www.borgoluce.it/en/

Sorelle Bronca Tasting Room | Via Martiri, 20 | 31020 Colbertaldo di Vidor (TV) | +39 0423 987201 | Hours: Mon–Sat (Sat morning only) | 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. | http://www.sorellebronca.com/index.php

Villa Emo | Via Stazione, 5 | 31050 Fanzolo di Vedelago (TV) | + 39 0423.476334 | http://www.villaemo.org/index.asp?lingua=EN

Villa di Maser | Via Barbaro 4, 31010 Maser (TV) | +39 0423 923004 | Hours: Check site for exact hours | http://www.villadimaser.it/en

Poli Grappa Museum | Via Gamba 6 (Ponte Vecchio) | 36061 Bassano del Grappa (VI) | Tel. +39 0424 524426 | Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m.- 9.30 p.m. | http://www.grappa.com/eng/bassano-premises.php

Teatro Olimpico | Piazza Matteotti 11 | 36100Vicenza (VI) | Tel. +39 0444 222800 | Hours: Mon–Sat | 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 4:30–7:30 p.m. | http://www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/en.html

Palladio Museum | Palazzo Barbarano | Contra’ Porti, 11 | 36100 Vicenza (VI) | tel. + 39 0444 323014 | Hours: Tue–Sun |10:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m. | http://www.palladiomuseum.org/?lang=en

Villa La Rotonda | Via della Rotonda, 45 | 36100 Vicenza (VI) | +39 0444 321793 | Hours: Check website for exact hours | http://www.villalarotonda.it/en/homepage.htm

Ca’ Lustra Zanovello Tasting Room | Via San Pietro, 50 | 35030 Cinto Euganeo (PD) | + 39 0429-94128 | Opening times: Mon–Sat 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 2:30–6:30 p.m.; Sun 10.00 a.m.–12.30 p.m. and 2.30–6.30 p.m. | Hours: Groups and guided tours by appointment | http://www.calustra.it/en/

Vignalta Tasting Room | Via dei Vescovi, 4 | 35038  Luvigliano di Torreglia (PD) | +39 049 9933105 | Hours: Tue–Sun 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 – 7:00 p.m. | http://www.vignalta.it/en/


Leslie Rosa is a sommelier and founder of La Dolce Vigna, a wine + culture tour company that offers intimate and authentic experiences in Italy and California.