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Veneto. Nature, art, history and beauty that will take your breath away

Monday, 08 November 2021 11:38

The Veneto region is a place of wonder even in the smallest things. And this makes it quite unique. Throughout the region you find small towns of extraordinary beauty where you are transported back to yesteryear; vital, modern communities that are a delightful blend of old and new. So let’s take a look at some of the region’s most beautiful small towns.

Asolo. Carducci’s “city of a hundred horizons”

Asolo is a small agricultural and artisan town in the province of Treviso and is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. It dates back to the days of the court of Caterina Cornaro, who became queen of Cyprus and then ceded the island to Venice receiving Asolo in return. From 1489 to 1509 the castle at the top of the hill was Catherine’s magnificent residence, but alas there is not much left today of that sumptuous and refined court.

asoloAsolo

For its enchanting panoramic position in the hills, also painted by Giorgione, Asolo has always attracted artists and writers from all over Europe. Among these was Giosuè Carducci, who called it "the city of a hundred horizons,” the English poet Robert Browning and Pietro Bembo, one of the most famous 16th-century scholars. Then there were the musician Gian Francesco Malipiero, who found inspiration for some of his compositions here and the famous actress Eleonora Duse who was Gabriele D'Annunzio's lover. She spent the last years of her life in Asolo and is buried in the little cemetery of Sant 'Anna in front of Mount Grappa. Asolo’s symbol is the majestic fortress that dominates the landscape from the top of Mount Ricco, and just outside the town centre golfers will find a challenging 18-hole course.

Montagnana. Fortitied cities and splendid palaces

Between the wide flat plain and the distant rounded silhouette of the Euganean and Berici hills, the view of Montagnana is an extraordinary sight with its imposing walls that stretch for almost two kilometers. Of all the fortified cities in Veneto Montagnana is the one that has best preserved its Guelph crenelated encircling walls which were built by the people of Carrara on older foundations, and are surrounded by a meadow moat with 24 towers.

montagnana venetoMontagnana

There is much to see in this town which is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. Villa Pisani, built around 1550 on a project by Andrea Palladio, is in the style of a handsome country villa even though it is right in the historic centre. Other Venetian gems are the 18th-century Monte di Pietà, the elegant Palazzo Valeri flanked by a palace with two splendid corolla fireplaces. The 19th-century Palazzo della Loggia, the Risorgimento Palazzo Santini, and the 15th-century Palazzo Pomello-Chinaglia all of which overlook the square, while the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, on the site of a former 10th-century church, has an altarpiece by Paolo Veronese. Other handsome buildings are the imposing Palazzo Sanmicheli, now the Town Hall, and the Palazzo Magnavin-Foratti in Venetian-Gothic style. And, after all this art and culture be sure not to miss the famous Veneto Euganeo Berico PDO prosciutto.


Portobuffolè. Frescoed facades and an organ with 472 pipes 

You enter the historic center from the Porta Trevisana gate which was destroyed in 1918, coming to the small refined Piazza Beccaro square and its handsome buildings, some of which have frescoed facades. From this square we come to the splendid 14th-century residence of Gaia da Camino, a cultured noblewoman immortalized by Dante in the 16th canto of Purgatory. Inside the palace you can admire 14th-century frescoes of medieval warriors and characters, and visit the Cycling Museum.

portobuffole venetoPortopuffolè

Under Venetian rule the city experienced its period of greatest splendour and was an important river port. Venice granted Portobuffolè the title of City, giving it a noble coat of arms and a podestà ruler. Portobuffolè is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy, and in the enchanting historic center, in addition to the Gaia da Camino house and museum, you can admire the old Dogana custom house, the Monte di Pietà, the Municipal Loggia, a reconstruction of a Gothic warehouse. The Cathedral, which was a Jewish synagogue before it was turned into a Christian church, has a 15th-century German-school wooden crucifix and a splendid organ from the Callido house in Venice which has 472 zinc and tin pipes.

Arquà Petrarca. Home to the great poet Francesco Petrarch 

Perhaps it was the same air of serene romanticism that still reigns today that made the poet Petrarch fall in love with this well-preserved medieval town with its elegant palaces and villas protected by the gentle Euganean Hills.

Petrarch arrived in this small town in 1370 and was so bewitched by its beauty that he decided to take up residence in a house surrounded by greenery which, according to tradition, was given to him by Francesco da Carrara, the Lord of Padua.

Petrarch died a few years later in 1374, and was buried in a red Verona marble sarcophagus in the center of the main square in front of the Santa Maria Parish Church. In Petrarch’s house there are many relics and numerous mementoes of his life and the rooms are decorated with interesting frescoes inspired by the poet’s writings.

arqua petrarca venetoArquà Petrarca

But Arquà has a much older history. In the lake of the same name, not far from the town, the remains of pile-dwellings have been found documenting the existence of a settlement in prehistoric times, making it perhaps one of the oldest towns in the entire Euganean territory. This is an exceptional site and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Arquà’s historical heritage has been enhanced in recent decades, so much so that today Arquà Petrarca is one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy.


Cison di Valmarino. Handicrafts, food and wine at the annual festival  

Cison di Valmarino is located in the province of Treviso in a valley between Vittorio Veneto and Follina, and is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. In medieval days the village was the ancient political and administrative center of the county of Valmareno. Dominating the village is the bulk of the mighty Brandolini Castle, a fortified complex built by the Da Camino family in the 12th century and subsequently transformed.

The heart of the historic center is Piazza Roma, overlooked by buildings of great architectural interest: the Church of Santa Maria Assunta with its noble 18th-century architecture, Palazzo Barbi, seat of the municipality, the Loggia Theater and the Museum of Vintage Radios. Don’t miss a visit to the Ancient Brandolini Cellars which were originally stables, and then adapted for the conservation of agricultural products. Every year in August the famous Artigianato Vivo artisan festival fills the streets with handicrafts, food and wine stalls. Cison is also an ideal destination for walks in nature such as the Via dei Mulini itinerary that reconstructs the town’s artisan roots and traditions, and ends in the valley of the Rujo river with remains of old washhouses, canals and ancient mills.


San Giorgio di Valpolicella.  A charming hilltop town

You would never expect to find this little hilltop town just a few kilometres from Lake Garda, in a setting of vineyards and olive trees. And above all, you would not expect such a stunning panoramic view stretching from Lake Garda, Verona and Valpolicella to the the Po Valley and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.

san giorgio valpolicellaSan Giorgio Valpolicella

San Giorgio di Valpolicella is the name of this hamlet of the municipality of Sant'Ambrogio di Valpolicella, a little gem in the Verona area which in 2015 became part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. If you do decide to walk up to it, seen from below the goal seems quite close but in fact it is a long climb.  However, don’t let that put you off, it is well worth the effort.  

The heart of the town is the Lombard-Romanesque Charterhouse, one of the oldest places of worship in the Verona area. Dating back to the 8th century it is built on the ruins of a pre-existing pagan sanctuary. An inscription dated 712 on one of the columns that support the arched ciborium, traces an early church back to the Lombard age, when the master stonemason Ursus and his disciples would have worked in the building during the reign of Liutprando. Inside the church there are 12th and 13th-century frescoes, and an ancient baptismal font. The valuable 12th century cloister, which leads to the frescoed parish church, is one of the most photographed spots, and the nearby museum and antiquarium are also worth a visit for the many prehistoric, artistic and folkloristic finds on display.   


Follina

Follina is a lively tourist and cultural center at the foot of the Treviso pre-Alps and is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. It is a very spiritual place and every year attracts thousands of tourists in search of peace and harmony. It is home to the Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria, one of the most renowned and beautiful artistic complexes in the area. This is well worth visiting for the sense of serenity it emanates.

follinaFollina

Among the valuable works inside we can admire the sandstone statue of the Madonna del Sacro Calice, which has always been an object of veneration and pilgrimage. The bell tower of Romanesque origin is the oldest part of the building, and the splendid cloister and 13th-century abbot's cloister should not be missed. Follina is home to many craft activities, including the processing of wool. The monks of the abbey brought this art to Follina, developing the skill of "fulling," a step in woollen clothmaking, and giving the town its name.


Mel.  An annual apple festival

Mel is part of the municipality of Borgo Valbelluna in the province of Belluno, and has ancient origins, as can be seem from the many archaeological finds on display in the Civic Archaeological Museum. The old centre is a harmonious ensemble of buildings from different periods, and the indisputable charm of this little town has earned it a place in The Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy.

MelMel

The imposing Zumelle Castle in the hamlet of Villa di Villa is the only one of its kind surviving of the Belluno area. This military defense garrison is perched on a cliff and has a 36-metre tower. Around it there is a delightful green area which is popular for picnics and with those who enjoy walking. The annual October Mele a Mel (Apples in Mel) festival is becoming increasingly popular with visitors.


Borghetto. Romantic alleyways and typical local dishes 

Borghetto di Valeggio sul Mincio, on the border between Lombardy and Veneto, south of Lake Garda, was once a strategic fording point on the river of the same name. It owes its charm to its harmonious blend of history and nature, and is one of the Veneto’s most visited towns of those in the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy.

borghetto sergio zuanettiBorghetto

It is easy to get lost in its romantic alleyways, and a delight to come across ancient watermills, old houses now offering comfortable accommodation, handicraft shops, restaurants and trattorias specializing in typical local dishes like the famous Valeggio tortellini, which are better known as love knots. The Visconti Bridge  fortress was built in 1393 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, and has the atmosphere of medieval days. 

The Scaligero Castle with its medieval fortifications and three towers dominates the town and the Mincio valley from a hilltop. The oldest part of the fortress was razed to the ground by an earthquake in 1117, and only the unique horseshoe-shaped Round Tower remains.  This used to have a three drawbridges but only one has survived. Palazzo Guarienti, where Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in 1796, is in the historic centre of Valeggio as is the sumptuous Villa Maffei Sigurtà which,  in 1859, was the headquarters of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.

Veneto Sottoguida DolomitiSottoguida


Sottoguda. A summer food and handicrafts festival 

Sottoguda, a hamlet of Rocca Pietore in the province of Belluno, is just before Malga Ciapéla at the foot of the Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites, and is part of the Club of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in Italy. This ancient mountain town has many tabièi, the wooden barns used by farmers in the Dolomites to store hay and agricultural tools. The oldest building in the town is the small Church of Saints Fabiano, Sebastiano and Rocco, dating back to 1486.

Just past the village we come to the Serrai Canyon, some two kilometres carved out by the Pettorina torrent. Along the way we find the Franzei waterfall, the small Church of S. Antonio and the statue of the Madonna dei Serrai in a natural cave. On Thursday evenings in July and August the town comes alive with Na sera da Zacàn - Arts and crafts of the past, a festival of typical local specialties and artistic handicrafts such as iron beating, wool making and wood carving.

Regione Veneto

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