Date of Trip: October 2009
Venice is not the only lovely and beautiful place in northern Italy. We have visited the city of gondolas two years ago and we liked it, but did not love it. It’s a matter of facts that Venice is a dying city. It’s becoming a sort of Disneyland where just tourists have their spaces, while inhabitants are every year becoming less numerous because the city doesn’t offer that much to them. The problem with Venice is that you run a big risk of never getting to know real Venetian people, because much of the people you find in the city don’t live there. We love Italy and Italian culture, language and way of life. So we expected something different, we wanted to breathe the real Italian atmosphere. We decided not to go to big cities again but to choose to visit little cities or towns this year. We read about Marostica, a little town in the heart of Veneto where every two years there’s a special event going on: a living chess game, with actors that impersonate the characters of the Chess. We saw some pictures of the game and it looked absolutely amazing. We read something about Marostica in the internet and for curiosity we read also about its surroundings. We saw pictures of Padova, Bassano, Vicenza and decided to go there, in the heart of Veneto. The Chess game in Marostica was not scheduled for this year (usually it is in September of pair years), so we decided to posticipate our trip to the end of October, when we and our friends had less problems of taking holiday from job. So bad we couldn’t see the Chess game, but it’s sure we’ll go again to Marostica in the future to see it. We booked the hotels directly on the net after a long work of research, trying to find nice places but at a normal price. We booked three hotels: in Padova, Marostica and Vicenza. I can say that the one in Marostica was the best one, charming, with a great atmosphere and a wonderful interior design (have a look at their website – www.duemori.it – and you will understand what I mean). I think we had a great idea to book our hotel in Marostica, it’s a little and quiet town and a jewel of beauty. From there using the car you can visit the most interesting things in Veneto, sure you can return in the evening in a peaceful place to relax.
October 22nd 2009
The flight from Copenhagen was quite comfortable. I spent most of time reading my touristic guide of Veneto region. I found out many interesting things about this region, that was in the past (until 18th century) a glorious and strong nation: the republic of Venice, the Serenissima. My wife was reading a book about Italian cuisine……well I don’t like to read food, I prefer to eat it ?. My friend Magnus was reading about Danish football (cultural issue eh eh ?) and his wife Anna was reading a novel book by Ken Follet ? ( more cultural but still not that much). At the Venice airport we found the car we had rented with AVIS, a nice Opel Astra, good car. Not a FIAT luckily (Italians can do many good things but FIAT cars aren’t included in these things). We decided not to drive in the main roads, because we wanted to see the countryside of the Venice province, the Brenta river with its Riviera and have a glimpse of its marvellous villas. The first stage of our slow drive trip to Padova was at Malcontenta where we saw a gracious villa called Villa Foscari by the famous architect Andrea Palladio. I was so excited to see that gracious building on the bank of the river Brenta. The atmosphere was so quiet and relaxing and the architecture of the building is simple but elegant. Many trees surround the villa, giving once more the idea of peace and relax. Anna, who is so interested in gossip and V.I.P.s, has read in the guide that in 1966 Queen Elizabeth of England had stayed there during her visit to Italy. We couldn’t see the Villa inside (it was closed ?). Anna started to imagine the beautiful furniture inside the building and all the luxury Queen Elizabeth should have had during her visit to Italy. Magnus was trying to feed a little lovely cat that was near the villa with a piece of ham he took out of the sandwich he brought in the bag for the trip. It was such a funny thing to see a 45 years old man playing with that little fur ball. Magnus likes a lot to travel, but he’s not so interested in arts and architecture, he just likes to see and breathe different places, he’s quite Naïve. October weather seemed to be quite fine so far, it was warm and there was just a little breeze blowing around the villa. Such a romantic place to stand there. My wife came closer to me grabbing my hand tight. I know that feeling, she’s like me. When she finds a romantic place she begins to remember how much she loves me and how lucky she is to have a man like me (!). I am lucky too, off course. But now, it’s better I quit these sweet as candy digression and go back to tell my tale. We decided to go back to the car and start again our trip to Padova, even if we liked a lot to stay there at Villa Foscari enjoying the nice weather and the beautiful surroundings. During the driving we listened to the Italian radio in the car. It was surprising to find out how few Italian songs were broadcasted. Many American songs…..many. I did not pretend to hear Volare on the radio but at least something more….”typical”. I tried many times to learn Italian but I found it too difficult for a Danish person, well, too difficult for me anyway. But I love to listen to the Italian language. It’s so elegant and soft…. We arrived to a lovely town called Mira, also this one along the river Brenta. What a beautiful place! The river flows in the middle of it, with all these trees along the bank. We decided to have a walk there along the river. We sat on a bench relaxing. It was a quiet day and very few cars were passing on the road. Magnus was singing a stupid Danish song with little voice. Sometimes he was whistling sometimes he was singing. I closed my eyes and I felt really good there with my friends and my wife. I started thinking of all the stress I have at work in Denmark and then thought again I was on holiday and I started laughing loud and Magnus laughed too, thinking I was laughing of his bad singer performance. Again on the road on our car, our next stage was a city called Stra (very Stra-nge name). The reason why we stopped in Stra is very important. In Stra there is one of the most beautiful villas in Italy. I saw this villa (Villa Pisani) in some pictures of an art book about Italy. And I found it immediately amazing. The Villa was built during the 18th century by an architect (Francesco Maria Preti) for a rich and famous family: the Pisanis. It is now a magnificent art gallery with many paintings of famous artists like Tiepolo. When we saw the villa my wife said “WOW”, and I agreed with her. What a beautiful building. In front of it there’s a magnificent pool with a row of statues on every side. The feeling is that of touching beauty and harmony with hand. The Villa is absolutely monumental, with more than 100 rooms and with splendid paintings inside. The Villa has been really famous in the past. Many important people have stayed there. In 1807 Napoleon was there when he invaded and conquered this part of Italy. Then the Villa was bought by the royal family of Austria, the Habsburgs. This family hosted there many kings like the Tsar Alexander the first and Carl the fourth king of Spain. Before world war 2nd the villa hosted the first official meeting between Hitler and Mussolini. Magnus was really interested in these historical information while I read them on the guide book. Anna was captured by the pool and decided to have a quick look inside the building and then go out to take many suggestive pictures of the statues. Another fantastic thing of the Villa is the park outside along the River Brenta.. There’s a big labyrinth in it made of quick-set, it’s called the “labyrinth of love”. After our long visit in Villa Pisani we decided to have something to drink at the Villa’s cafè. I drank an original Italian espresso which is always very good. My wife tried a delicious cake of pumpkin. I tasted it and it was really delicious. We sat there chatting for almost an hour, when we realised it was five o’clock in the afternoon and we still had all the way to Padova to drive. We said good-bye to that wonderful place, and the atmosphere was now sad because the sun was going down and we realised after a beautiful sunshine day that we were in Autumn. The leaves were laying on the ground, creating a colourful but sad mosaic. The air was getting cold and there was a strange smell in it. The farmers burn the dead leaves in this season in Italy, and I read somewhere that this creates the typical autumn atmosphere in northern Italy. In effects the smell is suggestive and together with the cold air can make a person feeling nostalgic of past times or of persons you can no longer see. But this sharpened cold air and the smoke smell makes you otherwise feel in peace with the persons you have around, you can feel the warmth of them being around you, and this is nice. What a poet I am ? Back to the car again, now quite sure not to stop again. We observed the country-side of Veneto during our driving. Very often the country is interrupted by some ugly factory. Factories seem to have grown like mushrooms after a rain in this land. It’s a pity, because the fields with trees around them are so poetic to see. Many birds fly over those fields, creating bizarre geometric figures in the sky. Sometimes when we drove along the Brenta river we could see seagulls gathered altogether on the water- Magnus tried to take some pictures of them while I was driving but did not manage to do such a good job. Then the country-side began to finish and that was the sign that Padova was near. The city of Padova is quite ugly in its hinterland. There are many houses not old but not even modern. Many cars and buses. A lot of people seem to use the bicycle in this city, and in this case it is quite similar to Denmark. We arrived to the hotel at about 6.30 in the evening. The hotel was ok, nothing special. While my wife was having a hot shower I watched the pictures I had taken during the day. There it came the picture of Magnus playing with the cat at villa Foscari and then I exploded laughing…? What a ridiculous scene to see!!! We decided to have a typical Italian dinner with seasonal products of this part of Italy. We went to eat to a small trattoria near Prato della Valle. I don’t actually remember the name of restaurant, but the food was really high-level. For First course I had a hot soup made with pumpkin and leeks. The waiter suggested me to put some little pieces of toasted bread inside it. Hhhmmm, what a gorgeous soup it was. My wife had an autumn risotto which had a wonderful smell. The rice soup was made with broccolis, black tartufe, soppressa (which is a big salami typical of this area) and ricotta cheese. My wife seemed to have appreciated it a lot. Magnus decided to eat boiled meat (bollito they call it here). You can’t imagine the disgusted face of Magnus when the waiter explained him that in the meat there were also slices of cow tongue to eat. But when he started to eat the cow tongue his face became delighted. He said the tongue was really good. But what he absolutely loved was the cotechino or musetto. It is a kind of soft salami made of pork meat and fat boiled in hot water. I tasted and I confirm it is delicious. You eat it with a sour sauce called Cren which is made out of horse-radish. But Magnus loved it with potatoes porridge, and with mixed vegetables. Anna preferred to eat spaghetti with rabbit sauce and she also liked it. After that wonderful dinner we decided to have a walk to Prato della Valle, a lovely oval square with grass and a ditch around it. All around the ditch there are many statues, and we took many pictures after climbing up the statues, touching them everywhere … I know this is not an adequate behaviour for adults, but we had drunk too much wine in the trattoria.
October 23rd 2009
Early wake up because we had just a day to visit Padova and in the late afternoon we had to drive all the way to Marostica. We had some wonderful Espresso in the hotel and a big breakfast with soft croissants and Nutella ( a wonderful Italian chocolate cream). Our fist visit of the day was to one of the most beautiful place I have seen in my entire life. The place is so little but so wonderful, it’s a jewel-case of precious things. Cappella degli Scrovegni was painted by the painter Giotto in the 14th century. Giotto is considered to be a genius of painting. One legend says he was very good in drawing also in early childhood, so good that he was able to draw a perfect circle with his hand, without help of technical instruments. The Cappella was ordered to Giotto by the Scrovegni family who had a palace near the Cappella. The Cappella is full of wonderful frescos made by Giotto. It is absolutely amazing. You have to enter the Cappella after having booked your tickets few days before we had done it online on the web-site http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it. You have to wait an hour after you got the ticket at the box office before entering to the Cappella. Once your time to visit the place has come you have to wait inside a special room where with some technical instruments they reduce the temperature of your clothes and body and they take away humidity from your clothes. This process lasts about 15 minutes. It’s the most strange thing I have ever seen doing to visit a monument. It’s like being in some movie about biological contamination where they have to clean you from a kind of bacterium. Only few people can enter to the place each time because it is delicate and it has to be preserved carefully, that’s the reason of the special room of purification. My wife was completely captured by the frescoes, so were Anna and Magnus. After our visit to the Cappella (20 minutes more or less, but fantastic minutes) we decided to have a walk to the daylight again. We entered in a very nice area of the city completely restricted to cars and open just to people walking or cycling. There was a lot of life in the city. Many old ladies driving their bikes with bags of things they bought in some shops hanging from the handlebars. We arrived to a very old cafè-bar called Pedrocchi. It is a very nice cafè. Magnus decided it was time to have a break and take something to drink in that luxurious cafè. We sat in a magnificent hall with a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and two white columns. While we were sitting waiting for the waiter an old man sat close to us started speaking to us in English, asking where we were from. The man spoke an almost perfect English. He said his name was Giorgio and that he travelled a lot in the U.S. for job when he was young. Giorgio explained us something about the cafè Pedrocchi. He said it is famous because it has always been a meeting place for artists and writers. Maybe it was here that the insurrection against the Austrians in 1848 was planned. The Austrians in that period had the dominion over the north eastern part of Italy. He said we were sitting in the “red hall”, because of the red floor. He explained us that all the halls are called with the name of a colour because of the floor. He suggested us to visit the upstairs floor because there are many other halls decorated in different styles. He also suggested us to drink the peppermint coffee which is a specialty drink of the bar. Guess what…Giorgio was right, the peppermint coffee is good and refreshing and the coloured rooms are really beautiful. We saw the Green hall, the yellow hall and the white hall. Upstairs the halls are decorated according to different architectural and historical styles: there’s the Etrurian hall, the greek hall, the Roman hall, the Pompei hall, the Napoleonic hall, the renaissance hall, the Egyptian hall. Absolutely amazing how a simple cafè, a bar, can be so interesting. Giorgio also told us a legend that say that students studying in university have not to enter the Pedrocchi cafè, because if they do it, they will never come to graduate (poor students ?, what a cruel legend!!) After that interesting coffee-drinking we said good-bye to Giorgio and went on with our walk through Padova. In front of an old building we saw a really strange and funny scene. A young guy was standing on a bench dressed just with his slips and many other guys and girls were throwing eggs on him, and covering him with marmalade and flour. We stood there astonished to look what was happening. We asked a guy in the group, and he said that was a typical way to celebrate who graduates in Veneto. They celebrate the person who has graduated punishing him with many tricks like covering with sticky materials and beating him. We saw all the guys kicking their friend in the butt. After all this punishment the graduated guy read a sort of big paper in which there was written the story of his life in a funny way, and he was drown in a caricature. That was the weirdest thing we had ever seen in our trips. The Italian guy explained us they call it “goliardia”. After that bizarre show we arrived to a square called “Piazza delle Erbe”. The name means “herbs square”. There was a vegetable market on the square. So many stalls with all the kinds of vegetables: salad, carrots, potatoes and so on… There were a lot of people there chatting and shouting, many with bicycles. The market was a colourful surprise for us. All the vegetables were inside wooden boxes that when they became empty were put altogether one over the other to create a gigantic wall of wooden boxes. The place was really very crowded and lively. On the other side of the building next to “Piazza delle Erbe” there was another square called “Piazza della Frutta” that means “fruit’s square”. There was another market there selling clothes and many stalls with candies and dry fruit. We bought some dry fruit and candies just to enter in the festive atmosphere of the people there. We then decided to stop to have something to eat because it was already two o’clock in the afternoon. We decided to eat something easy like a sandwich in a bar. We chose a little bar near Piazza delle Erbe where we ate some good strange Italian sandwiches called tramezzini. We saw many young people drinking a kind of light red drink and so Magnus asked the waiter what that drink was. He said it’s called Spritz, and it’s made of white sparkling wine and Aperol, a kind of Italian aperitif. He suggested us to come to Piazza delle Erbe at about five o’ clock in the evening because many young people gather there to drink their Spritz before going to dinner. After our short lunch we stayed there sitting for half an hour enjoying all the people passing by. It was so nice to be in such a lovely city altogether, a city full of life, so many students, so many young people. Our last visit of the day was to Saint Anthony basilica. We took the tram to go there. The tram is very comfortable and fast to travel through Padova. We took the tram also because we were very tired of walking. The basilica is very famous because many pilgrims come here every year to pray the saint for relatives or friends who are sick or to ask for some luck in life. The basilica is really big, and the saint’s altar is full of pics and drawings from all the people who came there to pray. Outside the basilica there are many shops selling religious items. It is estimated that every year almost 5 millions pilgrims come to see the Basilica. The inside of the basilica is really wonderful. There are so many frescos and so many golden statues and decorations. Around the basilica there are four cloisters, we visited just one of them because for the others you have to reserve your visit. The cloister of Magnolia it’s called like that because of the big Magnolia that grows in the middle of it. Magnus was a little bored of the basilica and the cloister. He complained because there were so many tombs and epigraphs. “I don’t have fun watching tombs” he said. Magnus had much more fun watching all the kitsch religious items that are sold outside the basilica. It’s incredible how money is everywhere, also in religious things ?. After visiting the basilica we decided to go back to “piazza delle erbe” to see the aperitif hour as the waiter of the bar had suggested to us. We took our Spritz in the middle of a big crowd of young and less young people. Everybody was chatting, looking happy and without thoughts. People stayed inside and outside the bar, it was a very exciting atmosphere. It seemed to me to become young again ?!!! We drank our Spritz, enjoyed the energy of the situation a little bit longer but then it was time for us to rake the car and go to our next stage of the trip, Marostica. We loved Padova a lot, the city of university, of young people, the city of bikes and markets. A cheerful place, really. The trip to Marostica took us about an hour of driving. We started seeing some mountains after 40 minutes, the famous Mount Grappa, the mountain which was an important scenery of world war 1st Suddenly we started seeing from the road a marvellous thing. The castle of Marostica was completely enlightened and was amazing seeing this middle-ages walls climbing up the hill to create a fantastic scene. The castle of Marostica is really a jewel at the foot of the hills. It is composed of a lower part (the lower castle) and of a part up on the hill (the upper castle). Lower and upper Castle are linked together by strong and tall walls, that, as I said before, climb up on the hills like a gigantic snake. We arrived to our hotel: the Due Mori. A lovely hotel with a very nice interior design and a lovely familiar atmosphere. We had one of the best room with the best view I have ever seen: you could see the castle from a window in the roof lying on the bed: WOW!! In the evening we had dinner at hotel’s restaurant because we were tired. What a discovery: the restaurant had both high-level innovative cuisine and traditional cuisine and both delicious. We tried both the types of cuisine. I had black tagliolini ( a kind of noodles made with the cattle-fish ink) with anchovy sauce, zucchini cream and Burrata cheese. The burrata cheese is so soft and delicate and creates a wonderful contrast with the anchovy sauce. Eating that was like being in heaven: GOSH!! Anna had some ravioli (stuffed pasta) filled with artichoke, with a sauce of pepperoni, sweetbread, veal tongue and caprino cheese. I tasted a little bit of this dish too and guess what? It was absolutely amazing: the sweet of the sweetbread melted perfectly with the salty caprino, all of this bound together by the artichoke. Magnus decide to have something traditional and ate roasted veal. The meat was soft as butter, so soft we had to ask the chef how he prepared it. The answer was: a slow cooking of vacuum-packed meat in hot but not too hot water. A genius!!! My wife had the bigoli ( thick spaghetti ) with duck sauce. The dessert was a strange but good Jamaican pepper ice-cream. YUMMY!! A very good meal, definitely!! In the evening we decided to have a walk to the upper castle. The air was quite cold but the track was really steep so I started sweating after ten minutes walk. The walk takes 20 minutes, but I suggest everybody to go with snickers because the track is quite difficult. The walk otherwise is worth all the sweating: the view from the upper castle is really breath-taking. You can see all the towns around Marostica with all the night lights, really romantic. The atmosphere was that of fairy tale. After that romantic trip, a shower and straight to bed.
October 24th 2009
We woke up at eight o’ clock and had an abundant breakfast at Due Mori. We were now ready to go sightseeing this fabulous little town. We visited first the famous chess square. The Chess game is played since 1954, after an artist had the idea of representing an old legend. The legend says that in 1454 two noble gentlemen of Marostica, Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, were contending to marry the daughter of the Lord of Marostica (Taddeo Parisio). The two noblemen challenged into a duel, the winner (or survivor) could have married the beautiful Lionora (this is the name of the daughter of Taddeo). But Taddeo did not want the two gentlemen to hurt themselves and to have blood. He decided they should have challenged at the noble game of Chess. The game was not a normal game: the pawns were living persons and animals (the horses). The spectacular game is nowadays interpreted by almost 600 persons in typical middle-age costumes. We saw some photos of the game, and I am sure it has to be something really fascinating. After taking many pictures on the big chessboard in the middle of the square, we went to see the lower castle. We saw there the museum of Chess game. There were so many old costumes used during the years for the show. Anna was absolutely captured by those perfect middle-age dresses. After that we decide to sit at a bar in the square to enjoy the beautiful sunshine day. It’s unbelievable how even in Autumn it can be hot in Italy: it’s really the land of sun ? We drank a cappuccino and chatted about politics. Anna and my wife went to see the souvenir shop in Marostica. In other cities of Italy you can find so many souvenir shops, here, strangely, there’s just one. There the two women bought a cherry pie and a cherry Grappa. Marostica is famous in the world not only for Chess but also for its delicious cherries. My wife told us that the shop-keeper gave them a little taste of the cherry pie and Grappa.. Magnus, who loves drinking alcohol, decided we had to go too. The Grappa was something really strong, even if sweet. I admit it was too strong for me. The woman of the shop told us is not usual to drink grappa in the morning, and we started laughing(AH Ah Ah): gosh!!! She was right!! After that visit we decided to follow the suggestion of Monica of Due Mori Hotel and to go to see the Upper Castle in daylight. We took the car this time cause we did not want to sweat as the evening before. Well, the view from the castle during daylight is even better that during the night. So amazing was to see the lower castle and all the landscape from there. We took so many pictures!!! Later we decided to go to lunch up on the hills behind Marostica, to eat something really typical and good. Gosh, the hills here are wonderful. Autumn makes the vegetation so colourful. The winding roads makes driving a pleasure and you can observe all the nature on the hills, the beautiful isolated houses. Anna was day-dreaming of having a house up on those hills. It should great to wake up in the morning and watch from your house down the hill: you can have the world at your feet. The place we stopped to eat had a really impressive view of the valley. WOW!! And a big WOW also for the meal. We had a lunch prepared all with mushrooms: tagliatelle (kind of noodles) with goose sauce and chanterelles mushrooms, crespelle (filled pasta) with Asiago cheese and boletus mushroom, scrambled eggs with Ovule mushrooms (this last one was the best). After lunch it was time to have a little relax . We were quite tired after the two days along the river Brenta and in Padova. Marostica, as I said before, is the ideal place to relax. We had a little walk in the narrow streets of the historical centre admiring the lower and upper castle again. This little city has unbelievably narrow streets, and all the centre seems to be an open air museum of architecture. It’s nice to see people gathering on the chess square chatting and drinking something at the bars. It seems like they have a peaceful life without stress. After that I wanted to have a little nap because I felt tired. In the hotel you could order the aroma-therapy service. I decided to try it. They give you a white empty ball. You put a candle inside it and on the top of it you put water with some drops of perfumed essence. The warmth of the candle makes the good perfume go in the air and you can smell it and enjoy an enchanting atmosphere. I lay on the bed with my peppermint aroma and I felt in heaven. I watched the castle from the window, smelled the aroma and finally fell asleep. When I woke up, Magnus, my wife and Anna had decided to have a trip to Bassano, a city nex to Marostica, which is quite famous for its Grappa and its ceramic. Bassano is a very big city in comparison to Marostica. It is built along the river Brenta and it’s a hilly city, famous for its old bridge. The bridge is beautiful, wooden made and from it you can see the mountains over the city and the Brenta valley. On the bank of the river there are many ducks. I and Magnus spent a lot of time in that afternoon throwing bread to them. Along the little and marvellous streets of the city there are a lot of typical shops selling ceramic stuff. My wife bought a plate decorated with flowers and birds. I did not like it a lot, but she loved it, so I said to her I found it beautiful ? Bassano is also famous for the Grappa. There are famous distilleries here, the most famous are Nardini and Poli. Nardini has a typical and picturesque shop at the beginning of the old bridge on the Brenta. Out of the shop there are always a lot of people, some of them drunk, some of them happy because they are almost drunk. We ended the afternoon strolling around the romantic streets of Bassano, which were becoming full of young people who met for the aperitif: the same thing we saw in Padova.
October 25th 2009
Another day in this splendid land. Began our morning going to the market of Marostica just to see what there was on sell. We stopped on the cheese stall and let the owner make us taste some of the local cheese like Asiago, Bastardo del Grappa (it means the bastard from Mount Grappa: what a silly name), and a delicious kind of cheese which is drunk!! Yes, It is drunk. It’s a cheese that is put in the middle of fermented grapes (vinasse in English I think). The taste of the cheese is very good, it is like to eat cheese with the taste of wine. Really strange, never seen something like that. I bought half a kilo of that cheese: God, I loved it!!! Italian name is FORMAGGIO UBRIACO (formaggio means cheese, ubriaco means drunk). Another strange but good cheese is one with big grains of pepper inside. The taste is very strong but it’s not bad. I early understood cheese sellers are good sellers in Italy. You think you can eat for free because they let you taste the cheese. But they know their cheese is good and foreigners cannot resist and buy a lot of it. That’s what I did. After the market we decided to go to Schiavon after that at the hotel they told us that specially for that week the distilleries were open to the public to visit the production process. For free. The only one distillery open was the Poli factory, in Schiavon as I said.. We were so interested by all the production process. You can see the big alembic: it’s a kind of a series of big stoves that pump steam through the vinasse producing a kind of liquid substance which is made of water and alcohol. This liquid then passes through a refining process in a big tower with many floors and the percentage of alcohol is augmented and that of water reduced. Then you can see where the grappa stays on the barrels (or barriques) . Finally you can taste various kinds of grappa with different aromas, this last part was the best for Magnus ?. The special thing of this tour in the distillery was that the owner of the factory came personally to explain us all the process. He’s a very nice and friendly person. After that taste of grappa’s world we decided to go again to Bassano because we liked it a lot. First of all, while Magnus drove to the city, I read the tourist guide about Bassano, because the other day when we came here I did not know very much about what I was watching at. We parked near the train station and then started walking. The guide was very useful for the curiosity it said about the city. When you enter the gate of the city you walk along a big boulevard. On the northern side of the boulevard there’s a magnificent view of mount Grappa and all the valley. Along the boulevard there are many trees cut in an umbrella-shape. I read on the guide that on those trees during world war 2nd many young Italian guys, fighting for the freedom of Italy, were hung by the Nazis. What a sad story….now many wooden plates are set at the trees to remember those young guys. Back to our walk in Bassano, we arrived to the grappa museum of Poli distillery. It’s the same distillery we visited in Schiavon and it has a building also in the city of Bassano, where there’s the museum of Grappa. The museum is little but with a nice atmosphere. It’s possible to see the evolution of the production of Grappa during the centuries. There are many old alembics and instruments to produce grappa. After that museum we went to another museum, the museum of Alpini. Alpine are specialized soldiers of the Italian army that operates in mountain areas, but also in many other places in the world. They are very important for the Italian people because of their strong involvement during world war 1st to defend and conquer new territories against the Austrian army. Italians consider the Alpini a special part of the army because of the spirit of fraternity and friendship that the soldiers have between each other. These soldiers have been important for the victory of Italy in world war 1st , and they have seen many deaths during world war 2nd when they were sent to Russia and had to escape from the too strong Russian army, walking and dying through the freezing lands of Russia. In the museum there are displays that show how these soldiers fought during the 1st world war in trenches. There are also many pictures and old uniforms. The museum is nice but nothing special. If you are not Italian you can’t understand the meaning of it. The interesting thing is that to enter the museum you have to pass an Inn, the “Taverna al Ponte”, where you can taste so many kinds of Grappa. I tasted one apricot grappa and Magnus an apple grappa. Strong as hell, but the fruit taste is good ? The afternoon was coming to an end and we were tired of walking and maybe the grappa we drank today was making us a little bit sleepy. But my wife wanted, at any cost, to see the ceramic museum. So we decided to have a quick glimpse of it, because the remaining time wasn’t that much. There were so many ceramics vases and plates, some of them really beautiful and well done. The problem is that I am not so in love with ceramic. My wife otherwise was enthusiast to see all that stuff, and Anna too. Back to Marostica, so glad to go to that quiet heaven because I was really tired. A quick and light dinner at the hotel restaurant and then I went straight to bed….
October 26th 2009
Unluckily we had to say goodbye to Marostica because we had booked another hotel in Vicenza. Vicenza is a delightful city, this is what everybody says , but Marostica was already in our heart and we were a little bit sad to leave that peaceful place, that little paradise town. Vicenza is a lovely city in the heart of Veneto, 25 kilometres from Marostica. The first thing that struck us was the sense of elegance of the city. It is a quite big city for this region, but it’s not chaotic and the downtown is a pedestrian area. The historical centre of the city is absolutely fantastic for its architecture, that’s why UNESCO awarded the city with the title of World Heritage Site. Vicenza is known to be the city of Andrea Palladio, a famous Renaissance architect. He’s considered one of the most important architect in world and you can find buildings in Palladian style in many capitals: the White House in Washington is one of these! We parked our car easily and quite near to the centre, and this is a positive thing of the city, in comparison with Padova. We started walking watching everything we saw around us. The atmosphere was so nice, there was a lot of life in the city, a lot of people walking but not in a frenetic and stressed way. You could feel relaxed. Rivers play an important role in creating the beauty of Vicenza.. We walked along a river bank and had some amazing views of historical buildings together with trees that created the impression of being like in a kind of Garden of Eden. We soon arrived to the most important centre of Vicenza: Piazza dei Signori (Lords’ Square). The square is wide and beautiful. On one side you can see the Basilica by Palladio with its tall tower. The basilica was in origin the site were the judges of Vicenza gathered to administer the justice. It was called Palazzo della Ragione (reason’s Palace, because the judges had to administer reasonably the justice). Later Palladio was called by the aristocracy of the city to improve it with a new project of its façade. Palladio called it Basilica from the ancient name during roman emperor that was given to public buildings where politics took place. The Basilica is really nice with all its arches set in two rows, one over the other. It has an extraordinary harmony in its design. The green roof has the shape of an upside-down ship hull. So bad we could not see the Basilica inside because it was at that period undergoing some restoration. We remained outside admiring it. I took many pictures from many points of view. On the other side of the square there is the Loggia del Capitanio (captain’s palace, the captain was the person who represented the republic of Venice in the city). Also the loggia was realized by Palladio. The Loggia is in my opinion even better than the Basilica. On its façade there are amazing low reliefs and sculptures, so beautiful I would have spent an hour watching them. In the Loggia the world cup of football has been hosted to be shown to the public in 2007. Italy won the world cup in 2006. Magnus read that curiosity in some place in the tourist guide. He’s so fanatic with football. He was now wondering if Denmark could ever show a world cup to its people, that means that Denmark should win the world cup. I think this will remain a dream for Magnus and many Danes for a long long time. Near to Piazza dei Signori there’s another square called Piazza delle Biade (crops square, so called because in the past here there was a market of cereals). This square is divided from Piazza dei Signori by two high columns. One has the Saint Mark’s lion with wings on the top of it; the lion is the symbol of Venice and its republic. The other column has Christ Redeemer on its top. These two columns have a strong correlation with Venice: the same two columns with the lion and Christ are also in Venice is San Marco square. Vicenza was under the dominion of Venice after the 15th century. I wanted so much a picture with the Lion at my back but it was so difficult to make enter in the frame both me and the Lion that was on the top of that high column. Magnus managed a little bit to make something ok, we can say decent. On one side of the Biade square there’s a gracious church from 14th century. The building of the church began in early 1400 but the façade has been finished later in 1531. The church is little and nice. Inside there was a quiet and silent atmosphere and there I began to feel tired and sleepy, maybe because of the low light inside and because I needed a coffee. My wife and Anna instead were very active and watched with interest all the paintings on the walls of the church. I waited for them outside the church and Magnus came with me. He liked standing on that square enjoying the autumn breeze watching around, taking pictures of buildings and of people passing by. After my wife and Anna came out I decided it was time for me to have a coffee. After I recovered with a strong Espresso in a bar in Piazza dei Signori (with a wonderful view of the Basilica) it was time for us to see another builduing by Andrea Palladio, the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto. The palace was asked to Palladio by Montano Barbarano. Montano was not only a noble man but also a smart person with a lot of culture, especially in the field of music. Montano was very demanding for his palace: he wanted something beautiful that could also adapt to the pre-existent structure of the old palace that was in that place. What came out of that tough work was a very elegant building. The windows are so beautifully decorated with low reliefs and little statues. I used the zoom function of my camera to see them better and I found them unbelievably fascinating. I also saw over the windows many needles and I wandered what they were there for. Magnus found the correct answer to my curiosity: the needles were there to avoid that the pigeons sit on the windows and let there their guano that could ruin the building. I found it a cruel way to treat the pigeons, but otherwise I can understand pigeons can be a serious hazard for Italian historical monuments. Inside the palazzo there is the Palladio museum where there are some wooden models that explain how the architect used to create his masterpieces. The inside of the palazzo is beautiful and elegant. There’s a very nice internal yard that resembles very much to a roman yard. The ceilings of the rooms are wonderfully decorated with little low reliefs and frescoes. Anna was again day-dreaming of living in such a beautiful house and to be treated like a queen by her man ?. Magnus is surely not a king and maybe he’s not so charming with women, but he’s kind and gentle and I think Anna should be satisfied with her man ?. My wife was also interested in watching the ceilings and observed very well every particular of the sculptures. I was at one moment afraid she was thinking to have something similar also in our house ceiling ?. Our visit to the Palazzo was interesting but we had to hurry up because we had so many other things to see in Vicenza. We decided to have a quick lunch at a small restaurant near Palazzo Barbaran. The lunch was really good. We all tasted the Baccalà alla Vicentina, which is cod fish cooked in a particular way. It is really, really good. I had two portions of that while the others preferred to eat oven cooked rabbit with olives. They appreciated the rabbit and made many compliments to the cooker. The waiter said us a little curiosity about rabbit. There’s a legend in Veneto that says that people from Vicenza eat cats (“Vicentini magna gati”). He said that many people from Veneto when eating rabbit in Vicenza they ask joking if they are eating cat or rabbit. What a stupid joke. How can a person even think to eat a cat. That’s a horrible idea!! We started again our visit to the city and started walking again through the streets of Vicenza. The streets are beautiful, every building seems to be old here and to have some special history that has just to be discovered. There are many porticoes under which you can walk and observe the little shops and maybe decide to buy something. We saw some shops of golden jewels and found out in the guide that Vicenza is an important area for the gold industry. My wife was so interested in watching golden stuff and I was almost ready to buy her some jewel if she would have asked me. Fortunately, she didn’t ? We liked so much walking on those crowded streets, to see the life of city flowing restless that we almost forgot we had to see other monuments. Our next stage was Palazzo Chiericati, another palace by Andrea Palladio. What a lovely building this Palazzo is. It looks really similar to an ancient Greek building in its style, but I would say I like this one better than the ancient ones. It communicates an extraordinary sense of harmony and peace. Many statues are set on the border of the roof giving a charming elegance to the Palazzo. Its façade is made of two rows of high columns in the two floors. At the first floor at the sides of the building behind the columns there are two terraces. The palazzo now hosts the Vicenza’s art gallery. It was great to see many beautiful paintings in that atmosphere of quiet and elegance, but the lights are awful!. Many paintings were of religious theme. One I liked was by the painter Battista da Vicenza, representing a Pope (don’t remember the name) that manages to turn a dragon quiet. I loved of this painting the contrast between the golden background and the red building and clothes shown in it. Another one I liked was one painting showing Jesus Christ bringing the cross. It has a dark theme and atmosphere and it communicates very well the sufferance of Christ. A beautiful painting showed a warrior together with a child, a fabulous contrast of strength and delicacy: very nice!! My favourite was though the painting by Pietro della Vecchia showing a fortune-teller reading the hand of a man. Here again I appreciated the dark atmosphere and the absolutely genial contrast of dark background with colours. WOW!! Magnus was quite bored of Palazzo Chiericati and the paintings, he’s an action man, he can’t stand a lot of time contemplating something. I promised him in the night we would have gone me and him to drink some Italian beers in a pub in the city. He likes a lot to hang out with friends drinking beer!! Our last visit of the day was to what is considered the masterpiece of Palladio: the teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre). The name Olympic comes from the Olympic Academy, a group of people who were promoting cultural activities in Vicenza, especially theatre activities. The theatre is really a jewel of beauty. It has the typical semicircular shape of the ancient Greek theatre. On the back of the seats there are many columns set in semicircular shape and over them there’s a terrace from which you can see the theatre show. On the banister of the terrace there is a row of statues: the scenic effect is great!! Absolutely wonderful is the stage, so beautiful decorated with niches and statue and a big arch in the middle. I could hardly talk because I was completely taken by the beauty of the place. Magnus that usually doesn’t like architecture and art admitted the theatre was beautiful. After that piece of art we could go to the hotel really satisfied by our day in Vicenza. The name of the Hotel was Due Mori like the one in Marostica. I don’t know if it is a chain of hotels under the same property. I just know the Due Mori in Marostica is much better then the one in Vicenza. At dinner we had a pizza in a typical pizzeria of Vicenza. I love the authentic Italian pizza. I had one with Gorgonzola cheese (a green spicy-sweet cheese, delicious) and speck ( a kind of smoked ham from the northern part of Italy, near Austria). My wife had one with bresaola (another kind of ham, with a delicate taste), rucola (a kind of strong taste salad, rocket in English) and Grana cheese ( a kind of Parmesan). Magnus had one with capers and anchovies (he said it was great) and Anna one with red chicory from Treviso and sausages (also Anna said her pizza was great). Later in the evening the two women went to the hotel and me and Magnus stopped in a pub to have some beers. We wanted to taste Italian beers because we did not know them at all. We started with a beer from the mountain area of Veneto: the Mazarol beer. The name comes from the legend of a pixy who lived in the mountains of Veneto. He’s got wooden clogs. Men have to pay attention while walking in the woods because if one steps over the Mazzarol’s footprint he will become slave of the Mazzarol’s willings, forgetting everything about his own business. Once a man has become slave of the Mazzarol he is forced to help him producing cheese. The legends says it is thanks to the Mazzarol that men in the mountains are able in cheese-making. This is the legend that the owner of the pub told us. A curious and funny legend. The Mazzarol beer was not so good otherwise. We then tried a red beer aromatized with chestnuts. It was a good and strong beer. Magnus was happy of that beer.
October 27th 2009
Our last day in Veneto. We were sad we had to leave that land. We liked a lot the culture and art, the food, the people. Before going to the airport we had time to see one more villa by Palladio in the neighbourhood of the city. Villa Almerico Capra is maybe the best of all the villas we have seen during our trip. The guide says the villa is one of the most important for the architecture in the world, because many artists in the future took inspiration from it and imitated it. It has a square shape with four gates on every side of the square. The gates has steps that go to the door. The internal central room has a circular shape with a cupola on the top. All along the circular wall of the room there are many statues painted on the wall like frescoes. The statues are so well painted they look real if you watch them from far away. The cupola is full of decoration and frescoes…WOW…something marvellous. The floor is in red marble, which completes the beauty of the villa. Amazing!! I really liked that Villa!! So small, so wonderful. Our last visit was planned to have a view of Vicenza from a high point. So we went to the sanctuary of Madonna di Monte Berico. The sanctuary is set on the top of a hill very close to Vicenza. And is a mix of gothic and baroque style. In front of the sanctuary there’s a big square with a huge balcony from which you can have a wonderful view of the city and also of a part of the province of Vicenza. The view worth a trip there, it’s breath-taking. Very nice are also the porticoes that are along the road you drive to go to the top of the hill. On them there are all the cross stations from the passion of Jesus Christ. And that’s all. After the visit to Monte Berico we drove back to Venice airport to take our flight back to Denmark. I suggest everyone who loves Italy and its culture to visit Veneto. There are so many different things to see: culture, nature, landscape. There are beautiful rural landscapes but you are never far from people because there are many little towns everywhere in the countryside. The little towns are in my opinion the best part of Veneto. You realize that these little cities have a history and that they hide some jewel of art and architecture somewhere in their heart, you just have to discover them. Marostica is a good example of a fantastic little town that comes out from the rural landscape and captures your mind and your soul. The same do the small towns and the villas along the river Brenta. The same does Bassano with its romantic bridge. It’s beautiful and fantastic to discover Veneto driving along its roads, to see crop fields and trees and then suddenly you can see an old church tower, a castle or a palazzo. In a moment you pass from a rural background to a small urban reality, with its rhythm, with its history you just have to catch. Small Veneto towns are jewel-case of happiness, you can breathe the Venetian people in them. You feel better after having breathed that air. Trust me. You won’t regret.