Home to Venice, Padua, Verona and Vicenza, the Veneto offers the best of beautiful Italy and flaunts a good part of the country’s artistic patrimony. Because this northeastern region is so varied geographically, from soaring mountains to misty lagoons, it offers distinct pockets of excellence expressed through wine, food and culture. From a wine lover’s perspective, the Veneto offers tasting opportunities that are unique, even by Italian standards. In few other places can you experience a cheerful, sparkling wine like Prosecco and a hearty, full-bodied red like Amarone in a single afternoon.
Where to dine:
With tables spilling onto Piazza San Marco in Venice, Gran Caffè & Ristorante Quadri was refurbished to include an elegant restaurant created by Chef Massimiliano Alajmo. In the Prosecco zone at Solighetto, Locanda Da Lino offers home-style cooking in a cozy atmosphere with polished copper pots hanging from the ceiling. Per Bacco, a friendly restaurant in Padua with modern art and an eclectic wine list, offers a 20-euro tasting menu at lunch.
Where to stay:
For luxury in Venice, try the 18th-century Bauers Il Palazzo on the Grand Canal (once a private residence). In Prosecco, the romantic Hotel Villa Abbazia is decorated with antiques and fragrant flowers. A restored historic home, the boutique Il Sogno di Giulietta in Verona faces Romeo and Juliet’s balcony and offers a scenic garden setting in the heart of the city.
Dario Pieropan of Pieropan Viticoltori in Soave: “If you visit the Veneto anytime between June and September, you simply can’t miss the open-air music season at the Arena di Verona. This beautifully preserved Roman amphitheater at the heart of Verona becomes an exciting venue for opera, concerts and theater enjoyed under the stars.”
A walking tour of Venice’s Jewish quarter, the life-sized chessboard in Marostica, the covered bridge in Bassano del Grappa, Giotto frescoes in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel, the opera season in Verona, the Palladian Villas of Vicenza, a day-time cruise along the Brenta Canal and a driving tour of vertical Prosecco vineyards in Valdobbiadene.
Excellent finger foods to pair with local wines can be enjoyed at one of Venice’s many historic cicchetterie, a cross between an informal wine bar and tapas bar.
Where to taste:
At the base of the postcard-perfect castle in Soave, the Borgo Rocca Sveva visitor center at Cantina di Soave is among the most comprehensive in Italy, with a tasting room, store and botanical garden. Tommasi, the family-run winery in Valpolicella, walks visitors through the appassimento process—where grapes are air-dried on straw mats to make Amarone—and the historic cellars. On display is Magnifica, the largest wooden wine cask in the world (reservations required). With a landmark Palladian Villa built in 1622, Villa Sandi, the Prosecco winery in the Treviso province (that also produces still white and red wines), offers free guided tours with a reservation. The highlight is a mile-long underground cellar that was used as an escape tunnel during World War I.
Prominent wine varieties:
Glera (Prosecco), Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara (the base of all Valpolicella blends, including Amarone), Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Garganega (Soave) and international varieties are the focus. Diverse soils and climates in the region offer a variety of styles, and though the region is traditionally famed for its classic red Amarone, Valpolicella and Bardolino DOC and DOCG wines, it is gaining notoriety in the U.S. for its palate-pleasing whites such as Soave, Pinot Grigio and sparkling Prosecco. Overall, the Veneto is currently the biggest DOC producer in Italy.
When to go:
Spring, for fragrant blooming flowers, or September–October for autumn vineyard colors.
Arena di Verona: arena.it
Bauers Il Palazzo: ilpalazzovenezia.com
Cantina di Soave: cantinasoave.it
Gran Caffè & Ristorante Quadri: caffequadri.it
Locanda Da Lino: locandadalino.it
Per Bacco: www.per-bacco.it
Villa Sandi: villasandi.it
Venice, the Veneto and Venissa
Every dynasty has its golden temple: France’s Ancien Régime created the Château de Versailles, India’s Mughal Empire had the Taj Mahal and Roman engineering culminated with the Colosseum. Today, in the blossoming era of Veneto wine, we have Venissa and the island of Mazzorbo in the Venetian Lagoon.
Founded by Prosecco innovator Gianluca Bisol and his family, Venissa is a trendy enogastronomic retreat and sustainable agricultural project. The restaurant, named Venissa, is grabbing headlines for its unusual menu, which is abundant with lagoon ingredients. Chef Paola Budel serves lightly fried soft-shelled crabs, baby eel, raw squid, a Venetian cultivar of violet-colored artichoke and other local food specialties. Set in an ancient villa, there are six beautifully decorated rooms available to rent, and the bed-and-breakfast packages offer a gourmet tasting menu at a fixed price.
Mazzorbo, linked by causeway to the island of Burano, is famous for its multicolored, bijou buildings and bobbing fishing boats. Both islands are 40 minutes from Venissa by vaporetto from downtown Venice.
Wine lovers will enjoy a visit to the farm project housed within its own 19th century walls. There are sustainable fruit and vegetable plots, orchards and a vineyard. The one-hectare Tenuta di Venissa is Venice’s only commercial vineyard, and it celebrated its first harvest in 2010. It’s planted with a grape variety called Dorona (believed to be a cousin of Soave’s Garganega), which was widely planted in the region as far back as the 15th century. Abandoned and thought to be extinct, the winery has been injected with new life. The wine will be sold for 50 Euros a bottle—a hand-blown Murano glass bottle with a flake of gold leaf at the bottom.