7 Reasons To Visit Venice’s Countryside When Travel Returns To Normal

In normal times, Venice, like Florence, draws millions of visitors each year. Both offer beautiful surrounding countrysides with a bounty of artistic riches and natural splendors, although many travelers know Tuscany far better than they know they Veneto, the region beyond the city on the lagoons that reaches from the eastern shores of Lake Garda to the Adriatic and from the Austrian to the Emilia-Romagna borders. But that seems to be changing as visitors—both repeat and newbies—seek out less trafficked destinations while Italy’s most popular spots swell with travelers. From 2014 to 2019 the Veneto saw close to a 46% increase in visitors, says Jasmine Tramarin of Lovivo Tour Experience, travel specialists who offer customized individual and group trips in the region. “The Veneto has a lot in common with Tuscany in that both [provide] a complete tourist offer that goes from the sea to the mountains, from art cities to beautiful countryside areas, and from lake destinations to thermal areas,” she says. 

Joyce Falcone, founder of Italian Concierge, a company specializing in luxury travel in Italy, who has been included on Travel + Leisure’s A-List since 2009, says she’s seen a growth in travel to the Veneto, but feels the region still deserves more inquiries. “It is an area for a sophisticated traveler who has seen the art cities and Tuscan countryside and checked the box for the Amalfi Coast.” Falcone points out that while visitors are obviously attracted to Florence for its Renaissance history and Rome for its ancient past, the Veneto offers many unique, although lesser-known, cultural experiences that shouldn’t be missed. During warm-weather months, she likes to suggest a circular route for travelers wanting to take advantage of the region’s outdoor and artistic offerings that begins in Venice, the moves to the Dolomites (for hiking, lunching in rifugi, or mountain huts), Bolzano (in South Tyrol), Lake Garda (for boating) and ends in Verona for a performance at the famous Arena. Winter travelers and skiers can follow a similar route with some seasonal adaptations, she says.

Whatever your interests, the Veneto has plenty to offer. Here are seven reasons why you should consider this region when you head to Italy again.

All the wine routes. You can travel the Prosecco Wine Road, officially known as the Strada del Prosecco e Vini dei Colli Conegliano Valdobbiadene, which runs 50 kilometers from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, with a choice of wineries to visit along the way. If you’re heading here in 2021, try the latest offering from producers—rosé prosecco. To sample the Veneto’s red wines, follow the Bardolino wine route near Lake Garda, and to try Amarone at the source, visit wineries along the Strada del Vino Valpolicella in the countryside north of Verona. Joyce Falcone recommends a stop at Villa delle Torre Allegrini, known for its fine Amarones. White wine lovers can explore the Soave wine trail, also about 50 kilometers long; one itinerary begins in the town of Soave and follows a route dotted with castles. Another, although lesser-known wine road to explore is in the Euganean Hills, southwest of Padova, offering DOC reds, whites and sparkling wines. (LoVivo has a number of wine tours in the region, including in the Euganean Hills, and bike tours of the Prosecco and Valpolicella areas).

Experience the Renaissance from a Venetian perspective. Botticelli and Brunelleschi starred in Florence; Michelangelo and Bramante gave glory to the the Renaissance in Rome. In Venice and its surrounding territories, such artists as Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese (among others) put their own stamp on the Renaissance, turning out works noted for their richness of color and employing a looser painting style than contemporaries elsewhere on the Italian peninsula. Palladio, utilizing design precepts associated with ancient Rome and Greece, redefined architectural style with a series of extraordinary villas, palazzi and churches. Many of his masterpieces can be found in the Veneto countryside. Enjoy the work of Renaissance stars far from the crowds of Venice, making sure to see the Veronese frescoes in the Villa Barbaro; works by Veronese, Tintoretto and other important period artists at the Museo Civico in Vicenza, and by Titian at the Scuola del Santo in Padua, and in the Duomos of Verona and Treviso.

The Euganean Hills. A pristine territory southwest of Padua which for many travelers remains an “undiscovered” area within the Veneto, the Colli Euganei as they are known in Italian, are one of Italy’s great under-the-radar destinations, offering in microcosm much of what the Veneto has to offer, plus the the opportunity to indulge in wellness travel. “The Euganean Hills are still an authentic area,” says Jasmine Tramarin. “It is a niche location where you can experience the real Italy, a territory of small producers and family-run wineries. Here mass tourism and standardization do not exist.” Tramarin says you’ll also find medieval castles, Venetian villas, walled towns and countryside villages within easy reach. In addition to wine touring along the Strada del Vino there are many opportunities to indulge in wellness experiences, with over 100 spa/thermal hotels in the area, whose therapeutic waters attracted visitors even before the Romans came here. The Euganean Hills are also great for sport, with many hiking, biking and horse-riding trails and four golf courses, says Tramarin.

Great sports. In winter skiers can head to tony Cortina D’Ampezzo, which will co-host the 2026 Olympics with Milan. The resort is part of Dolomiti Superski with access to some 1200 kilometers of pistes. There’s also plenty of nordic skiing in Asiago, with 500 kilometers of trails. “Winter travelers should be mindful of shoulder season in the mountains, when the areas are quieter,” says Joyce Falcone. Sailors from all over the world head to Lake Garda (most of the eastern half of the lake is in the Veneto), noted for its good wind conditions. 

Beautiful towns and villages not overrun with tourists. You can still enjoy a sense of discovery without feeling you’ve gone way off the beaten path when you visit some of the Veneto’s lovely towns. Among the places not to miss: Asolo, designated one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, where the of Queen of Cyprus, a former Venetian noblewoman, was exiled and established a court where the arts flourished. The Villa Cipriani, a luxury hotel, is located here, and its delightful garden is the perfect place to sip a Bellini and enjoy the countryside views in summer. Like Asolo, Arquà Petrarca, where the influential poet Petrarch lived, is on the list of most beautiful villages. You can see his former home, built in the 13th century, which is now a museum. Head to Este to take in Tiepolo’s extraordinary altarpiece in the Santa Tecla Duomo. The town has long been known for its ceramic production.

The art and culture cities. Padua, about a 40-minute drive from Venice, is home to one of the most important works in Western art—the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. When here, plan to visit the historic Caffè Pedrocchi and the Sotto il Salone, a culinary market with a history reaching back 800 years, located in the Palazzo della Ragione. In Verona after you’ve seen Titian’s work in the Duomo, stop by the Roman ruins, like the famous Arena amphitheater, and the imposing Porta Borsari, an ancient gate to the city. In Vicenza, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Palladian villas of the Veneto, you can view some of Palladio’s urban work, like the Basilica Palladiana and Olympic Theater. There’s also a Palladian Museum. The Museo Civico in the Palazzo Chiericati, also designed by Palladio, showcases important works by Veneto painters, sculptors and other notable artists from the 14th through 18th centuries. Joyce Falcone recommends other experiences like seeing Giorgione’s work in Castelfranco Veneto (his home town), visiting the museum of renowned neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova in Possogno, and learning about the Ladin culture in the northern Veneto.

Specialized tours of Venetian villas. The Veneto offers some of the grandest country estates in Italy, providing a particularly sumptuous take on villa living. “Keep in mind the Veneto region [has] over 4,000 Venetian villas scattered throughout the provinces,” says Tramarin. One way she recommends seeing them is with a trip along the Brenta Riviera, between Padua and Venice. Here you’ll find a setting “filled with magnificent residences designed by the most important [architects] such as Palladio and Scamozzi and enclosed by monumental gardens,” she says. [Lovivo Tour Experiences offers an itinerary by boat or on land depending on the number of travelers.] And for a very special experience, Lovivo can also arrange a stay in a Palladian villa.

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