Italy, Italy, Italy. That land all around Florence, Rome and Venice. The boot that contains italians, mozzarella di bufala and the poetic Amalfi Coast, the so-called Bel Paese, the Country which is ‘elegante’ and ‘bella’, featuring a high stiletto hill as its shape - nothing less. The place that generates more madeleines than any other spot in the world: this is where us destination management professionals play our game as experiences providers, some of us supplying places to stay in (that would be me), others providing experiences, creating itineraries from a place to stay to an other.
We know really well that we have been blessed simply being born here, as the world is hungry for Italy since the verb to travel exists and, probably, will always be: we are, I am, grateful for it. There is nothing that our rotten, corrupted, incapable politicians can architect, thankfully, to stop this from happening: people cannot get enough of this place, and we have a great job based on the axiom that they will keep on coming, keep on loving it, keep on wanting more.
So: visiting l’Italia is part of my work, of course, and it is also an immense pleasure. I have seen every corner of Tuscany, quite a lot of Umbria, the basics of Marche region and I am no stranger to the coast of Lazio. I have visited Rome, Florence and Naples countless times. I have fallen in love with Emilia Romagna, its people and its extraordinary food of quality. I am not the biggest fan of lakes, for they fill me with a sense of stiffness, however I have been walking around them (aiming for a snack and our return to the car) since I was tiny. I have climbed, I have trekked, I have skied on the magnificent slopes of Dolomites. I have stopped by the Franz-Schlüter-Hütte at 2306 meters over the level of the sea for a well deserved break and a polenta with cheese that will never be forgotten. However I am missing on a good knowledge of all the major northern cities and areas, so this is the year, for me, to go north: it’s time to discover Veneto, Piedmont and Lumbardy.
I am in voracious search of quality insight: there is nothing that annoys a travel professional (that would be me again) like getting onto the mainstream itinerary, the TripAdvisor best rated activity, being stuck in the good trattoria that people love because it’s cheap and safe - and I make no exception. I want the best, instead, and the unheard of. I want Ubriaco cheese and Soppressa salami opposite to Pecorino and Prosciutto di Parma. I want to fall in love and never wanting to leave the place: this is the only way I know of travelling, what I promise to my clients and, well, me.
I have picked Filippo as my personal travel provider, because the first time I have met him he has told me a tale of hope and admiration towards what he promotes, and I have liked it. I have chosen him because he comes exactly from the place I have narrowed my choice to for my next italian experience and roots are extremely important for me, as an ingredient for a perfect trip. Filippo owns a boutique company of bespoke travel and is a renown source for bon-vivant Londoners. The first time we have set up a meeting to discuss my trip I have spotted him without having met before: dressed as a northern italian in suite and eclectic glasses, he looks older than his twenty-five years old. The dude looks serious. People, like me, call him and give him few yet pivotal elements. He then produces an itinerary that will involve all senses - and more: give me the real Veneto, I say.
With an extended culture in food and wine, a passion for those destinations that are off the beaten path and with, of course, his own ‘italianity’, he is rising in London as the figure to call to avoid holiday and get experience, which is incredible considered his extremely young age. But I am not that surprised, Italians from the north are famous for being hard workers, very serious about their jobs and dressed smartly.
“I want the best. I want to eat and drink great stuff, I want to be surprised, no, actually, I want to be mesmerized” - I tell him. He’s nodding. I have chosen Veneto for my next trip to Italy in February, when the little one has her school break. It will be just me and her, this time, we are leaving daddy behind us for a girls week. My little rascal is seven and a half, and loves delicacies. She is fearless: duck, oysters, liver, beans, greens of any sort and nationality, cheese. She enthusiastically smells the wine that I order each time and, although she is not allowed to taste it, she already knows how to recognise sugared-up red crap from proper wine just smelling it, and I am sure will be wine and truffle tasting as soon as it is legal - like I did.
Veneto is a region situated in the north east of Italy and famous worldwide for its main city, Venice, of course. It offers an impressive number of awarded wines, which is attractive to me, and features almost thirty Michelin starred restaurants and forty Bib Gourmand ones: this is more than attractive, this is paradiso, heaven. I know that radicchio reigns here, which is great because I love that acute taste mixed in a rich, fattening risotto - never been a pasta girl, myself: eggs in every possible conjugation, creamy vegetables, meat of any sort and smelly cheese are more on my path. Veneto location adds to the package, with its incredible variety of landscapes: the hillside of Verona, the impressive Garda lake (way more interesting, Clooney forbid, than Como’s one), the Venetian lagoon itself and the dramatic Dolomites.
Wine devotees would know this region because of its production of rare quality wines and spirits such as Amarone, one of my top ten world favourites, Soave, Prosecco and Grappa: these four alone constitute a great part of the italian wine heritage. “Some great wineries are located in less known areas such as the volcanic Soil of Colli Euganei, the venetian flat area next to the River Piave and the Durello area in the Verona surroundings, really super for sparkling wines” - Filippo says.
Since it’s almost that season when the world turns around and looks at Venice as the place to be, for the Venetian Carnival is soon to begin, I have asked Filippo to create an aspirational itinerary that will cover some of the region’s finest culinary delights and spread some contents for our Wall Street International readers. My little girl and I will be leaving in ten days, by the way, and I feel absolutely excited: Recioto here I come.
A possible open itinerary in Veneto
Find yourself a location just off Venice, along the Brenta river if possible, where being at short distance of the center as well as close to those itineraries all around - the Palladian villas circuit, Verona, Vicenza, et cetera. From there, each day you will be able to visit a different city, more than if you staid in the center of Venice.
Verona : known as the city of Lovers, “la Città degli Innamorati”, Verona combines the heritage and beauty of the city centre with the charming countryside and the striking lake. Verona is also entitled as the “wine city”, as it is home to spectacular wines such as Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella, Soave, Lessini Durello and premium olive oil from the Garda lake. From a gastronomic perspective, Verona has some spectacular restaurants: if you are into Pizza you must stop by this little restaurant which has been awarded a one Michelin star for its cutting edge “gourmet Pizza”. Will do.
Treviso : just about twenty kilometres from Venice, this is where the most sold sparkling wine in the world, the Prosecco, is produced. This little city has much more to offer: if you are into Art and History, you must not miss the ville Venete, once the country residences of Venetian royalty: the descendants of the owners will take you through the estate personally. In terms of food, the city is home to a fine cheese affineur that won several international awards for its blue cheese Blu 61, they also have the oldest wheel of cheese so it is definitely worth a visit. You may well visit one of the finest producers of Caviar around. Of course your journey could not end without a visit to the Valdobbiadene area and finish your visit with a great glass of Prosecco.
Vicenza : knows as “La citta’ del Palladio”, the city of the Palladium architect, is a city full of beautiful villages and stunning Palladian villas. Nevertheless, in the countryside you can come across great culinary moments. From the visit of the beautiful towns of Asolo and Castelfranco to the visit and tastings of the region’s finest Grappa and Torrone Nougat producers you will soon fall in love with this part of the region. Not to mention that on your way back to your villa you should stop for dinner in what is currently considered on the best 3 fish restaurants in the whole of the country, the Le Calandre.
Venice : Venice is often considered a magnificent city full of history and art but with bad food. Unfortunately Venice is filled with tourist traps, however true Venetian cuisine is simply fantastic, so do not surrender and try to combine Art and Cuisine, creativity and attention do detail: Venice is the perfect example where to combine both. Having lunch in a glass making factory, for example, while the artist is performing or dining in a small island where the Michelin star chef uses only Venetian ingredients and sip the precious locally harvested wine could be a winner.