Northern Italy reaches the Alps in the north and the Adriatic Sea to the south-east. There are several different regions that are located in the top right corner of the map. It is a broad brush to paint a large (and diverse) part of the country. One of the most famous regions is Veneto, which is where our adventure takes us today. Outside of the larger cities, the region is made up of small villages connected by narrow roads which criss-cross the countryside. After spending a few days in Venice, I was exhausted. It was time to get off the beaten track and spend some time exploring the lesser-known of Northern Italy. It was time for a Spritz or two.
The Veneto Region is the 8th largest in Italy and includes the major cities of Venice, Treviso and Padova. Outside of the larger cities there are many small towns and villages where life slows down to a snails pace. It’s ideal climate and fertile land make it one of the top wine growing regions, producing much of the Prosecco from Italy. It is the drink of choice for the locals, usually enjoyed mid-afternoon in the form of a Spritz. There are beautiful rolling hills and wineries everywhere. I spent time both inside the cities but also a lot of time driving to a the smaller spots in the countryside.
I did a whole lot of nothing and filled it in with some incredible somethings. It was a wonderful experience spending time away from the crowds of the big cities. A trip to Italy is filled with WOW moments. Because of this, I rarely went anywhere without my camera. Northern Italy was one of the reasons I want to come back for a second taste.
What makes Northern Italy so Amazing?
There are 24 Regions in Italy and Venato is one of the most famous of these thanks to Venice and it’s importance in shaping the north of modern day Italy. Away from the crowds of tourists found in Venice, the slow pace of life was a nice change. I got to live like a local for a week, enjoying a slower pace of life where the days began to blend together.I was staying with the family of a friend, staying in a small village called Bavaria between the towns of Nervesa della Battaglia and Montebelluna.
From this small village it was easy to explore both the countryside and the nearby towns. It’s quite easy to get around Italy, either by rental car or by train. I was able to knock off several important places, including famous Cathedrals in Padua the small wineries in. the countryside and even a World War 1 memorial located on the Montello, a forested hill north of the main road.
Every morning we would walk over for a cappuccino and brioche to start our day. We would find the local market – a group of travelling shops that would move from town to town based on the day of the week – and purchase fresh produce, cheese or fish for the evening’s meal. After lunch we would usually go for a walk, or have a siesta before heading back to the Osteria for an afternoon spritz. This wasn’t the normal tourist experience.
Great War Memorial / Sacrario (Shrine) del Montello
Most of the area I visited is quite flat, with lots of wineries and towns located on the flat ground. The exception to this rule is the Montello, a big hill which sits 20 km north of Treviso. It is the dominant feature on the landscape, with its western edge located at Montebelluna and Nervesa della Battaglia to the east. It is also an important historical site, with several Great War memorials remembering the locals story of the Great War. The great war was remembered for many things but the impact on the locals is often overlooked. Because of this, the history isn’t as well known as the Somme or Vimy Ridge.
Today the history is told in the form of ruins. The Montello is a popular place with road bikers. This included the destroyed remains of the St Eustachio Abby and two memorials; the Sacrario (shrine) del Montello and the memorial to the pilot Francesco Baracca. This was a great learning experience. I didn’t know much about this part of history and the Shrine was a great teacher.
In 1914, when war broke out in Europe, Italy managed to avoid being dragged into the conflict.On May 3rd, 1915 this changed and Italy joined forces with France, England and Russia to declare war on Austria/Hungary and Germany. Northern Italy became a battleground and this was called the Piave Front – named after the Piave River which passes through here.
The Montello Shrine is one of the main ossuaries where many of the fallen soldiers from the Great War are enshrined. There are over 9000 bodies (many of them which are unknown) buried here which used to be scattered at 120 individual cemeteries on the Piave front.
Where is the Veneto Region and how do you get there?
Located in the north-east corner of the country, Venato has a very distinct personality that sets it apart from the rest of the country. It was once part of the greater Republic of Venice before eventually joining the Kingdom of Italy in the 1800’s and now forms on of the 20 official regions of Italy.
Much like the rest of the country, the way to explore the major cities is by train. Some of the smaller sites – like the Great War memorial – probably require a car. The Veneto region is centered around the major cities; Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Treviso and Padova. These cities form the economic and cultural backbone of the region. Between these major towns, the rolling hills and fertile plains are covered in farms and vineyards and dotted with small towns and villages.
Everyone visits Venice and Rome, but not everyone has seen the cancals of Treviso or the incredible cathedrals in Padua. There were many places further north – such as the Dolomite Mountains and Verona – which remain high on my bucket list. Fortunately I found plenty to do in Montebelluna and Nervesa della Battaglia.
While visiting Padua, I also found a hidden exhibition, which included several sculptures from the great artist Donatello. He once called Padua home, and there are other sculptures of his around town. It was the first of many artists that I would be exposed to during my adventures in Italy.