EXPERIENCE THE ROMANCE OF TRAVEL ON TWO RAILS
Our train-based itineraries provide nostalgic insights into Italy’s culture, people and landscape. Let the train take the strain with Michelangelo!
From the Alps to the Sea
The region of Veneto is not just a cultural hub but offers the widest possible range of different landscapes. It really has it all from its lagoon landscape, the many long sand beaches and the thermal baths of the Euganean spa triangle. The backdrop of the jagged peaks of the Dolomites gives way to less dramatic pre-alpine meadows before ending up as gently sloping vineyards - visitors to the area are therefore presented with a rapidly changing scenery, which is without parallel.
Whilst the lagoon city of Venice may be considered the cultural "Jewel in the Crown" of the region, the traveller would be ill-advised to overlook some of the other impressive tourist destinations which are begging to be discovered. Cities of art like Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Treviso, Belluno or Rovigo are home to significant art treasures and cultural highlights, which will surely reward the visitor. A gentle cruise along the Brenta Canal, on whose picturesque banks Andrea Palladio created impressive villas, undoubtedly ranks among the highlights of a trip to Veneto. There is however much to discover in the surrounding area, such as the grappa distillery of Bassano del Grappa, the fresco-bedecked country villas of Palladio, the green Euganean Hills and the lush Prosecco region near Treviso.
Medieval villages, walled cities, castles, palaces and patrician villas make the Colli Euganei a popular holiday destination for nature, cycling, art and hiking lovers. Numerous hiking and walking paths of varying levels of difficulty beckon one to discover fascinating places.
The walls, fortified with crenellations, and the mighty castle, with its extensive collection of weapons and armour, harken back to the strategic importance of the town of Monselice in the Middle Ages.
Since 2012 in the Palazzo Forti, it has been possible to get an even better look behind the scenes of opera: A.M.O. Arena Museo Opera is the name of this museum dedicated to the world of opera. Original documents are on display, which together with the use of multimedia techniques show how an opera performance is created. Seven large sections with 15 exhibition rooms cover the topics of librettos, musical scores, set design, voices, ostumes
and performances. The exhibited items, including original letters, drawings by the composers Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi, set esigns, costumes, drafts and photos – come from the archive of the Fondazione Arena and the Ricordi archive.
This botanical garden was founded in 1545 for the study of medicinal plants. It is the oldest university botanical garden in the world, which still exists today at its original location. Around 6,000 plants grow in the garden: medicinal plants, as well as exotic, poisonous and carnivorous species. The botanical garden has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Currently, the oldest plant is a dwarf palm that was planted in 1585 and is called the ‘Goethepalm’, because Goethe mentions it in his, ‘The Metamorphosis of Plants’. This palm is located in a small greenhouse. A ginkgo and a magnolia from the middle of the 17th century also flourish there, which are considered the oldest examples of their kind in Europe.
The headquarters of the venerable university ‘del Bo’, which was founded as Italy’s second oldest university in the year 1222, belongs to the art historical treasure of Padua. It was the time when professors and students left the University of Bologna in droves and came to Padua. Thanks to the liberalism of the city, the wealth and the open-mindedness of the townsfolk, the university secured its position very quickly. Galileo also researched and taught here. His lectern can be seen during a very rewardable tour of the historical lecture halls of the university. Particularly the medical faculty enjoyed international acclaim from the beginning. The anatomy lecture hall from 1592 is particularly interesting, where despite the ecclesiastical prohibition bodies were secretly dissected at night to form the basis for modern anatomy. A permanent exhibit with busts, historical coats of arms, old university diplomas, engravings, portraits, medallions and seals of famous rectors, professors and students is located in the room next to the anatomical theatre. The first woman in the world to graduate from a university graduated from the University of Padua on 25 July 1678: Elena Lucrezia Cornora Piscopia.
The magnificent Doge’s Palace was the erstwhile residence of the Doge. His private apartments were located here, as well as the seat of the government of the Most Serene Republic with its bureaus and the court with the state prisons in the attic (piombi) and ground floor (pozzi). Today the Doge’s Palace is a museum. Here, next to the rather plain chambers where Casanova stewed (and escaped), you can enjoy the impressive pomp of the palace and feel the erstwhile greatness of the Serenissima.
The ‘Catajo’, built between 1570 and 1573, is an enormous complex with over 350 rooms. The spacious terraces offer a spectacular view of the surrounding rolling hills. The castle was acquired by the Dalla Francesca family in 1929, and remains in their hands today. There are numerous centuries-old trees and exceptional plants to admire in the large park surrounding the castle.
San Pelagio Castle has been the residence of the Earls of Zaborra for almost 400 years and is an enchanted place where time seems to stand still. Gabriele D’Annunzio flew from here to Vienna in 1918, hence the idea to house a museum of flight in the castle. It is a chronological journey, which displays the history of flight from mythology (Daedalus and Icarus) through the flight of birds, to Leonardo da Vinci to the conquest of space.
This abbey, founded in the 11th century, lies in the Euganean Hills. In 1448, the abbey was enlarged, newly decorated, and partially restored and an elegant church was added. The monastery features lovely cloisters, a remarkable chapter house, a monumental refectory and the famous ‘Divina Loggetta’ (divine small loggia). The abbey is famous worldwide due to its workshop for the restoration of an cient books, which is run by the monks, and for its exquisite book illumination. In the Spezieria of the abbey special creams and cosmetic products are produced solely from a plant and
honey base. The recipes - passed down by the monks for centuries - are today produced using modern techniques. The finished products can be purchased in the abbey shop.
‘Fenice’ is the Italian name for phoenix, that legendary bird, that is resurrected out of its ashes. And so it also happened with the opera house, which was given its name, because the previous building fell victim to a large fire in 1773. In 1792 the new house was inaugurated and developed into one of the most important stages in Europe. But the fire demon soon struck again. In 1836 La Fenice again suffered heavy damages due to a fire. This time, however, the building was able to be made playable again in a fairly short timespan, so that its excellent reputation could be preserved.
Then came the 29th of January 1996. Restoration work was being done on the building and it was to be carried out by the electric engineer, Enrico Carella, and his cousin, Massimiliano Marchetti, among others. Instead, the two men set the building on fire in order to avoid a penalty because they could not finish the work on time. The opera burned down to its foundations again. With the help of photos and film documentation the theatre was reconstructed true to the original. On 12 November 2004, after the completion of the most modern stage machinery in the world, the opera could re-
sume operations. Since its reopening, the Teatro la Fenice can be visited from 10:00-18:00, except when special performances are taking place. Audio guides in numerous languages are available. The tour takes about 45 minutes and includes the foyer, great auditorium, the Palco Reale and the
This building was constructed in the 16th century by the architects Falconetto and Della Valle. The interior is decorated with an extraordinary fresco cycle by Lamberto Sustris. The villa is now the property of FAI (National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty)
Enrico Scrovegni had this chapel (and the family palace, which is no longer preserved) built between March 1303 and March 1305. It is dedicated to the virgin Annunziata: a memorial chapel for the salvation of the father of Reginaldo, who was banned to hell by Dante as a usurer. A total of 900 m 2 of wall were painted by Giotto, the upper side walls with scenes from the life of Jesus, Mary and her parents Anna and Joachim. The back wall portrays a
‘Last Judgement’. The lower third of the walls he decorated in a faux architectural style. Allegories of virtues and vices in the ‘chiaroscuro’ style alternate with ‘false’ marble. This ‘stucco romano’ was used in ancient Rome for marble imitations, but then the technique was lost. Where Giotto got his knowledge from remains a mystery to this day.
The Venetian noble Francesco Barbarigo had this Baroque garden constructed in the 18th century as a symbolic depiction of man’s path to salvation. An enchanting path leads past fountains, water features and many statues. The grand boxwood labyrinth, the magnificent ‘Bagno di Diana’ (Diana’s Bath) and the rabbit island are of particular note.
Vicenza is the city of the famous architect Andrea Palladio. Here he became famous, and here he built many public buildings and private villas and palaces. The entire city centre was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The impressive Basilica Palladiana with its green cop-
per roof and the Teatro Olimpico are located in the centre. In addition to splendid architecture, Vicenza also offers its visitors elegant shops
and numerous cafés. Guided tour of the city’s most important sights. In the afternoon the tour will continue to Bassano del Grappa. The stately
wooden bridge over the river draws all the attention to it in this attractive townscape: a work of Palladio. The city is also famous for its grappa di-
stillery. A tasting of this famous Italian schnapps is also on today’s programme. At the end of the day you will reach Asolo, known as the ‘city
with a hundred horizons’. It has retained its historical appearance, is surrounded by a lovely landscape and has always inspired artists, poets
The old university city of Padua can boast of a glorious past. Padua is also known worldwide as the city of St. Anthony. The Basilica of St. Anthony reflects the Byzantine influence and is a popular pilgrimage destination for believers, who honour the the mortal remains of St. Anthony, which are interred here. The Caffè Pedrocchi, one of the world’s most famous cafés situated right in the city centre, is worth a visit. Market traders sell cheese, ham and bread from the region in the shadows of the loggia of the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua’s venerable justice building. One should not forgo a walk on the Prato della Valle, the large ellipse-shaped square, which has become a symbol of the city. With a surface area of 90,000 m 2 , the Prato della Valle is not only the largest square in Padua, but also one of the largest in all of Europe.
Sumptuous villas, which were built as summer residences for the rich patricians, line the banks of the Brenta Canal. Already Goethe was enthusi-
astic ‘about the gardens and summer houses, which line the bank’. One can visit the Villa Pisani. This magnificent building resembles a pal ace
more than a house and served the Pisani family as a country estate. The enormous building with its 114 rooms, Tiepolo frescoes and Sansovino
altar is the highlight of the Brenta Canal. Even Napoleon Bonaparte once spent the night in this sumptuous villa.
Visit the romantic lagoon city of Venice! The verified city tour begins from the Doge’s Palace. On this tour you will discover the Venice of the Venetians along narrow streets, away from the commotion of the tourists, a city which is full of fascination even in its most hidden corners. Looking out from the Rialto Bridge, the Canale Grande can be admired in its full glory.
Experience the heavenly landscape of the Euganean Hills with their colourful scenery and picturesque places. Stop in Arquà Petrarca, a town with a perfectly preserved medieval centre. Then continue on to the Abbey of Praglia, a splendid Benedictine abbey from the 15th century. Today, the monks there still offer beauty products with a natural basis, herbal teas, herbal liqueurs, honey and sweets, for sale (the abbey is closed on Mondays and on all church holidays)
In Vicenza, the typical buildings of Andrea Palladio, the famous Venetian architect of the 16th century, create a unique atmosphere. His last work, the Olympic Theatre, is also located here. You will embark on a journey of discovery in this city, which has still been spared the effects of mass tourism, with a local city tour. Wine tasting with snack in the Soave wine region.
After Venice, Verona is the most important art city in Veneto and the second Roman settlement in Italy. A certified city tour will show you the Piazza Brà with the magnificent Roman amphitheatre, the elegant shopping street Via Mazzini and the historic district. Enjoy the history, art and modern life in this world-famous city of love. In the afternoon, your tour will contin ue to a rice farm near Isola della Scala. There you will see how the rice is refined in a traditional fashion by the Ferron family in a rice mill from the 17th century. Afterwards you will sample various rice products.
On this boat tour of the Venetian lagoons you will get to know the three most important islands. Torcello was the centre of the earliest culture in the lagoons. The cathedral with its magnificent mosaics and the 11th/12th century church of Santa Fosca are the last traces of its past glory. Murano, on the other hand, is world-famous for its glass industry. You will have the opportunity to visit one of the glass factories, where you can observe the glass blowers at work. You will get to see how beautiful and valuable pieces of glass artwork are created out of a lump of molten glass.
Finally, on Burano, you will feel as if you had wandered into another world, into a rural Venice of the 19th century. Its pastel-coloured houses once drew many artists. The residents are world famous for their delicate lacemaking. The most intri cate lace was made here in the 16th century.
The Po delta features a very special type of landscape, which was created by the water. Signs of the water are omnipresent: rivers, canals, small inland waters, sea water and the land, that was taken from the water through centuries of hard work. Stop in the antique lagoon city of Comacchio. Some of the fishing houses from the 17th century were painstakingly restored and are now located in the Museum of the Valli. You will also visit Pomposa Abbey, a masterpiece of the Byzantine-Romanesque architectural style. Its bell tower soars above the surroundings like a lighthouse.
The Fiera del Riso in Isola takes place once a year between the middle of September and October. Many gastronomic competitions and historical exhibits delight the visitors. Here there is naturally not just something to see, but also something to eat - widely varying risotti are available for sampling
On each even year on the second weekend in September, the medieval Marostica entices with a real-life chess game on the market square of the city. The Duke of Marostica is said to have ordered this chess game to be played in 1454, when two knights were courting his beautiful daughter Lionora. Dressed in historical costumes, the residents of Marostica regularly re-enact this game. More than 600 participants throw flags and human pawns, bishops, knights on horseback and large wooden castles are moved across the chess board. The victor of the original game was luckily the favourite of the lovely Lionora. She is said to have shown her joy by illuminating the entire castle with candles. Today instead of this romantic gesture there is a crowning fireworks display.
On Carnival Friday the Veronese hold the Baccanale del Gnocco Festival with which they pay homage to gnocchi. About 6,000 carnivalists and 60 floats roll through the city each year to the Piazza San Zeno. There the ‘Baccanale del Gnocco’ has its origin: in the years 1520 and 1531 the Adige flooded its banks and was the cause of devastating flooding and famine. After this, every year on Carnival Friday in the city quarter of San Zeno, the doctor Tommaso da Vico distributed bread, wine, butter, flour and cheese. A tradition was born, as the ‘gnocchi’, small dumplings, that were once made out of flour and not potatoes, are today served in abundance during the festival. Amidst the middle of the lively bustle is the ‘Papà del Gnocco’. Sitting on a donkey, he directs the carnival night festivities and brandishes as a ‘scepter’ a giant ‘gnocco’ skewered on an oversized fork
It was in the year 1492 that Thiene was named a ‘free market’ by the Republic of Venice in honour of its services on the battlefield of Rovereto,
which brought a significant increase in its trading opportunities. The ‘free market of 1492’ is set up on every first Sunday in October: old customs and activities are revived, forgotten traditions and historical recipes brought forth. Whoever wishes to go shopping here, must exchange their valid money at the counter of the money changers at the entrance of the market into ‘colombine’, the old cur-rency of the ‘Thiene land’.
On the second Sunday in September the Riviera Fiorita Festival is organised - as a rival festival to the Regata Storica in Venice. Around 9:30 the rowers gather in front of the Villa Foscarini with their boats. A boat parade with costumed rowers then slowly drifts along the canal, densely packed with spectators. The origin of this festival was the visit of Enrico III, the king of France, with the Doge of Venice in the Villa Contarini in 1574.
This tradition-filled regatta should not be forgone. A large, colourful parade with historical boats based on those from the 15th century awaits you annually on the first Sunday in September. The actual athletic competitions take place after the parade. If you want to experience the spectacle from the first row, you should reserve a table well in advance at a restaurant along the Canal Grande.
Cavaion and Rivoli Veronese are known for their asparagus cultivation. As opposed to most of the other regions in Italy, here white or violet, rather than green, asparagus is grown. White asparagus grows under the ground and is harvested as soon as it lightly presses upon the surface of the ground and thus is never exposed to sunlight. Violet asparagus, in contrast, is first harvested when the tips rise above the surface, and thus the tips of the asparagus are tinged violet by the exposure to the light. The asparagus festival takes place each year in May in Cavaion. There you can indulge yourself with asparagus specialities. In the entire village there are stands with delicacies, handmade art exhibits and also musical entertainment.