The two faces of Northern Italy
Majestic views and magical cities. Fine wines and fabulous food. Incredible light and seductive shade. Visiting northern Italy is a little like stepping into a Titian painting – and, like a Grand Master’s artwork, it’s an experience best savoured slowly. So, while the locals zip around by Vespa, we recommend taking it easy and exploring the region on foot.
Whether you’re wandering the streets of Venice or savouring the peace and quiet of a luxury hotel in Asolo, there’s something new to discover around every corner. And, by pairing a classic city escape with a spot of laid-back village living, you’ll finish your stay inspired and relaxed in equal measure.
Lose yourself in Venice
Venice has long been a magnet for visitors. But to really see the city at its most mysterious and magical, plan your visit off-peak. In the winter and early spring, the sinking city becomes even more evocative. The crowds disperse. A hush descends. And, away from the tourist hotspots, you may have the place to yourself – if only for a few moments.
You could happily while away a few days strolling the streets, losing yourself in the maze of canals. However, if time is precious, we’d highly recommend a walking tour. Your luxury hotel’s concierge will have plenty of recommendations for tailored or group tours. Or, if you prefer to go it alone, here’s our own whistle-stop itinerary of Venice’s off-the-beaten-track highlights.
After visiting the must-sees of St Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge and the Doge’s Palace, venture into L’altra Venezia (The Other Venice) in the Venetian Ghetto. This is the oldest part of the city – a place where many of the locals still go about everyday life without the hordes of snap-happy tourists.
For a taste of authentic Venice, head for Rialto’s markets. Arrive early in the morning to really experience this bustling market in full flow. It’s a great place to stock up for the day’s sightseeing with a picnic of local delicacies.
Perhaps the simplest (but most effective) way to see Venice without the crowds is simply to stay the night. Enjoy an aperitif while the coach-parties hit the road, then step out and explore the city by starlight – this is also the perfect time to succumb to the cliché and set off on a gondola tour.
Find heaven in Asolo
Just a short drive from Venice you’ll find the beautiful hilltop village of Asolo. One of Veneto’s best kept secrets, it is the perfect antidote to the sinking city. Here the landscape oozes Italian charm and the pace of life is that bit slower. So, after recharging in one of Asolo’s luxury hotels, step out and explore the ‘town of 100 vistas’.
The Asolo Trail is a fascinating tour of the village. It takes in the cathedral, the S Caterina church with its 15th-century frescoes, the 13th century Gottardo church and a divine Palladio-designed villa. Just ask your hotel concierge for a map – or their own, off-the-beaten track suggestions.
For the village’s most spectacular views you’ll need to step off the Asolo Trail and climb up to the pre-Roman Rocca fortress. It’s a tough half-hour walk up a wooden staircase but you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views. And, if the views aren’t enough, you can toast your achievements with a Campari or Prosecco in the village square.