When most people head to the North-East of Italy they are, of course, heading to the well-trodden city of Venice. While it is undeniably beautiful, unique and rich in history, this floating city is also swamped by souvenir merchants that almost equal the hoards of tourists who continuously stream into the city from Venezia Santa Lucia Station. The carnival-like atmosphere of Venice leads one to wonder if there are any true Venetians still around. After travelling for so many months, I was happy to branch out and see else this beautiful corner of Italy had to offer. And, much to my delight, I found myself completely captivated by the neighbouring Province of Treviso in the Region of Veneto.
Thanks to my multicultural village-of-a-family, I am very lucky to have an Italian Aunty who comes from this region. Her older sister, Diana still lives in Ponzano, a small comune in the province of Treviso, with her cheeky husband Livio, and son, Fulvio. Her daughter Sabina lives near by, with husband Fillipo and their children; 5 year old Sebastiano (who quickly became my Italian professor) and 3 year old Gianluca. We were extremely fortunate to spend five amazing days living like locals, eating delicious home cooked meals with the most hospitable and kind family.
Our first night we dined in the beautiful centre square in the City of Treviso and got to know our adopted Italian family. The charming city is encircled by fast flowing water and is affectionately called “Little Venice” by the locals. Littered with old fashioned wooden watermills, cobblestoned streets and flowing water canals, this place shares many similarities with Venice, however, there is barely a tourist in sight.
We had a great introduction to local customs, beginning with the aperitif, Spritz, a drink that is mainly consumed after the workday. However, we found it was a basic necessity throughout the day to accompany any break. It is comprised of Aperol (Campari if you want a very bitter version – you’ve been warned), locally produced Prosecco sparkling wine and sparkling mineral water that is served with a slice of orange (not lemon).
After a wonderful wood fired pizza dinner, the meal ended with coffee. We definitely got more than we bargained for when a clear liquor served in a long stemmed shot glass arrived with our espresso. We quickly learnt that Italians in the North prefer their coffee “corrected” with a shot of strong, locally produced Grappa. Needless to say, we were quick learners and became very diligent at upholding this particular local custom.
Our second day, we woke to rainy morning that kept us indoors. There were no complaints from Ben and I as we spent the morning eating perfectly cooked Italian food (fresh mozzarella rolled with ham and olives, with homegrown cherry tomatoes and a neighbours homemade wine) and chatting with Diana about Italian culture and her memories of Australia.
After the rain subsided, we were taken on a tour of the nearby Prosecco vineyards which are situated in the hills surrounding the town of Valdobbiadene. Prosecco is a delicious sparkling wine, similar to Champagne as it can only be called “prosecco” if made in this region.
On the way home we stopped off for gelato at local dairy farm Vaka Mora (Via Postumia Romana Ovest, 47 31036 Istrana). Certainly the freshest gelato I have ever eaten, with the cows literally being milked just outside, it was absolutely delicious! Note, you can also collected fresh milk here 24 hours a day with your own or purchased bottle.
Belluno: On Sunday we were lucky to have a family day-out visiting the picturesque town of Belluno. Sitting at the foot of the Alps on the fast flowing Piave River, there was no shortage of scenery to admire as we leisurely strolled ancient streets and plazas.
One of my fondest memories of our time in the Treviso region was Diana teaching me how to make risotto. This meant the world to me, especially after seeing so many people fail at cooking risotto on the various cooking shows I am sadly addicted to. And for those of you who know me, I can safely say that my seemingly crazy Italian dream came true (power of the mind).
Our last night in Ponzano ended with a family dinner where my risotto gained a thumbs up! After earning our Gappa-stripes, Fulvio introduced us to Hungarian Pálinka, a journey that was to be continued in Budapest two weeks later.
Oh, and for the record, here is Venice: