Venice is a world unto
itself. There is no city like it in the world. It is one city that demands
an article unto itself. Lets move on.
There is something
magical about walking to the train station in Venice at 6 AM. Old women
whisk away the night’s debris, delivery barges emerge from the mist and the
pigeons react to the first sounds. In the station, hot coffee is just the
thing even if we’re only going one long stop to the mainland village of
Mestre. Here in a sun-baked parking lot our car awaits. We’re heading into
lush green hills that rise all too soon into one of the most awesome ranges
of snow capped mountains I have ever seen. The journey from here is through
the town of Morostica, Asolo, Vittorio Veneto, Belluno medieval Cortina
d’Appezzo, Bolzano, Merano, tiny Dorf in the Tyrol Mountains and through the
great Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, Austria. It is an adventure that will stay
with you forever. Don’t take my word for it. Get out and do it yourself.
You can head north out
of Mestre or do as I suggest and return to Padua to see anything you may
have missed. Padua is a visual and historical city with excellent
restaurants. It’s only 20 KM from Mestre but it puts you on the autostrada
heading west. When you get to Vicenza only 30 KM away, take time to visit
the Basilica Palladiana, a World Heritage site and Villa Almerico Capra di
Valmarana, named La Rotonda, where the architecture is special.
Then head north on
route S 47 to the historical walled town of Marostica, built on the side of
a sloping hill. This Medieval city may turn out to be the discovery of your
trip. It is here that on every second Friday, Saturday and Sunday in
September of every even year that a human chess game is played out in the
walled city’s main square. It is called “human” since real people and horses
make up the chess pieces. They are dressed as Queen’s knights, castles and
kings. Here, in The City of Chess, the reward is traditionally
the hand of a beautiful maiden. Hundreds fill the stands for one of the most
colorful spectacles in Europe. But you’ll have to wait until next year.
There are many places
to stay but book ahead. I recommend B&B Locanda Valbella overlooking the Po
Valley. .It boasts a view from the huge porch and rooms with beamed
I first went to the
area on the suggestion of a friend who was born in Asolo. This ‘Pearl of
Traviso Province’ is one of those peaceful, picturesque town one dreams
about. It is a welcoming oasis you will want to linger in, with wonderful
villas, gardens & plants in a spectacular setting dating back to Roman times
as one of the first fortified towns. There are decorated facades on palaces
such as Eleanor Duse’s palace, Longobard House, built in the 16th
century. There is a fountain fed by a Roman Aqueduct and a specially
decorated fresco at Villa Pasini.
I remember the special
hour we spent sitting on the main square, lunching with the locals and the
ceramic purchases we made in one of the artisan shops nearby. Asolo is the
place of seclusion, dreams are made of and when we headed north, more dreams
We spent an uneventful
night in a small hotel in Vittorio Veneto, just north of the Piave River.
This area was a great battle scene during WWI where American ambulance
drivers toiled for the cause. It was on the Piave that Ernest Hemingway was
wounded. Stop for lunch in Vittorio Veneto, and then move on towards a city
that looks down on the Piave Valley. The blue sky and welcoming mountains
make Belluno, The Shining City, dedicated to Beleno, the Celtic god of the
Sun. The city is surrounded by fresh sparkling waters that are protected by
the city. This is a city rich in Art and History and filled with skiers in
season. There are about 30 Km of ski slopes in this Dolomite Mountain
region. There is also a 32,000 hectare National Park for visitors to enjoy.
Back on the main road
heading north, the vistas become awe-inspiring. The villages lie in the
shadows of mammoth rock faces, some covered with snow all year round. As you
approach Cortina d’Ampezzo you realize why this would be the perfect place
for the winter games. It is an overwhelming site and even in the summer, the
sunsets are something to tell your children about. The jagged rocks look
down on flowered meadows and the town itself is a Mecca for visitors. There
are pedestrian streets, excellent places to eat or sleep at every price.
Even non-skiers come here to hike, climb, and paint or just breathe in the
fresh scented air. It was for climbing that the first visitors came here.
If you can pull
yourself away, you have two choices. You can continue north
Until the road divides
and then west to hook up with the main route to Austria. But I suggest that
when you reach the autostrada, you turn south for about 50 KM and visit
Bolzano. It’s the fastest route and the scenery is beyond belief. Bolzano is
made up of Germans, Italians and people of Tyrolean heritage. Here, the
signs are in both Italian and Germen. Bolzano is Bozen, Merano to the north
is Meran. Either is correct.
Bolzano was once an
uninhabited swamp but it was turned into an industrial center by the
Fascisti. Now it is filled with historical monuments and boasts a great
Gothic Duomo. Under 30Km to the north is the scenic city of Merano set in a
peaceful valley. But the imposing mountains that encircle it rise above the
tree line and offers Merano protection. It was to Merano that the ancient
Dukes of Innsbruck moved the civic mint. Yes, this was once Austrian
territory but is now part of Italy. Hence the different spelling. This is a
city with a cultural feel. The theatre was dedicated to Puccini. The waters
were proven healthy for therapy the Liberty-style buildings are some of the
best in the entire Tyrol.
In the Tyrolean
mountains above Merano there are tiny hamlets, one of which is called Dorf.
I was fortunate enough to spend the better part of a week here by invitation
to Schloss Brunnenberg, the home of Dr. Siegfried de Rachewiltz whose wife
is the daughter of the American poet, Ezra Pound. The address is 3, Ezra
Pound Weg (Way) It is now an Agricultural Museum. It was a joy to walk
around the chateau, eat on the ramparts and lecture on Pound in the great
From there, and from
the tiny hotel next door, we could see the city of Merano below as though we
were flying over it. Seated on our terrace in an orchard of pear trees or
walking through the area, we felt blessed. Maybe it had to do with the fact
that the road to the village is called Heaven’s Way. This 12th
century castle Tyrol is symbolic of the region.
A choice of hotels is
long. I suggest Hotel Thurnergut on the south side of the hill between Dorf
and Merano, surrounded by castles.
Tel: 39 0473 443134 or
The road north to the
main route north is slow and winding but the view is rewarding and the
distance short. You will soon be at the Brenner pass. This was heavily
fortified by the Germans during the war. It is the lowest of the passes
through the Alps at 1375 Metres. It is only 12 miles long, easy to cross
into Austria an hour from Innsbruck.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)