....that aren't Venice! Most people come to this region of Italy to only visit Venice and what a shame that is. Some of the best of the Veneto is located outside of the crowded city of Venice and only a short train ride away. And thankfully the tradition of cicchetti (Venetian tapas) lives on beyond the islands of Venice, so embrace it! Next time you're headed to the fish, I highly recommend making time for at least one, if not all of these to get a taste of what this wonderful region has to offer.
1. Verona - If you're looking to ditch the crowds (and high prices) and explore a much smaller city, this is the place to go. It is where Romeo & Juliet took place and only an hour by high-speed train from Venice making this an easy day trip. Or if you can spare the time, which I highly recommend you do, you could opt to stay overnight at one of many B&Bs like the traditional Il Sogno di Giulietta, the romantic Suite di Giulietta or the more modern Opera Relais de Charme.
Verona is very walkable and not very big so you can see a lot in a little time. Highlights include Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's house and famous balcony), the Arena (Verona's mini-Colosseum), Ponte di Castelvecchio (the fortified bridge), and Ponte Pietra (the Roman-arched bridge).
The food here is more meat-centric (than seafood, seeing as how it's more inland) and is absolutely delightful. Visitors will feel a sense of relief to find good food easily that won't break the bank, which is nothing like your experience in Venice! Here are some of my favorites:
Osteria del Bugiardo for simple but amazing dishes in a lovely, rustic space.
Antica Bottega del Vino for an enormous wine list (no, really) and the best Florentine steak outside of Tuscany.
Osteria La Mandorla for the quintessential neighborhood wine bar. Just look for the "Vini-Liquori" sign and the crowd congregating with wine glasses outside.
Osteria Caffe Monte Baldo for a spritz and some cicchetti. When it's nice, do it alfresco.
L'Arte del Gelato for some of the city's best ice cream.
2. Valpolicella - If you've had enough of the soave and prosecco and you're looking to change it up with some delicious red, add this place (and wine) to your list. Believe it or not folks, Tuscany isn't the only place for good red. Here you will find, like the name suggests, Valpolicella Classico which is your everyday wine, Valpolicella Ripasso (DOCG) which has been aged a bit longer giving it a bit more character, and Amarone delle Valpolicella which is the region's most prestigious wine made from dried grapes giving it a higher alcohol content.
There are many wineries in the area to choose from including the world-renown Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Quintarelli (known for its amarone), Azienda Agricola Valentina Cubi (known for its bio-organic wines), and Azienda Agricola Scriani Fumane (if you're looking for a place that's open on Sundays). As with most wineries, you will need a car to access these places but this area is only a short 30-min drive from Verona.
To soak up all the wine you'll be tasting, I highly recommend making a reservation at Enoteca della Valpolicella which is a restaurant located on a fully-functioning farm and vineyard. Everything on the menu is fresh and locally sourced from the farm whenever possible. Pasta is handmade each morning and the tagliatelle was some of the most delicate, thin ribbons of delight I've ever had. If they offer a chef's tasting, I highly recommend. It is an excellent way to taste some of the local dishes.
3. Treviso - Not only is this small city pretty to look at with its greenery and unique canals, but its location makes it an excellent place for a day trip away from the tourists in Venice or to stay the night before your early departure from Marco Polo International airport. It just feels less touristy here and sadly I think it gets overlooked because most people flock to Venice. If you're staying the night, I recommend the adorable, family-run B&B San Leonardo which only has 2 rooms and is located on the ground floor of the family's home. The decor is especially cozy and you really feel like you're staying at a friend's home rather than a hotel.
The nice thing is that there isn't a whole lot of sightseeing in this town which makes for a leisurely and relaxing stay. It is small enough that you can walk the entire city to see it. Some spots to check out are the main area of Piazza dei Signori, the interesting Fontana delle Tette (Google it....), and the pretty Canale dei Buranelli.
The food and drink in Treviso is delicious too, and should not be missed. Here are some of my favorites:
Osteria Arman for traditional dishes an a cozy, vintage atmosphere.
Osteria dei Naneti for the most delicious panini and wine. This place gets busy but eating and drinking outside is common practice and quite enjoyable!
Antica Osteria al Botegon by Porta San Tomaso for the best spritz and cicchetti.
Cantinetta Venegazzu for a lovely glass of wine in an informal local's atmosphere.
Cafe due Pomi for yummy espresso in a tiny hole in the wall.
So if you're looking for some balance on your next Venetian vacation consider these 3 places which are totally doable in a day or just one night. It is some of the places that you don't hear as often in conversations about Italy that end up being the ones you remember most. I'm so glad we decided to stay in this area rather than doing what most people do and head south to Florence or Rome.
Curious about how to enjoy Venice? Check out my previous blog post.
And lastly, stay tuned for my next post which will be about another great area to explore from Venice....the mountainous, South-Tyrolean region of Trentino! Yes, we're headed to the Alps!