day 14 :
saturday, 27 may
It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Villa Giona and our classmates this morning. But, we were headed east to explore the hill towns of the Veneto, and in an hour or so we arrived in Marostica. This town is famous for its chessboard in the middle of the town's piazza, where people play the role of chess pieces on this enormous board each year. On our visit today, the board was covered with little yellow stands for some sort of festival. As we climbed up the hill to get a better view of the town, we heard huge speakers on the chessboard blaring AC/DC's “Hells Bells.” It wasn't exactly the ambience we were expecting from this tiny town.
Driving in this area left no doubt that it was the peak of cherry season — we saw literally dozens of cherry stands along roadways, with huge signs proclaiming Ciliege!
Our next stop was Bassano del Grappa. Besides grappa, this town is famous for its Palladian wooden bridge spanning the Brenta river. We enjoyed wandering along the river and admiring the beautiful colors of the houses near the bridge.
It was early evening when we arrived in Rolle, a tiny hill town along the Prosecco wine road. Here, the road snaked along steep hillsides covered with grape vines from top to bottom, interrupted by the occasional village and hamlet on the way. What brought us here was Bisol's Duca di Dolle foresteria; we had read that it is a comfortable place for a quiet respite in the area. Bisol is a well-known producer of Prosecco sparkling wine and Duca di Dolle dessert wine. The foresteria was situated on a hilltop, completely surrounded by valleys and hills of grapes — the view was stunning in every direction, and easily rivaled the views we had encountered in Tuscany.
Our hostess recommended a great local trattoria a few kilometers away, Trattoria Al Fagiano, where we enjoyed a platter of local meats and cheeses, and some amazing pasta dishes. Although we spoke in Italian as much as we could, our waitress spoke excellent English (a bit of a rarity in these rural parts), so we settled on English and chatted with her a bit about our traveling adventures in Italy. Along the way, we learned that she had worked on the QE2 cruise ship for a number of years, and was now enjoying life back home in this remote region of the Veneto. After the meal, she offered us complimentary grappa or limoncello. Although Eric was tempted, he felt like he needed a break after the many indulgences during the past week in wine flight tasting, grappa tasting, and the like. So, he thanked our waitress and simply said that it was late, and he still needed to drive back to the foresteria. Our waitress gave us a bit of a surprised look and said, “So what? This is Italy.” It was certainly entertaining to hear the straight story on drinking-and-driving in these parts.