day 15 :

sunday, 28 may

Sunday was a big day of events in the Veneto. It was the final day of the Giro d'Italia, and although this last stage was ending in Milano today, hundreds of bicycle enthusiasts were on the roads today showing their support. This made the tiny rural roads into a never-ending curvy obstacle course for us.

On our drive to Rolle the day before, we had seen a number of signs for the local annual cherry festival. We weren't quite sure where it was being held, so we set out to see some Palladian villas and hoped we'd find out more about the festival during the day. The nearby town of Maser is home to Villa Barbaro, and this enormous villa is considered one of Andrea Palladio's masterpieces. As we got close and tried to find parking, it seemed as if everyone in northern Italy had come out to see the villa today — the two-lane road was clogged with people, bicycles, buses, motorcycles, and cars. We finally found a spot in a grassy field down the road, and walked back to tour the villa. There was a beautiful display of cherries in front — cherries arranged in boxes, cherries placed carefully on a display spelling M-a-s-e-r, cherries everywhere. As we looked around more, we saw throngs of people heading to the picturesque tree-lined field across from the villa, and it finally dawned on us: we had stumbled upon the XVI Festa della Ciliegia, the cherry festival we wanted to find! We joined the crowds, visited some festival booths, and queued up behind the locals to try some sausage, polenta, and slices of cherry tart. Getting the food was entertaining: you wait in one line to pay for what you want, and then you take your food ticket and try to find someone behind a lengthy row of tables to fill your order. The entertaining part was fighting with the locals to get a spot in line, and to keep your spot; no one had an interest in queuing up and waiting patiently. (We could almost hear our waitress from last night saying, “So what? This is Italy.”)

The cute town of Asolo was our next stop today, which looked like another good place to stay in the area. Asolo, which is situated on the top of small mountain, is aptly called the “The Pearl of Treviso,” with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside from many parts of town. We wandered the old stone streets and did a little window shopping; we might have done some real shopping if it hadn't been siesta time, with every store closed. When we got back on the road, we joked that we were surprised the Italians didn't close the roads for siesta, as well, just to make sure everyone was spending the time properly. The road felt practically closed — there was hardly another traveler to be found during this time.

After a much-needed gelato pit-stop, it was time to go Prosecco tasting! As luck would have it, we were right in the middle of the famous Strada del Prosecco (“Prosecco wine road”) on the one day of the year that every Prosecco producer opens their winery to the public for free tastings. So, what is Prosecco, you ask? It's a variety of white grape used to make sparkling wine of the same name; the name can only be used for sparkling wines produced in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of Italy. We started at the Bisol winery, located a few miles from the foresteria, and sampled several dry and semi-dry wines. After joining the tour through the cellars (understanding only a few words here and there, and later realizing that they also offered English tours), we followed the wine road back to Rolle and stopped in at Vigne Matte. We thought Bisol was rather busy, but it was nothing compared to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at Vigne Matte who were gobbling up the complimentary cheese, crackers, breadsticks, and bottle after bottle of delicious sparkling wine.

Our busy day drew to a close with a simple dinner in the little village of Rolle. Rolle is a rural village; it has a church and two restaurants. We parked and walked past a house, where we heard cows mooing inside — apparently the first floor was actually a barn! Tonight's trattoria was like some others we had visited, where dogs seemed to be free to roam under our table and through the kitchen — no health codes to worry about here! For dinner, everyone was served the same huge, circular, wooden plate of food, filled with a dozen different local dishes — cured and cooked meats, salad, baked polenta and cheese, and vegetables.


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