A happy announcement was made last Sunday, the 7th of July. Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, two Prosecco producing localities in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, were elected to be UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So happy an occasion, and an unexpected one too, even bickering politicians paused to pop corks in celebration. Then, they quickly went back to bickering.
The great arc of foothills and lakes below the Alps of northern Italy, from France, crossing the Italian regions of the Piemonte, Lombardia, to the Veneto, and lastly, Fruili-Venezia-Giulia, at the Slovenian border, is nearly one, long uninterrupted chain of vineyards, cellars and wineries. A big business too.
Wine, its cultivation & production in the Veneto is divided into three geographic areas, each with its own distinct vintage of wine: the Lake of Garda and its Valpolicella, the sunny stretch east from Verona to Vicenza noted for its Soave, and the foothills of the Dolomites, northeast of the Piave River and its ever more popular Prosecco. It is there where you will find these two UNESCO additions of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano.
From above, the land is flatter than flat from Venice and the Adriatic up to a point where there are these odd ripples of hills. A geographical fender-bender. Beyond, more hills rise higher towards the majesty of the Dolomite peaks. The wine growing districts in this northwestern quadrant of the Veneto are mostly on those ripples, towards the sun, isolated & protected by the valleys from the cold winter chill & fog of the flatlands. A perfect micro-climate of vincultura.
Prosecco is not champagne. Many demean it as so. Champagne is ONLY French and is made from a different grape. Prosecco comes from the Giera grape. An Italian concoction. Italians enjoy fiddling with things, grapes included. And, they have probably been making bubbly wine longer than the French or, Germans. The custom is… ask a cameriere for a white wine and I betcha he’ll ask if you’d prefer uno fermo o frizzante. However, akin to France’s champagne, Prosecco is a celebratory kind of wine. Good for aperitivi, toasts or, to accompany an antipasto before a meal. Simply sipping it isn’t bad either.
A map of the Veneto, and Valdobbiadene and Cornegliano circled…
Wine, and prosecco, may be kingpins… the Veneto produces more wine than any other Italian region… but, it has always been rich agriculturally. And that has brought centuries of prosperity & culture which, makes the area ideal to tour. Cities like Treviso and towns like Bassana del Grappa are prosperous, energetic and geared to enticing tourists with Medieval centro storici, museums, and worlds of beautiful churches & palazzi. An area to visit beyond the obvious lure of fine wines.
You can easily reach Conegliano from Venice or, Treviso, on the A27 Autostrada. Then, lace your way across to Valdobbiadene using state roads. These two localities are at the top reaches of a long spine of hills between valleys covered with vineyards, wineries and quaint towns. Asolo… underlined… is one in particular. A lovely Medieval town dominated by a story-book castle. One eats well there. Heading east to Maser there is Andrea Palladio’s considered masterpiece of Villa Barbaro… in red on the map. Instead, going north to Possagno there is the famous Italian sculptor, Antonio Canova’s Pantheon-like mausoleum… referred to as a temple and written in red… and nearby, his museum housing a collection of his gesso prototypes before copying by sculpting them in his prefered ultra-white marble. West is Bassano del Grappa, famous for its grappa and an enormous covered bridge designed by… who else? Andrea Palladio… and Marostica and its chess board piazza for settling disputes between families. They might not have had the gift of Prosecco in those antiques days.
Top run, left to right: the valley of Valdobbiadene, the Giera grape used to make Prosecco, and a vineyard near Conegliano.
Bottom run, left to right: Bassano del Grappa and Andrea Palladio’s bridge over the Brenta River, Antonio Canova’s self-tribute mausoleum, Asolo, and Villa Barbaro at Maser.
We would like to thank venetoinside.com and bellasolo.it for their contributions of photos for this post.
Your Italian Concierge is a travel concierge and custom trip planning service. If you would like more specific information on the Veneto, its wine culture and the two new UNESCO sites, or, if you are thinking of coming to Italy to tour or, host an event, please contact Forrest Spears.