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Archive for the ‘Memories of Italy’ Category

Located in the Veneto region west of Venice, the city of Vicenza is a confection of marble balustrades, exquisite architecture and luxuriant hillsides. Within the confines of the medieval walls, little evidence remains of the intense bombing raids that nearly destroyed the city during World War II. Now, pleasant wide boulevards and huge piazzas fill with locals during the evening walk, the passeggiata. This is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities, thanks to both a silk trade born in the renaissance along with a burgeoning gold jewelry trade. Designer light fixtures illuminate shop windows along the Corso Andrea Palladio. In the Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza’s main square, the elegant Palladian Basilica lines one side of a sparkling white marble square. This is a lovely, peaceful city.

Vicenza is located an easy one hour train ride west of Venice. If you are traveling by car between Milan and Venice, I highly recommend at least a one night visit to this gorgeous city.

We explore Vicenza during our Northern Italy Tours. While one day might seem sufficient, it is barely enough time to grasp the remarkable history of a city once tied to La Serenissima, Venice. Numerous navigable waterways once connected the trade of Venice directly with Vicenza. Wealthy merchants began building their country homes between city and sea. Italy’s most famous architect of the period, Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), literally built his reputation stone by stone in the hills and along the river near Vicenza.

(A brief mention that Vicenza is now home to a large US Military / NATO base. Without special and appropriate permission, you cannot visit the base, nor should city visitors attempt in any way to photograph the grounds.)

Our guide, Roberta Parlato, (www.robertaparlato.com) is a native with sun streaked blond hair, clear blue eyes and an energy that belies the seeming peace of the city. The enthusiasm she feels for the city and its history is evident. She offers a wide array of tours across the entire Veneto region. We always enjoy our time with her.

Our day in the city begins at the Piazza G. Matteotti, a lovely square that fronts the Palazzo Chiericati, one of Palladio’s masterpieces. The building is now one of the city’s Civic Museums. (www.museicivicivicenza.it/). Roberta leads our small group through the garden of the Teatro Olimpico(www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/), to the theater entrance. The Teatro, built between 1580 and 1585, is the first such building in the world constructed entirely of masonry. The performance season offers a plethora of options for those interested.

The design of the theater is full of “trompe d’oeil”, tricks of the eye. Despite the stage’s restrictive dimensions, it appears that we are looking into a city square off of which six separate streets fade in the distance. Truly remarkable.

After visiting the Teatro, we enjoy a lovely lunch of tramezzini, small flavorful sandwiches. The Bar Opera, located  outside the gates of the theater garden, (it-it.facebook.com/pages/OPERA-food-drinks/43623236530) offer delicious and fairly priced meals served in the shade of a gorgeous 16th century loggia. Accompanied by a spritz (white wine mixed with sparkling water), the light lunch is a perfect break during our day.

We take taxis for the easy ten minute transfer to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani. (www.villavalmarana.com/en). Located above the aptly named Valley of Silence, it is a gorgeous villa in a tranquil setting.

Francesco Muttoni built the villa in 1720.  The Palazzina (small palace/villa) and the Foresteria (building originally used as a greenhouse and limonaia) contain frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo on the interior walls. The paintings reflect an array of diverse activities, some focused on local farming of the time, others presenting visions of distant lands. The villa decorations are gorgeous and Roberta details some of the most notable frescoes during our visit.

From the Villa Valmarana, we negotiate a narrow, rough, path downhill to one of the most famous Palladian villas in the world, La Rotonda ( www.villalarotonda.it/) Sited on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the villa’s exterior displays the colonnaded style for which Palladio is so famous. His designs influenced buildings as diverse as the US Capital, the White House and Jefferson’s Monticello. His approach to architecture strongly influenced Inigo Jones in London, as well. The villa’s main room is cavernous. Frescoes cover the walls. Views across the city and countryside further underscore the perfect building site for this gorgeous villa.

We bid farewell to our guide, Roberta, and head to our preferred hotel, the Relais Santa Corona. (www.relaissantacorona.it/hotel_eng.html). Relais Santa Corona Vicenza

Located on the Contra’ Santa Corona, named for the nearby Church, the hotel is one of the few located within the city walls. We find that the hotel’s location offers easy access to the city, making for less tiring explorations. Rooms at this very new Relais are large, modern, extremely clean and very comfortable. The staff is  accommodating, the breakfast buffet more than sufficient.

For dinner, we recommend clients eat at Malvasia, (www.facebook.com/pages/MALVASIA-IL-RISTORANTE/109028052465997) a fabulous restaurant located a five minute walk from the hotel. Meals of traditional Veneto cuisine, supplemented by more typical Italian dishes, are all prepared with a focus on the freshest ingredients.  On Tuesday evenings, jazz enlivens the venue.

Antico Guelfo (www.anticoguelfo.it) is also one of my favorites. Located along the Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, it offers modern, clean interiors and a creative menu at very fair prices. The Guelfo is also an easy five minute walk from the hotel.

Should your time in Italy include a visit to the Veneto region, make a point to stop and enjoy yet one more unique experience in bella Italia!

IF YOU GO:

www.private-italy.com

TOURIST INFO:

www.vicenzae.org/eng

VICENZA/VENETO GUIDE:

Roberta Parlato

www.robertaparlato.com

THEATERS AND MUSEUMS:

Civic Museums

www.museicivicivicenza.it/

Olympic Theater

www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/

Tickets: Euro 8.50 per person

The Teatro is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (last admission: 4.30 p.m.) Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).

FOOD:

Caffe/Bar Opera

it-it.facebook.com/pages/OPERA-food-drinks/43623236530

Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 8

36100 Vicenza

Restaurant Malvasia

Contrà delle Morette, 5

Tel: 0444 543704

www.facebook.com/pages/MALVASIA-IL-RISTORANTE/109028052465997

Antico Guelfo

Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, 92

tel 0444 547897

www.anticoguelfo.it

VILLAS:

Villa Valmarana

www.villavalmarana.com/en

Open March 10 – November 4 (2012 Calendar Year). Tuesdays through Sundays only. Note: Closed Mondays.

10:00 a.m. to 12:30m p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Tickets: Euro 9.00 per person

Villa La Rotonda

www.villalarotonda.it/

Open 14 March to 5 November (2012 Calendar)

Open every day of the week EXCEPT Mondays.

10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Note: You can ONLY visit the itinerior of Villa La Rotonda on Wednesday and Saturday.

Tickets: Euro 5.00 per person (Note: Euro 10.00 per person on Wednesday and Saturday).

HOTEL:

Relais Santa Corona

www.relaissantacorona.it/hotel_eng.html

Contrà Santa Corona, 19

36100 Vicenza (Italy)

Phone / Fax 0444 324678

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The region of Emilia-Romagna is one of only a few provinces in Italy that does not touch the sea.What the region may lack in that access, it more than makes up for in the diversity and quality of its artisan products and meals. This is the heart of Italy’s very best food.  The centrally located provincial capital, Bologna, is easily reached in only forty-fives minutes by train from Florence. In addition to being home to the oldest university in Italy, the city also offers unforgettable architecture, fascinating history and the most delicious food in all of Italy.

If you wish to understand the production of this region’s best products, you need look no further than Emilia-Delizia. (http://www.guided-tours-italy.com/). Gabriele Monti and his staff provide exceptional service and offer a wide array of tours and tastings to satisfy the most demanding ‘foodies’ in the world.

Our clients have enjoyed spending the day with Sabrina, one of the guides who works with Gabriele, on several tours to this region. Sabrina arranged the following schedule, one which you can easily follow on your own. I do highly recommend, however, arranging for a private guide and car. Your insured and bonded guide from Emilia-Delizia will also offer to join you in your rental car to assist in getting around to these various locations.

We drove to the city of Parma about a forty-five minute drive north west of Bologna. After meeting Sabrina, we visited one of the finest producers of Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy-Consorzio produttori latte (C.p.l. Parma) (www.cplparma.it), located on the outskirts of that city. Sabrina easily explained the initial process of creating the cheese. It was not, however, until we entered the aging storage shelves in the rear of the building that we came to truly understand both the time involved in the aging of the cheese, but also the immense value of the product. Each wheel is valued at over Euro 800 and there were more than 800 such wheels in the warehouse. We followed our visit with a tasting of their cheeses. The true Reggiano had a sharp, almost vinegar ‘tang’, on the palate. The texture was dense but not heavy at all.

(Remember that you cannot bring food products back to the United States unless they are plastic sealed and have the commercial designation of the product on the container. Unless you wish to enjoy the cheese while you are in Italy, I recommend buying your Parmigiano at home.)

From the producer of cheeses, Sabrina brought us up into the hills above Parma to Salumificio “La Perla”(The Pearl).  (www.salumificiolaperla.it ). For over twenty years, brothers Carlo and Fabrizio Lanfranchi have been producing what is acknowledged as the finest dried Parma ham (prosciutto) in the region. Our drive from the cheese producer took about forty minutes.

Located near the top of a lovely hill, the family’s estate consists of a ham aging warehouse below a large restaurant. After an introduction to the receiving, preparation and aging of the hams, we were lead upstairs for lunch. The food was unforgettable:  a selection of their best prosciutto di Parma followed by several dishes of Tortellini in Brodo (freshly made pasts lightly covered in a broth of butter and sage). Dessert was a tray with various types of sweets produced in their immaculately clean kitchen. Wines, both white and red, along with ample fresh water, accompanied our meal. Coffee was available as desserts were presented.

Well satiated, we left La Perla behind and headed to one of the finest producers of Balsamic vinegar in Italy, Medici. (www.acetaiamedici.it). An acetaia, in Italian, is where balsamic vinegar is aged. As with all artisan products produced in Italy, the quality control of the process for producing aged balsamic is tightly controlled.

All vinegars that carry the Balsamico di Modena certification are aged a minimum of twelve years. In the case of the Medici acetaia, there are three levels of production: Red (18 years), Silver (25 years) and Gold (30 years). Signora Medici introduced us to the initial process of creating the vinegar. We visited the upstairs  room where the barrels rested. As with all such acetaias, this was located in a high room where heat can rise and keep the room at a reasonably warm temperature, even in the coldest months of the year.

All barrels have a small opening at the top. Across each opening is a simple linen cloth cover. This is a labor intensive, and loving, process. Each year, product is moved from barrel to barrel as the liquid evaporates. As the product ages, the level of liquid is reduced to a precious small amount. Different types of wood (cherry, oak, juniper, apple to chestnut) provide unique flavors and aromas to the balsamic.

Signora Medici offered everyone a sample of their products. The dark vinegar is as thick as syrup, luscious on the tongue,  further supplemented by sweet aromas. As we savored the “Red” level to “Gold”, the flavors became richer, more diverse and extraordinarily more complex. Once you have the original, you can never go back.

The Medici family also produce an array of wonderful wines and, for those interested, tastings can be arranged.

After bidding farewell to Sabrina, we headed back to our hotel in Bologna, the Hotel Porta San Mamolo (www.hotel-portasanmamolo.it/). This property is consistently rated one of the best hotels in the city. Located on the south perimieter of the medieval city walls  at the San Mamolo gate (hence the property’s name) the staff are extraordinarily courteous and accommodating. The rooms are comfortably spacious and the breakfast buffet each morning more than adequate.

All told, our day in Emilia Romagna barely even began to satisfy our craving for the incredible produce of the region. Yet, all was easily accomplished with the guidance of Sabrina and the support of the staff at Emilia-Delizia. If you are headed from Florence to Venice, or vice-verse, give yourself the gift of visiting this extraordinary, and little known, region of Italia.

As we headed north to Vicenza, the next stop on our tour, we vowed to return – and soon!

TO ARRANGE GUIDED VISITS IN EMILIA_ROMAGNA (Cooking Classes, too!)

Emilia-Delizia

Contact: Gabriele Monti

http://www.guided-tours-italy.com/tour-contact/contacts.htm

IF YOU GO ON YOUR  OWN

Hotel Porta San Mamolo, Bologna:

Vicolo del Falcone, 6/8

40124 Bologna, Italia

Telefono. +39 051.583056

Fax +39 051.331739

info@hotel-portasanmamolo.it

 Consorzio Produttori Latte Parma: (C.p.l. Parma)

 Call ahead for open hours for visits

www.cplparma.it/

Spaccio baganzolino: Via Puppiola,15 43122 Parma – Tel. 0521.601313 Fax.0521.603742

Spaccio orario continuato: Via Casello Poldi, 7- Tel. 0521.272965

Salumificio La Perla:

Call head for lunch reservations to assure you of a table and guided visit.

SALUMIFICIO “LA PERLA” di Lanfranchi Carlo e Fabrizio S.n.c.

Localita’ Quinzano sotto, 3 – 43013 Langhirano (PARMA)

E-mail: info@salumificiolaperla.it

Telephone and Fax: +39 0521 853572

 Acetaia Medici, Tenuta Rampata:

 Call ahead for hours:

www.medici.it

Strada per S.Ilario, 68

42027 Montecchio Emilia (RE) – Italia

Tel. 0522/942135

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Facade, Santa Croce, Florence

This is a quick note to let everyone know that the entrance fee at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence has been increased effective March 1, 2012. New price per person, adult, not with a group, is Euro 6.00 per person. As with all things Florentine and Italian, prices continue to rise. Hope that this information is of assistance as you travel. Mark

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