EXPLORING THE VILLAS OF THE BRENTA CANAL | VENICE PROVINCE
This is an excellent bike tour or to enjoy during your visit to Venice, the start of the Riviera can be reached by taking a water bus to Fusina or the local train line stopping in Mira or Stra. This is a charming and attractive location just a few kilometers from Venice: the Brenta Riviera, a place full of artistic and cultural interest. Between the 16th and the 18th centuries, some of the most important families from Venice had their summer residences built on the Riviera that runs alongside the Brenta river, a waterway that connects Venice to Padova. There are several varied bike routes you can take based on different travel interest.
HOW TO GET TO THE BRENTA RIVIERA
The best way to explore along the “Naviglio Brenta” is by bicycle but you can also make your way by walking and using the local buses. The route runs from Fusina to Stra for 24 km (one way). It is a flat ride and popular bicycle route so cars are very usual to your presence. There is no need to ride on the primary streets unless you wish to get over to visit a villa or shop; there are small secondary roads to follow that run parallel to the canal. This is a safe and fun ride for all levels of cyclist and a great day of active travelling.
You will also find information about a bike path that runs from Mira to Stra. This path is gravel and best suited for a mountain bike plus it takes you north of the villages and is not a lovely ride.
The easiest starting point for this ride is Fusina or the Mira Porta train station. You can catch a local train between Venice and Padova that will stop at this station. From here you can follow the bike path south to the Canal and then start your excursion
ABOUT THE BRENTA CANAL
The Naviglio Brenta or Brenta Canal that we ride along today is the result of a system of locks and swing bridges to make the canal easy to navigate. The gates at Dolo were particularly important since they were installed around a small island to form the only boatyard along the canal. The last lock downstream was once located at Moranzani, just before the river enter the lagoon of Fusina. The canal was a vital commercial waterway (many famous UScanal systems were patterned after these works), that carried goods and passengers. Barges (burchi) were pulled up-stream by horses, and gondolas and passenger boats were “poled” along the river carrying groups of aristocrats to their country houses or parties.
WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE IN THE VENETIAN VILLAS
There are thousands of country houses still standing in the Veneto and northeast Italy. In the 15th century, after the Venetian Republic’s conquest of its “mainland” territories, The Venetian investments slowly shifted from the Orient to landholdings. The old nobility had occupied estates throughout the provinces of Padua and Treviso as early as the 14th century, but with the change in trade routes and discovery of the New World the Republic no longer held a monopoly on trade so capital was invested into less profitable but safer investments.
The life of the villa combined two very different styles: the contemplative pleasure of the country life, observed from the humanistic standpoint of the epoch (which is why the country villa design draws upon the classical world in design), and the cultivation of the country estate itself, whose the affairs the proprietor managed in person.
Over the centuries the use of the country house went through server changes. Originally used as a gentleman’s country house in the 15th century to a Palace to show a “Bella Figura” (a good image) among their social equals. The elegant but restrained forms of the Renaissance gave way to imposing building complexes surrounded by large parks ornamented with pavilions, fountains, statues, woods, and whatever else was the latest style of the moment. Most of spring and summer were spent in the villas and great balls, hunting parties, and games were played. Then as the weather cooled the owners would move back into the city, just in time to Carnival (carnival during that period lasted up to 4 months). Carlo Coldoni (a Venetian playwright) wrote a trilogy describing the villa season and in many of the 1970 – 1980 classic Italian TV movies the villa life is depicted with lots of truisms (even if they seem obscure to us today).
VILLAS YOU SHOULD VISIT
Villa Foscari known as “La Malcontenta”: via dei Turisti 9, Malcontenta di Mira. Open Tuesday and Sarturday from 0900 to 1200, all other days open on request. (Closed Monday)
Villa Widmann Rezzonico Foscari; Via Nazionale 420 Mira. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 1000 to 1800 hours, (Closed Monday), local tourism office located here.
Barchessa Alessandri AND Barchessa Valmarana; via Valmarana 11, Mira. Open from 1000 to 1600 hours, (Closed Mondays).
Villa Pisani; via Doge Pisani 7, Stra. Open Tuesday to Sunday 0900 to 1900 hours, (Closed on Monday)
Villa Foscarini-Rossi; via Doge Pisani 1/2, Stra. Open Tuesday to Sunday 0900 to 1300 and 1400 to 1800 hours, (Closed Monday) During August Closed Saturday and Sunday)
BIKE ROUTES ALONG THE BRENTA CANAL
Bike Route #1 Along the Brenta Canal | Italiaoutdoors Bike Tour
HIKING TOUR IN THE HILLTOWNS OF TUSCANY
Walking through the breathtaking landscape of the hills of southern Tuscany between romantic hill top towns is a magical experience. Your journey winds through a unique linear, almost geometric landscape of hills, vineyards and olive trees between renaissance towns and medieval monasteries. Walking through the lesser known wine regions south of Siena allows you to escape the pace of 21st century life and discover the tastes and textures of this beautiful region of Italy.
This suggested walking vacation begins at Cortona and then a visit to the medieval hill top town of Montepulciano, before continuing to the renaissance town of Pienza, a UNESCO world heritage site. The journey continues through the tranquil Tuscan landscape to a succession of architecturally and historically fascinating towns and monasteries while enjoying the generous Tuscan hospitality before your journey’s end in Siena.
QUICK DAY BY DAY TUSCANY HIKING TRIP PROGRAM
- DAY 1: Arrive Starting Point: Cortona
- DAY 2: Montepulciano to Pienza - 9.5 miles
- DAY 3: Pienza to Bagno Vignoni - 9.5 miles
- DAY 4: Bagno Vignoni to Sant’Antimo - 8 miles
- DAY 5: Montalcino to Buonconvento - 14 miles
- DAY 6: Buonconvento to Monte Oliveto Maggiore - 6.5 miles
- DAY 7: Buonconvento to Siena - 10 miles
- DAY 8: Goodbye to continue your adventure
TUSCANY HILLTOWNS WALKING TOUR OUTLINE
DAY 1: Arrive Starting Point: Montepulciano
It is recommended flying to Rome, Florence or Pisa and then catch the train to Chiusi (Train 1h30, 2h30 and 1h50 respectively). From Chuisi you can take a local bus or taxi the short distance to Montepulciano (20mins) Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Montepulciano
DAY 2: Montepulciano to Pienza: Walk: 9.5 miles
Starting from the San Biagio church you follow a quiet dirt road to the charming village of Montichiello where you can pause for a relaxed lunch or perhaps just a quick cappuccino before continuing to Pienza. Pienza is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it’s unique renaissance architecture and town planning. Additionally it is well known for the production of pecorino cheese and truffles. Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Pienza.
DAY 3: Pienza to Bagno Vignoni: Walk: 9.5 miles
Today you wander through a beautiful region of rolling hills, oak woods, cypress trees and pretty villages. The thermal baths complex at Bagno Vignoni is the perfect location to spend the afternoon relaxing. Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Bagno Vignoni.
DAY 4: Bagno Vignoni to Sant’Antimo: Walk: 8 miles
A hard but enjoyable day following dry riverbeds through a fairly wild environment brings you to St Antimo, an isolated abbey situated in a pastoral landscape. After exploring the abbey walk or take the local bus to the Medieval town of Montalacino. Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Montalcino.
DAY 5: Montalcino to Buonconvento: Walk: 14 miles
A fairly tough day walking in the famous Brunello wine region. You will pass tthrough vineyards and olive groves, then finally entering the beautiful Tuscan Landscape of the "Crete" and Buonconvento, where you will stay in a lovely agriturismo. Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Buonconvento
DAY 6: Buonconvento to San Quirico d’Orcia: Walk: 12 miles
En route to San Quirico d’Orcia you pass through Brunello vineyards there will the opportunity to visit a nice winery at Torrenieri. Cross the railway line and carry on through wineries and iconic landscapes to San Quirico, a delightful walled town. You have just completed this section of the Via Francigena and perhaps you would like to reward yourself with a glass of delicious chianti in the medieval town square.
DAY 7: Buonconvento to Siena: Walk: 10 miles
Today you should start with a short transfer from Pieve a Salti to Grancia di Cuna to start the walk to Siena. Walking through a landscape of rolling hills and small hamlets until you are rewarded with the view of Siena in the distance. Enter the town through Porto Romana, one of the medieval gates and walk thought the city to reach your hotel. Overnight: Suggested Hotel, Siena.
DAY 8: Goodbye.
FOR MAPS, ROUTE NOTES, AND OTHER TRAVEL ASSISTANCE CONTACT US.
SAN MARCO SQUARE WALKING TOUR | VENICE
Anyone visiting the City of Venice should head for first the heart of the city, Even if you arrive at the train station take a water bus to Saint Mark’s Square, arriving from the sea is the traditional way to enter Venice. Saint Mark's Square is Venice's only square and is surrounded by an artistic complex of buildings. Each structure is in a different styles having been built at different times during the Republic of Venice's reign and they have created a unique harmonious setting to the square that added to the grandeur of the city.
We start our walk at the waterbus stop in San Marco Square.
Your first sight is THE DOGE'S PALACE: the entrance is through the Porta delIa Carta. This is a monumental entrance in floral Gothic style that contains two bronze well-curbs. The courtyard is surrounded by porticoes with a top loggia. On the eastern side there is the Scala dei Giganti ('Giants' staircase). It is thus called because of the two large statues by Sansovino at the sides. The stairway goes up to the loggia but to reach the top floors we go up the Scala d'Oro ('Golden staircase). It owes it name to the lavish frescoes and gilded stucco work. It was from the Doge's Palace that the Venetian Republic was ruled and it is still the best example of Venetian art. It was the residence of the Doge and the seat of the main government departments. As one walks through its rooms the history and glory of the Venetian Republic is revealed in its paintings and sculptures.
Next to the Doge's Palace there is SAINT MARK'S BASILICA, which at one time could be reached from inside the Doge's Palace. The Basilica is a wonderful example of Byzantine Venetian architecture. It was at one time the Doge's chapel but it was also the mausoleum for Saint Mark, the patron saint, whose life is narrated in the golden mosaics on arches above it’s entrance.
SAINT MARK'S SQUARE It is trapezoidal, and the Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove run along the two outer sides. They are known as old ('vecchie) and new ('nuove) on the basis of the age of the buildings over the arcades of the ground-level porticoes. The Procuratie Vecchie run along the north side of the square from the CLOCKTOWER and has kept their Renaissance features. They are followed by the Ala Napoleonica ('Napoleonic Wing). This was built in 1810 by the architect Giuseppe Soli on the site of the demolished San Geminiano church, which had been built by Sansovino. The Procuratie Nuove's run along the west side of the square and includes the Libreria di San Marco, which was designed by Jacopo Sansovino at the request of the Venetian Republic to house the codicils donated to it by Cardinal Bessarione. The clock tower is at the start of the Merceria, the road that leads from Saint Mark's Square to the Campo di San Bartolomeo. The name 'Merceria' comes from the shops and stands that have always lined the street.
Opposite the Doge's Palace there is the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM. This houses the famous collections by Domenico Grimmli and his nephew Giovanni of original Greek marbles and a coin collection from the church of Santa Maria Formosa. Upon leaving the Ala Napoleonica, just after the "Socca di Piazza", we come to the church of San Moise. This originally eighth century building was rebuilt in the tenth century by Mose Venier, who wanted to dedicate it to the saint after which he was named. We then come to Calle Larga XXII Marzo. This was built in 1880 by widening Calle San Moise and contrasted with the lower surrounding buildings. Today, this road is lined with shops as far as Socca di Piazza. These shops were host the most famous names in gold jewelers, leather goods and international and Italian fashion and offer for sale their latest and finest products. Halfway down Calle Larga XXiI Marzo turn right into Campo San Fantitl where the church of San Pantin stands. This dates back to the ninth century but was rebuilt in the sixteenth century by Scarpagnino.
Opposite, there was the LA FENICE OPERA HOUSE. This was originally built in 1790 to a designed by Selva. It burnt down in 1836 but like the phoenix ('fenice' in Italian) it was rebuilt in the same style by Meduna in just over a year: The opera house reflected the spirit of Venice of the time. It was destroyed by the fire of 1996 but the determination of the Venetians has brought it back to 'the way it was'. Making your way back into Calle Larga XXII Marzo and continue until we reach Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio or Campo di Santa Maria Zobenigo with a church dedicated to this saint. "Zobenigo" is a reference to the Jubenigo family, who had the church built in the tenth century. On the inside is a room decorated with the works of painters from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the small sacristy, apart from the liturgical silverware, there is also a painting by Rubens.
Next you arrive at CAMPO SANTO STEFANO. This is enclosed by fine palazzi that were the residences of important families. The palazzo of the Pisani di Santo Stefano family has housed the MUSIC CONSERVATORY since 1897, which is named after the Venetian composer Benedetto Marcello. The CHURCH OF SANTO STEFANO, after which the 'campo' is named, was built by the Augustinian's in the thirteenth century together with the adjoining monastery. It retains its Gothic appearance although it has been modified inside.
LEGENDS AND HISTORY
Foundations of the Teatro a Sant' Angelo . The first theatre stood here, which was to make the dramatist Carlo Goldoni famous.
Calle dei Bombaseri . This street contained the shops and workshops of the cotton manufacturers ("bombaso" - Venetian dialect for 'wad of cotton').
Riva del Carbon . This was the only place in Venice in which the law of 1537 permitted coal to be unloaded.
Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi ('Street of the 'Germans'). The Venetian Republic welcomed strangers and allowed individual foreign communities to have shops for their merchants and ambassadors ('fontego' is itself an Arabic corruption of the Italian 'bottega' or 'shop').
Ponte dei Ferali . The lamp-makers lived and worked in this area. In 1737 street lighting was decreed for the city ('ferali' is a Venetian word for lamps).
Ponte de la Pagia . Barges loaded with straw for the animals would stop underneath this bridge ("pagia" is Venetian for 'straw').
Riva degli Schiavoni . The ships from Dalmatia would tie up here. The Dalmatians were also known as 'Schiavoni'.
tips on walking in italy
I keep saying that the best way to enjoy Italy is by foot and as you are planning your Italian escape look at these suggestion to help you in your planning. You can be walking in the mountains,, along the coastline like Cinque Terre, or urban trekking through on of the regions of Italyhaving the right gear will make your trip more enjoyable.
1. Invest in some trekking poles.
If you haven’t used trekking poles before, have no fear. You’ll figure out how to use them right away. The Dolomites Alta Via 1 is a difficult trail with varying terrain and steep ascents and descents while Venice has lots of bridges while . Trekking poles will help you power up hill, keep your balance when you slip in mud, and reduce the strain on your knees and feet with every step you take. I had good luck with Leki poles, but any type of poles will be better than none.
2. Pack light.
It you planning multiday hikes or train backbacking scrutinize every item you bring and bring only the essentials. Remember, you’ll be carrying whatever you pack for around 90 miles and for 6 – 12 hours each day through the challenging Dolomites.
3. Bring sandals.
Most the rifugios require you to remove your boots before entering the main areas of the hut. Also, you’ll want them for showering to avoid getting athlete’s foot. Plus, they are great for taking your shoes off on longer breaks or when you find a nice cold stream to soak them in.
4. Quick drying clothes.
Since carrying a full wardrobe would make your pack unnecessarily heavy, bring clothes that are quick drying so you can wash them at the rifugios at the end of each day’s hike. Ex Officio make some great clothes that will be comfortable and designed for adventure travelers. Don’t forget your quick drying towel either.
5. Don’t skimp on socks.
Be sure to bring multiple pairs of hiking socks. I recommend swapping them out for a fresh pair at lunch – I promise that your feet will thank you. Hang your old ones off the back of your pack so they will air out and dry. It’s amazing the difference that a pair of new socks can make for your comfort.
6. Get a pack that fits comfortably.
A quality hiking pack that properly fits can make or break the comfort of your trip. You’ll most likely be carrying around 25-35 lbs for 90 miles, so get a pack that fits you. Gregory and Osprey both make some quality packs that are priced well. Go to a store and check them out by filling them up with gear and walking around for a few minutes to see if they are comfortable.
7. Prevent chaffing and blisters.
This a topic that most don’t want to talk about, but let’s face it, after hiking 90 miles there will be some parts of you that rub a bit. Whether it’s blisters on your feet or chaffing in your thighs, some preventive maintenance with products like chaffing creams and body rubs can prevent a miserable experience before it starts. Body Glide andGold Bond both make anti-chafe products that apply like a deodorant and work great.
8. Trail runners vs. hiking boots.
Personally I recommend some comfortable hiking shoes or trail runners. Boots tend to be heavy, trap heat in, and after a long day in them you’re going to have some lazy feet (as I call it) and start stumbling on the trail. A pair of quality trail runners will be lightweight, comfortable, and give you great grip. I had great luck with my Vasque trail-running shoes but footwear really comes down to personal fit. Just make sure you choose something that fits well and give it a test hike prior to your trip. My last footwear tip is to ensure you trim your toenails prior to the hike. The steep downhills on Dolomites Alta Via 1 trails can put a pounding on your toes and even cause you to loose toenails over the course of the trip if they aren’t trimmed.
9. Get an early start.
Afternoon storms are the norm in the Dolomites and the northern areas in Italy, so start your hike early in the day. That leaves you a safety cushion should you get delayed during the hike and also leaves you more time to relax in the wonderful atmosphere at the rifugios.
10. Enjoy the food.
Rifugios make some great food that will certainly satisfy your appetite on the trail. If you normally eat a big meal, consider the half-board option. It usually comes with a pasta as a starter then a hearty meat course like goulash stew or local sausage. Plus, it comes with a dessert. If you don’t want to pack lunches for the whole trip, just plan your route to stop at a rifugio for lunch as well. They make some great sandwiches too.