Witness a ceramicist working at the potter’s wheel and moulding the clay with his hands, making it into ever different shapes, it is an experience that really will leave you open-mouthed. Of course! We all remember the scene from Ghost where Demi Moore tries her hand at this art form, but to be able to enter into a craft workshop, to converse with a ceramicist and to discover the tricks of the trade and perhaps even try to mould a small object with our own hands, that really is a completely different thing. The stop-off at the craft workshop can be combined with the visit to the Ceramics Museum at Nove or Bassano del Grappa.
If you are travelling with children or you are interested in the ancient trades, you really will find this place truly enchanting! The maglio, or forging hammer, is a piece of wooden machinery which was used in past centuries to work iron using the power of water. At Breganze it is still possible to see a working maglio, with its mills, dating back to the 16th century, and to discover the “bizarre” shapes of the agricultural tools produced up until the second post-war period.
Vicenza is the Italian capital of the goldsmith’s art, with a thousand-year tradition in the manufacture of precious metals. Valerio Belli, a 16th century engraver from Vicenza, is still today considered one of the greatest exponents of all time and his rock crystals are today preserved in the world’s most prestigious museums, from the Vatican to the Louvre. Those held in Vicenza’s Civic Museum are an excellent starting point before venturing into discovering the current techniques of working gold. For obvious safety reasons, goldsmiths are often reluctant to welcome strangers into their workshops, but with a bit of luck I will try to satisfy even those who ardently wish to try this "brilliant" experience …
For those who enjoy classical music, to be able to enter into an instrument workshop is equivalent to having free access to Pinocchio’s Land of Toys. Violas, violins, cellos, double basses, guitars and mandolins: a world of chords all within reach … and earshot! In Italy, the great violin-making tradition has its centre in Cremona and its most high profile figure is the incomparable Stradivarius. But Veneto will also be able to amaze you with a thoroughly respected mastro violin-maker with over twenty years’ experience, whose creations are in demand from Japan to America.
Few still talk of grappa in the singular, but if you belong to those who do, a visit to a distillery is the easiest way to discover the varied world which is hiding behind our region’s most popular liqueur. If, on the other hand, you are a connoisseur, this is an exciting opportunity to be around the stills and barriques, to discover the secrets of distilling, to ask questions to those who have been involved in this trade for generations and to sample the quality of the local grappa . Other evocative places for tasting distilled products are the Poli family’s Grappa Museum, the historic location of the Grapperia Nardini on the Ponte degli Alpini and the futuristic “Bubbles” created by Fuksas to celebrate 225 years of the most renowned Italian distillery in the world.
With its three production areas of DOC wines (Italian Controlled Designation of Origin), the province of Vicenza is one of the obligatory stop-offs for those who enjoy Italian wines. Small producers who are worthy of note stand alongside the bigger names who are well-known outside Italy. It is possible to taste different types of wine, among which, the Vespaiolo, the Torcolato, the Garganego, the Durello, the Recioto and the Vin Santo stand out. Well-positioned across the whole provincial territory, the wine cellars of Breganze, Gambellara and the Berici Hills constitute a pleasurable stop in any programme, while a villa tour can easily finish off at Soave or Valdobbiadene, the kingdoms of Prosecco. The evocative journey through the ancient documents, barrels, barriques and corks of the Museum of Wine assembled by the Zonin wine cellars in the historic area of Gambellara is, however, reserved for those who are more curious.
Italy, you know, is not just a series of works of art and naturalistic beauties, but a true mine of gastronomic local specialities just waiting to be discovered. Why not add to your programme a mouth-watering stop where you can taste the typical products of the Venetian cuisine? Each resort and each season offers its own specialities, so during the spring and summertime you can taste Bassano’s white asparagus, Marostica cherries, Lumignano peas and, when the cold weather sets in, Trevisan chicory, Creazzo “broccolo fiolaro” broccoli and codfish. There are salami and cheeses throughout all the seasons. There is just so much to choose from …
Treat yourself to admiring a real, live owl close-up and seeing a Harris Hawk flying above your heads and … you will never forget it! Especially when there is an expert falconer to welcome you, who is willing to reveal the biological and behavioural secrets of different species of birds of prey, to show you the training techniques and to answer all your questions and queries.
This is surely the most exciting and adrenalin-fuelled way to get up close and personal to the Brenta river, to get to know, right at the water’s edge, one of the main stars in the history of Bassano del Grappa. For adults, it is a good way to test your own motor abilities in an unstable environment and for children, it is an experience to savour among your most exciting memories of your holidays in Italy.
Perhaps you have already driven a quad bike in the North African desert or around the Caribbean sugar cane plantations, never imagining that even in Italy there are striking places where you can take part in similar exciting and thrilling excursions. In our case, they are places where history merges with a natural environment which presents different levels of difficulty and, therefore, adventure. We are talking about the Asiago Plateau and the Monte Grappa: both splendid from a landscape point of view and accompanied by a long and distinct dairy tradition. They also acted as outposts for the Italian Army during the First World War. This truly has all the ingredients for an absolutely unforgettable day …
Right from our early childhood days, we are told that the huge walls constructed around cities acted as defence lines against external enemies and that, in the event of attack, boiling water or boiling oil was thrown onto the enemies from above. All true, of course. But the methods of defence and attack were very much more varied and sophisticated, and occasionally even more cruel, than these. What better opportunity to discover them than a visit to a real mediaeval city with walls and castles? Obviously, children and teenagers will not miss a single detail of what is shown and explained, but this activity is particularly recommended to hit home with an adult, and more informed, audience.