Veneto (Italy’s 8th largest region) is well-known for its history, landscapes, beautiful cities and towns, and also for the Prosecco hills in the Valdobbiadene area, which recently became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This area is located at the bottom of the Dolomites Alps and offers great views, landscapes and delicious food and wine. Of course there are many vineyards and wineries in the area, and it is definitely a great experience to visit them and enjoy some local wine surrounded by the beautiful nature, but Veneto is so much more than that. This region offers a few surprises and gems for thrill-seekers who wish to live adventurous and fun experiences. So, let’s explore some of Veneto’s most unusual and alternative activities!
Visit Osteria senz’Oste and Unwind in
the Prosecco hills
However, there is a unique place, which was not know also by many local until recently, and where you will definitely have a unique experience.
Osteria senz’Oste (Restaurant without Host) is a very small restaurant located in a 19th century farmhouse on the hills of Cartizze, one of the most refined types of Prosecco; as its name suggests, there is no staff working at the restaurant, no chefs, no waiters, no hosts. Visitors are welcome to enter the tiny room and serve themselves, choosing a bottle of Prosecco from the vending machine and some other typical local products, such as cheeses, cold cuts, especially prosciutto and salame, freshly made bread and different kinds of local desserts. All the products are produced in the area by the owner of the restaurant and other local farmers, so their quality and freshness is definitely outstanding.
At this point you will probably be wondering how do visitors pay for the food and wine consumed. This is actually one of the most unique and interesting features of the Osteria: every item is labeled with the price and at the entrance of the room where the food is stored, there is a box where guests are supposed to leave the amount of money as indicated on the labels (a part from the bottles of wine, which are sold at the vending machines). The amazing part is that there is no one there to check, whether someone has paid or not, the whole concept is based on trusting other people
After grabbing the food and wine of your choice and leaving the money in the box, you can enjoy the delicious meal in the outside sitting area. There are many wooden and plastic tables in the front and on the sides of the farmhouse, some are even located in between the vines. The landscape all around is absolutely stunning, with green hills, vineyards and mountains; it is definitely the perfect environment to unwind and take a break from the crowded scene of Venice.
Address: Str. delle Treziese, 4, 31049 Valdobbiadene TV (about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Venice by car)
Cycle from the Dolomites to the Venetian lagoon
Thanks to its landscape and nature diversity, Veneto is one of best Italian regions when it comes to the variety of outdoor activities and different possibilities to spend time absorbed in nature.
The norther part of the region features the Dolomites, the southern part the Venetian lagoon and many beaches and sea resorts, while in the central part there are the famous Prosecco hills and the plains. It is really great to observe how the nature and landscape change as we proceed from the north to the south and vice versa, and one of the best and most authentic ways of exploring this diversity is cycling through it. Of course, this activity requires a pretty good physical condition and fitness level, but it really is a unique and amazing experience.
There is a fully structured cycleway crossing from the Dolomites, close to the border with Austria, and ending in the Venetian lagoon, covering about 220km in total.
The official starting point is in the area of the the Höhlenstein Valley; from there, it goes to the famous “Three Peaks”, one of the most stunning part of the Dolomites, and then continues to Cortina d’Ampezzo, a famous little town and ski-resort. Now, one of the most interesting parts starts: you will continue your journey following the old railway, so it will feel like jumping back in the past and exploring the area as people used to do decades and centuries ago. The old railway tracks will guide you all the way to Pieve di Cadore, the home town of the famous Italian painter Tiziano, and then proceed to Ponte belle Alpi and Belluno, two of the most characteristic little towns in the area.
The cycleway continues on to Bassano del Grappa, famous for the production of the Italian Grappa (one of the most famous liquors especially in the northern regions; its alcohol volume can reach up to 60%!); here you can stop for some well-deserved grappa tasting before continuing on your explorative journey, which will lead you to Asolo right after. Asolo is another beautiful and very charming town, located on top of the Prosecco hills; it is really worth it to take a break here and explore the cute city center and admire the beautiful view on the valley under.
The track then proceeds to Treviso and, following the river Sile, arrives in Mestre and finally Venice, where you can head straight to the city or decide to explore some less known parts of the lagoon, and see how few local fishermen still live and carry out their activities according to the old traditions
To complete the whole journey, including some stops in some of the most characteristic towns and site, will take approximately 3 days; however, it is definitely possible to pick just one section of the cycleway and explore one specific area of the region. We definitely recommend starting your journey from the north and proceed to the southern part of the region, to avoid cycling uphill, especially in the hills and mountains area
Visit the Blue Cave and Zumelle Castle in Valbelluna and the Pedavena Brewery
Valbelluna is a valley located at the bottom of the Dolomites mountains, and comprehends a few little towns; Mel is one of them and has recently been declared “One of the most beautiful towns in Italy”. It is a small village on the Prosecco hills, has a cute and charming city center where it’s definitely worth spending some time and enjoy some local food and wine or just a gelato or an Italian espresso. However, the truly wonderful part is its surrounding area, filled with natural wonders and historic constructions. Two of the sites we definitely recommend to explore are the Zumelle Castle and the Blue Cave.
The Zumelle Castle is a old castle built by the Romans to keep control over the Via Claudia Augusta, the Roman road passing nearby. It has now been converted into a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast; we recommend visiting the castle through the guided tours offered on the site, or just stop there for a very typical dinner, which will consist mainly of delicious Medieval dishes.
Castello di Zumelle Address: Via San Donà, 4 – Loc, 32026 Borgo Valbelluna BL, Italy
Not far from the castle there is the church of San Donato, a beautiful construction worth visiting.
On the way from the Zumelle Castle to Belluno, after the small town Villa di Villa, there is another hidden treasure, the Blue Cave. This beautiful spot can be reached directly from the Zumelle Castle by walking about 30 minutes going up the river Rui. The cave is hidden in the rocks and might not be very easy to find if no one else is walking in front of you; however, during the summer months it won’t be unusual to share the journey with many other explorers. The interior of the cave presents an amazing scenery, crystal clear water with many shades of blue and turquoise and the shiny reflections on the rocks above. Some people do swim inside the cave, but be warned the water is usually freezing cold!
At the end of your visit, we suggest going back to the castle, as that is the easiest path to and from the Blue Cave.
The perfect way to end your day is by making a stop at the famous and historic Pedavena brewery. Built in 1896, this brewery is a must visit when in the area. They produce high quality beers and it is possible to visit some parts of the factory through a guided tour. Make sure to stop at the bar and try their beer, along with some typical local desserts or sandwiches.