A small group of friends have decided to accompany me to Venice, Padua, and Ferrara in February 2022!
I put together a custom, elegant, boutique experience for them based on the places I’ve discovered during the past 10 years of solo Italian travel to historical sites both on and off the beaten path. I’m not a “tour group” type traveller so this trip is more along the lines of a private tour lead providing a bespoke trip for an intimate group of friends. I’ve done the work. All they have to do is purchase their plane ticket, pack, and arrive!
I’m very excited to show them Venice, Ferrara, and Montegrotto Terme in the Colli Euganee. I will probably plan another trip in the late fall to some of my other favorite places, so stay tuned if you want to come with.
This trip begins with Carnevale in Venezia (Venice). This celebration dates back to at least the 11th-century and we will spend 3 days roaming the city and savoring the festivities. Italy has chosen to require the Green Pass for indoor dining and non-food-related gatherings. Americans simply have to show their ID and vaccination cards to meet the requirement.
After checking into our Palazzetto (yes, we have an entire Little Palace to ourselves right on the water in San Marco)…
The first thing we will do is scout out the best masks:
- Benor Maschere Venezia (Santa Croce): Just behind Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, this artisanal mask shop boasts a gorgeous collection, all made on location. Tel.: +39 041710033. Address: S. Croce 1109.
- Ca’ Macana (Dorsoduro): This Venetian mask shop, located just off Camp San Barnaba, has an unparalleled selection of Carnevale masks; better yet, they’re handcrafted in the workshop right there, and you can watch them being made. Tel.: +39 0412776142. Address: Dorsoduro 3172
- Ca’ del Sol Maschere (San Marco): Artisans handcraft the Venetian masks at this shop a 5-minute walk from St. Mark’s Basilica; exquisite Carnevale costumes are on sale here, too. Tel.: +39 0415285549. Address: Castello 4964.
While in Venice we will see the Doge’s Palace, the Basilica San Marco, and Ca’ d’Oro. In those buildings we will see historical furniture, decor, architecture as well as view paintings by Tiziano (Titian), Tintoretto, Veronese, Carpaccio, and other artists of note during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. We will attend La Traviata, an opera born there in Venice, and eat at the favorite restaurants of some local friends I made.
Speaking of restaurants, I will show my friends not only the dinner places that I have grown to love but also introduce them to the art of happy hour with cicchetti and of Venetian Carnevale food like ciambelle, fritole, and castagnole.
Of course, cicchetti isn’t only for happy hour, it’s more like what you eat when you want a quick bite… sort of like Venetian fast food. You buy Cicchetti at a bacaro or a cantina, or an enoteca, or osteria… which means you have a lot of ways to get them. They are small bites you eat with your fingers. Easy to order, you just look at what is already made in the cases and point. The most popular place to get them for tourists is Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi, but I will take my friends to many more hidden spots for the delightful small plates. Usually in the form of tiny open-faced sandwiches or crostini, my favorites have salted cod, shrimp, tuna, and tomatoes with cheese.
I’ve planned to have a photographer available to take photos of us in case anyone brings, ahem, historical clothing to wear 🙂 and of course we will take the obligatory gondola ride… we may also take a private water taxi, which is done in classic wooden speed boats that make one feel quite the fancy jet setter.
After watching the festivities, eating great food, drinking spritz, and staying in a classic palazzo on the water we will make our way to the train station and head for the thermal spa waters of Montegrotto Terme.
This will be a great break after the crowds of Venice! Nestled in the hills of Colli Euganee (Euganean Hills) of volcanic origin these thermal springs are infused with mineral salts gathered during their trip from the Alps to resurface in Montegrotto Terme. It takes an average of 25-30 years for the water to travel from the Lessini Mountains deep underground before springing forth in the Eugenean thermal basin and increasing the therapeutic value of the water and mud there. We will take the waters here for two days.
Our last three days will be spent in Ferrara. Ferrara is the cradle of Humanism and the birthplace of medical humanism. The entire city is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Este Family created an intellectual and artistic center that attracted the greatest minds of the 15th and 16th-centuries. The city itself was built from 1492 onwards according to principles of perspective and became the first modernly planned town.
Here we will learn about the family of Isabella d’Este by visiting their Castello and their pleasure palazzi around town. We will view the amazing frescoes that give us so much detail about 15th-century life here. One of my favorite palaces is Palazzo Schifanoia, meaning “avoid tedium” as it was a place for recreation for the Este family, the Ducal rulers of Ferrara. Palazzo Diamanté, Palazzo Ariosto, and the oldest continually operating Enoteca in Europe are all on our list of things to see and do. Here we will rent a car because of the outstanding cuisine in the Ferrarese countryside.
Three days of dipping our feet into the beauty and delight that is Emilia-Romagna leads us to the end of our trip. We will pile into the train to Venice so everyone can head home with their hearts, bellies, and minds full of the splendor that is Italia.
That will mark the end of our 9 days in Italy this time. Who is in for my next trip??