Inland from the Grand Canal

Inland from the Grand Canal

Friday, May 30, 2014
The Veneto, Italy

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We leave Venice in an unexpectedly classy way – via taxi! Our carefully purchased and registered transport passes, scheduled to last just long enough to get us down the Grand Canal and to Piazzale Roma (where we’ll pick up our rental car) this morning, are useless. Why? That dreaded Italian word “scopero”  – the public transport is on strike today.

The alternative would have been walking to Piazzale Roma, an easy task if we were unencumbered, but leaving town with luggage, trundling it up, over, and down multiple bridges, is NOT the way we want our Music and Markets guests to depart Venice! So we’ve bitten the bullet, and the sleek taxi pulls up at the water entrance of the hotel right on time. The 15 minute ride down the Grand Canal rings in at a grand 70€  – just a mere $100 or so.

The causeway connecting Venice to the mainland is bumper to bumper – no quick escape for us!
But we’re finally on the autoroute heading for Montegrotto Terme. Remember that wonderful spa hotel we discovered earlier this year? The Miramonti welcomes us with a smile, but we wait to check in, just drop our luggage, and head for Padova, where ancient beauties await us.
First, lunch, then we’re ready to spend a bit of time in the historic center, pointing out the grand market squares,

before our appointment at the Scrovegni Chapel. A scattering of modern and ancient Roman sculpture outside (the Chapel is beside the ruins of a Roman arena) ,

but inside are Giotto’s marvelous frescoes of the life of Christ and other Bible stories, meticulously restored most recently in this millenium, the colors as vivid as when they were painted in the early 1300s.

Back at Miramonti, we walk our guests through the spa area….and they want to make sure to fit in a visit or two to the warm pools!

This Venice/Veneto tour is designed around the International Encounter of Chamber Music, now in its 7th year, presented by the Auryn Quartet. Each year they invite other musicians to join them for a series of concerts in the 12th century church of St. Martin in Este.
The long piazza is lined with people enjoying an aperitif, and we’ve got what we think is the best café chosen for a light dinner before the concert.

Mozart’s Quintets are the focus of this series,

and the intimate and simple St. Martins, with excellent acoustics (as is normal for small solid Romanesque structures), is a perfect place to listen to some of the best works of this young genius.

Vines and Hilltowns of the Veneto

Vines and Hilltowns of the Veneto

Sunday, May 26, 2013 
Veneto Province, Italy

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“The young grapes look to the sky, the old grapes look to the earth”- just one of the pithy truths we hear from Giorgio as he guides us through his vineyard on this sunny May day. Does this red- sweatered vintner look familiar? He’s the one who designed and hosted the Veneto trip on which we were invited following the Zagreb Wine Tourism conference. Of all the vineyards we visited, his, called Salvan, was the one we enjoyed the most, largely due to Giorgio and his warm and friendly family, and we’re happy to share it with our Music and Markets guests today.

Giorgio shows us how the flower is actually INSIDE each tiny grape, and self-fertilizing, rather than an exterior, pre-fruit flower fertilized by bees,

before walking us to the Cantina and tasting room.

Francesca and her mother are gracious hostesses, pouring a sample of whites and rosés,

filling the table with tasty morsels of cured meats and several glasses each,
then Giorgio decants and pours the reds, including the Riservas, produced only in years with an exceptional harvest, and, at our request, the wines produced with grapestock from Georgia, the “DNA” of wine that we learned about on our previous visit.

A toast to Salvan wines and Giorgio and family! We’re so appreciative of the time they’ve taken with us, on this Cantine Aperte (open vineyard) 2013 day.
We’re on our way to lunch in the hills, but Francesca doesn’t let us leave until we have a sampling of seafood from the Chioggia (a fisherman’s island near Venice) food truck – yum! Salvan is set up for a long fun day, with donkey rides for the kids, and tastings and tours for all.

Then into the hills we go, to the walled town of Monselice, for a delicious meal at La Torre.

The proud owner shows us the garden fresh vegetables available today, and we feast on their specialty of fried shaved white asparagus to start. Each dish, from slender ribbons of pasta with ricotta and lemon, to ossobucco, to tiny strawberries, is marvelous, leaving us ready for an uphill walk to explore the pretty village.

A lion guards Cini Castle,

and we keep walking uphill to the church, from where there are seven stations of the cross climbing further up the hill. That will have to wait for another trip – we need to get back to Padova to pack up for tomorrow’s departure before the final concert in Este this evening.

We get to Este in time to fit in a light supper at Oste Scuro – a smoked goose pizza!
Another goodbye treat – a gorgeous sunset as we walk to the concert. Grazie!

The Auryn Quartet delights us with a final evening of music, and we say a fond Arrivederci to this beautiful part of the world – it’s been a great Music and Markets week!


Au Revoir France,  Hello Italy!

Au Revoir France, Hello Italy!

Sunday, May 19, 2013 
Inland from Venice

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As we fly from Marseilles to Venice, we’re talking over the week in France – what fun it was to share such gorgeous places, delicious meals, interesting people and unforgettable experiences with Steve!
And now we have another tour week to anticipate, with a few days in between, during which we have a list of things to do to get ready.

Today we’ll do a dry run of the drives from our Padova hotel for two daytrips – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon, before heading for Venice tomorrow.
When we pull into the walled village of Monselice, we’re delighted to find it decked with floral displays – it’s an annual festival of flowers!  From shops and stately homes,

to the stairway of the tourist office,

to simple bridges over canals, the whole place is a fragrant garden.

The “ghost of Monselice castle” welcomes us and asks where we’re from and why we’re here. We want to know why HE is here!

Teams comprised of young and old carefully place petals and flowers along the streets,

forming a carpet down the center of the cobble- stones.

Next stop, Este, where we find a good café that will be able to serve an early (7:00 is VERY early in Italy) dinner for us before the Auryn Quartet concerts next week. We relax with a Spritz on the main square, then do a quick run through east of here along the Brenta Canal, figuring out the quirks of the route from one villa to another for next Saturday’s daytrip.

Check out this dinner – a common choice on Venetian menus, squid (in its own ink) with polenta. It tasted much better than it looks!

Inviting Este

Inviting Este

Sunday, July 22, 2012

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What is it about a place that draws you?
We were immediately charmed by Este, from the stalwart flag- topped fortifications of Castello Carrarese, dating back to the 14th century,






to the lively, welcoming town center.






The ancient castle fortifications are now filled with  lush public gardens


strewn with paths, roses, fountains and ponds, and lots of strolling families.

At the opposite end of the long main square is the Porta Vecchia, topped with a handsome clock from the 1600s.


The Auryn Quartet concert series is held in the ancient church of St. Martin with its “precariously leaning tower”




Yes, it’s definitely leaning, and has been since the 1400s. Guess it’ll stay up a few centuries longer.


We join the aperitif -sippers at one of the cafes along the square, read more about this inviting town, and ponder the question – what draws us to one place and not another? We’ll stroll into one town and shortly after know that we don’t care if we ever see it again…. and then we’ll enter another, such as Este, and be immediately attracted to it.

Gazing at the rainbow row across the piazza, we muse… perhaps it’s the proportion of a place – human and welcoming? The open spaces… inviting, the arcades…. sheltering? Definitely the lively feel, a vibrant community life. What draws you to a place, calling you back for one visit after another?



Climbing to the top of the fortress, we look down on the town, already anticipating sharing this intriguing place with Music and Markets guests next spring.