Inland from the Grand Canal

Inland from the Grand Canal

Friday, May 30, 2014
The Veneto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

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.

From the Mud to the City

From the Mud to the City

Montegrotto Terme, Italy
Thursday, 13 February, 2014
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Oh muddy muddy…. there’s plenty of it around here! But before they slather it on you, they have to dig it up,

steep it in algae,

 then in thermal water for sixty days. 

Only then will it be ready for anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing treatments prescribed by the medical staff.
After the mud tour we’re shown other treatment rooms and Kirk takes our hostess up on an inhalant treatment offer… couldn’t hurt that cold he’s fighting off!

Then we’re off on quick trip to Padova, more preparation for the upcoming May tour,

and a walk through the vibrant daily market.

Our recently updated GPS has no clue about the expressway we’re on coming and going… it shows us out in the middle of a field! We’ll have to get that corrected before we return… these run-throughs, including the driving and parking (always a challenge in Italy’s cities), are a crucial part of our preparation. Not as fun as when we try out new hotels and restaurants, but necessary!
While I’m packing up for our departure tomorrow, Kirk samples the spa, and comes back cozy and relaxed in his standard-issue robe. Have I mentioned that we’re just about the only ones who descend to breakfast each morning in street clothes? Nearly everyone else is in their Miramonti Terme robe and flipflops.

One last dinner in the elegant apricot dining room… the table we chose the first evening has been “ours” from then on, and our wine and water bottles await us, along with tonight’s menu of delicious choices.

Can’t resist adding a few tempting tidbits from the appetizer buffet,

and the perfect Valentine’s finish from the dessert selection,

before relaxing in the lounge to the tune of a jazz combo –

what a lovely time we’ve had at Miramonti Relilax Resort, and we’ll be back in May!

A Spa-licious Day at Miramonti

A Spa-licious Day at Miramonti

Montegrotto Terme, Italy
Wednesday, 12 February, 2014
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Our R & D trip days are normally jam-packed with sights, tastes, sounds and more… but how can we stay at this luscious spa and not take time to experience it for ourselves?! So today we take a break, and just enjoy, getting a relaxing slow start, appreciating our lovely room

and the sunny balcony view.

Giovanna shows us around the Miramonti Relilax grounds and the spa. The facilities are divided into a medical area, providing a variety of treatments utilizing everything from fango (mud) to the thermal water springing up from far beneath us (which is so hot that it has to be cooled down for the pools!), and a benessere (well-being) area that gives an instant peaceful ambiance.

And then we’re on our own… what bliss to sit by the indoor pool for as long as we want,

slipping in for a dip every now and then,

swimming to the steaming outdoor pool and paddling from one hydro massage area to another – aaah!
As we mentioned previously, we’ve stayed in other thermal spa hotels on previous trips, and those never induced a desire to return, or to bring our Music and Markets guests. Well this one certainly does, and we’re thrilled to say that we’ll be back with our Venice and Veneto guests in May!

A Spa to Remember

A Spa to Remember

Montegrotto Terme, Italy
Tuesday, 11 February, 2014
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Oh how we enjoyed our stay at Hotel Belvedere in delightful Bassano del Grappa, but now it’s time to move on to another new-to-us location, Montegrotto Terme. 
We’ve been invited for a three day visit to the Miramonti Relilax Spa and easily find it in the little town of Montegrotto Terme, about 90 minutes west of Venice. A jazz aperitif welcomes us to the beautiful resort,

where most of the guests have come for “the cure”, which includes medical advice and directions for treatments ranging from mud baths to the thermal waters steaming inside and out, an annual event for many Europeans. We sample the delicious nibbles and sip our prosecco while listening to the excellent duo, Beppe e Francesca,

and then stroll the spacious lobby, checking out the pre-historic remnants found during the resort’s construction, an elegant bath chair now in use as a display cabinet, and the many inviting seating areas.

Signor Braggion, the justly-proud owner, leads us in to dinner, and we chose a window-side table that will be “ours” for the next three nights. The tempting buffets of antipasti, salads and desserts would be enough for us, but a menu awaits us on our table,  with several choices for each of the three courses. Kirk, who enjoyed more of those pre-dinner nibbles than I did, chooses a light main, but I go for the tagliata – luscious and fork-tender, both accompanied by wine from the family’s vineyards. Every bite, from the buffets to the served dishes, is outstanding. How can ANYONE be on a reducing “cure” while here??

After than fabulous meal we need to walk a bit, so explore the grounds – can’t wait to soak in that steaming pool tomorrow!

…and then walk into the little center of town, passing several more thermal hotels on the way. During the last two annual sessions of Viaggiandum Est, the Venice-based Cultural Travel conference where we received the invitations to these hotels, we were lodged in the adjacent town of Abano Terme. We much prefer Montegrotto Terme, closer to the dramatic Euganaen Hills, with more historic charm in the old center.

A dramatic glass sculpture (Murano designed, perhaps?) graces a new piazza near the hotel. What a treat to be here for three nights!