I grew up in the Northern Italian region of Veneto, and since I live internationally, I have been visiting my country for the last 20 years. Almost every year, I have repeated the same itinerary, and that is why I am sharing it with you today. This is a trip that requires at least one week for couples and friends, and if you have kids, you will need 10 days. It captures the unique hidden beauty, affordable gastronomy away from tourist traps, and presents you with the best views of my country. It also includes wine, hiking, biking, boating, and a true local food and wine experience.
I strive to focus on making the trip cost-effective, transaction-light, and risk-proof in terms of cultural and business practices to ensure that you get what you pay for. It offers affordable luxury with great views, silence, nature, ample space for kids to play, romantic settings, and a wealth of culture.
The trip starts in Venice and it ends in Venice. Here is the scoop.
First 3 nights (Venezia):
You land in Venice and from the airport you walk to the embarcadero (to fetch a water taxi). It is a 7 minutes’ walk and there are signs everywhere. A taxi is expensive, but it is worth every penny. If you want to splurge an additional 30 euros (to the 150 euros minimum price tag) you can ask the taxi guy (no gender balance with Taxis and Gondolas in Italy sorry) to take you through the Grand Canale as you will experience the view of your life. Remember that you can only pay cash unless you pay upfront.
In terms of accommodation rent an Airbnb in Via Garibaldi, near Sant Elena. FYI, this is a truly Venetian neighborhood, and it is filled with Baccari (the local restaurants where the local eats cicchetti-local tapas). The walk to San Marco (the main plaza) is about 15 minutes and it is an amazing quiet walk. By staying here, you avoid the crowds while getting a full dive into the Venetian culture. There is a good supermarket here which I suggest you use if you have kids. The supermaket has a great supply of inexpensive wine. One nice perk of being in Via Garibaldi is that right at the end of the street by the water there is a Catamaran service which is ideal for groups (run by a German friendly man) who gives you 2 hours tour of Venice and you get to see from the water all the beauty that most people, including Venetian don’t see. And if you are in Venice during the summer, the breeze and the views are going to make it ultra-special. This tour btw, are great for kids during the hot hours of the day in summer, and if you are in a mood for a romantic outing and drinks this is hard to beat. One interesting activity if you have kids, is the the Gugehaim art classes for kids (in English, Italian and whatever other language) . And while the kids are doing art you can enjoy this hidden small and magnficent museum or sip a Spritz next door. Finally, having quality food in Venice is tough and expensive. So do what the locals do, eat at Baccari (the local bars). Here following are a few favorites: https://www.msecchi.com/journal/a-cicchetti-crawl-through-venice-the-ultimate-guide-to-the-citys-best-bacari. Avoid at all cost eating in busy piazzas.
Things to eat in Venice: Plenta and Schile (creamy polenta with tiny shrimps; Baccala Manteco (creamy cod); Frittura Mista (friedh seefood); Pasta allo Scoglio (Pasta with local seafood-Scoglio is the cliff so originally it was what fishermen can find around the cliff). Ask the restaurants to suggest a wine from one of the Island as they are quite incredible. La Dorona di Venezia is one of the most ancient and interesting.
Day 4–5 (countryside-wine country 2 nights)
The next stop is the wine country of Prosecco (one hour drive from Venice) and here is my top recommendation for accommodation. However, before we go there, on the way to Prosecco you should stop for a few hours to have lunch in Treviso, an aristocratic city famous for its elegant piazzas and a great place to have an Italian Aperitivo. This is only 30 minutes from Venice on the way to wine country. Indulge in Piazza dei Signori and taste a Panino with Porchetta (roasted pork cold cut) which is delightful. Here is the best place right downtown under the covered area in Piazza dei Signori: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187869-d4548290-Reviews-Bar_Beltrame-Treviso_Province_of_Treviso_Veneto.html
As you leave Treviso and head for the hills, In terms of the accommodation, I have tried different options 15 times and I am confident this will fit everybody taste and wallet. Btw, this is where I grew up so this is by far the area I know best. I would stay next to Asolo https://www.e-borghi.com/en/village/Treviso/52/asolo a marvelous medieval town and I recommend staying at this restored winery villa https://www.progresscountrywinehouse.com/en/ which is 2 Km from the center of Asolo and is incredible and as it is owned by an Italian/Canadian family they are on top of their games if you want a wine tasting, a bike tour, a private tour etc (yes it has a pool for the kids). From this location you should visit Bassano del Grappa (20 mins drive drive) and visit the Prosecco wineries around Santo Stefano and San Pietro di Barbozza (for locals these are the top producing hils and that is where the Prosecco Consortium is)> Here is a local eatery that you should visit at all costs particularly in the afternoon. It is called Osteria Senza Oste (Bar without an owner) https://www.osteriasenzoste.it. This has by far the best wine country view and is an old farm where you serve yourself…literally you buy wine, cheese and salami and seat in the vines admiring the beauty of life. On your last day, you should visit Bassano del Grappa (Grappa is the name of the Mountain next to it), where you can also sip delicious Grappa on the Ponte di Bassano (the Bassano Bridge). If you have time, 20 minutes away there is another little gem called Marostica (20 minute’s drive), https://www.italia.it/en/veneto/marostica. You should go back to Asolo for dinner as it is delightful and ask the hotel for recommendations. Two other things, you will be staying next to one of the best Renaissance villa ever, literally 5 minutes drive from your hotel and it is called Villa di Maser, by architect Andrea Palladio. Go visit it even just from outside as it is one of the most spectacular we have in Italy: https://www.villeveneteforyou.com/en/ville/villa-di-maser/
If you prefer to stay in Prosecco proper, here is an incredible and affordable hotel right in the middle of the Prosecco DOC and it is called Agriturismo Due Carpini. https://duecarpini.it/home-en/. The restaurant here is a delight even though it is always pack as the owners are seekign to secure a 1 Michelin star.
Things to eat in Wine Country: Sopressa (a fresh salame that we are very proud of); Porchetta (a pork cold cut that you can mostluy find in Veneto and in Rome); Bucatini all’ Anatra (hollow spaghetting with duck rags); Gnocchi with Ragu. The local Prosecco are to die for and try the Millesimato variety from San Pietro di Barbozza (millesimato are the top crus).
Day 6–7–8: (the Dolomites Mountains)
This is our favorite hotel in the Dolomites https://www.granvara.com/en/hotel-val-gardena/1-0.html. It is a 4-star spa focused family friendly place which over the last 10 years has become more luxurious. It is owned by an international family with kids (the mother is Brazilian). We have chosen this place because of 1) it has one of the best views in the dolomites; 2) it is close to all the best hikes in the dolomites; 3) the food is some of the best in the region; 4) your kids can wonder around and feel at home; 5) the hotel takes you to the gondolas every morning (funicolare or teleferica) with the van so you don’t have to worry about transport.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the price (expect to pay a steeper place than elsewhere), and I would never even think about not eating here. Here are our favorite hikes which are 15 min from the hotel for which you will have to get the ski lift (it cost about 20 euros per adult): a) Rifugio dei Comici (the rifugio/restaurant at the top of the hike is a bit upscale); b) Lac Sant, more rustic and less crowded and amazing cold cuts and homemade cheese (ask to the reception as this is a bit more hidden). A flask of wine here is 10 dollars. and c) the Seceda hike and ridgeline is one of the most iconic places in the Dolomites (this is probably the longest one and it would take 3–4 hours). Here is an additional list of the best hikes in the Val Gardena valley: https://www.valgardena.it/en/summer-holidays-dolomites/trekking/the-7-most-beautiful-hikes/. Final thought, every night before dinner have an aperitive Infront of the hotel in the lounge area as you will have the Sas-Long stunning view (the name of the mountain) and the kids can play soccer undisturbed in the vast valley.
Thinks to eat in the Dolomites: Speck is a local smoked prosciutto; Spetzle (a local egg noodle); Canederli (bred dumplings which you also find in Austria and Germany). Dont forget that this region (Trentino Alto-Adige) produces some of the white wine in the world. Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Lagrein (my favourite). Here is the list of the 2024 awards: https://www.gamberorosso.it/notizie/notizie-vino/tre-bicchieri-2024-i-migliori-vini-dellalto-adige-premiati-da-gambero-rosso/
Last stop day 9 (Isle of Burano Venice)
On the last day, we want to finish with some magic, and we chose the colorful and quiet island of Burano. You should leave the Dolomites by 10 am, as it will take you about 4–5 hours to get to the water taxi stop at Venice Airport, where you will drop off your car rental. From here, you will go to Burano and stay at the hotel/Airbnb and vineyard Venissa [link: https://www.venissa.it/en/wineresort/]. It has an in-house Michelin-star restaurant, and the garden and private spaces are incredible.
However, we only sleep here and eat in Burano (you have to cross the bridge to get to Burano from the adjacent island of Mazzorbo) and have the entire Piazza for ourselves at this local well-known restaurant where the fish is outstanding: Trattoria da Romano. Keep in mind that Burano after 6 pm is quiet, so you pretty much have the island to yourself, and you see a Venice that most people don’t see. The breakfast at Venissa is known for its ultra-local amazing and nutritious products.
Things to eat in Burando: Risotto di Gó (a risotto made with a local fish Ghiozzo); Spaghetti with Vongole (calms spaghetti is a must try in Venice or in Burano); Pasta with Granseola (European spider crab). To finish on a sweet note, the Buranelli are a local cooki that are so good. Buon divertimento.