In the prosecco hills

24 and 25 November 2018

On our return from our whistlestop tour of Slovenia and Croatia we had time for a night in northern Italy.

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Driving from Zagreb back through Slovenia and into Italy the extreme weather conditions continued. Driving rain meant we didn’t see much of the countryside. By the time we reached the border the rain was torrential.

We thought twice about stopping at Palmanova because it was so wet but it had been highly recommended and as we approached there was a break in the rain clouds. This mysterious citadel is probably best seen from the air rather than by car as these ancient and modern aerial views show.

From the outside the town is completed hidden by its earthen defences. Climbing up in the mud we could look down at the moat and defensive buildings laid out in a nine pointed star.

Inside, six rain soaked streets led directly from the outside of the town into a circular central square. It was a quirky little place that invited more exploration but the rain returned with avengeance and after sheltering under a balcony we made a dash back to the car.

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The further north we drove the clearer the sky became. By the time we arrived in the foothills of Italian Alps the grey gloom had risen to reveal the autumn gold of the prosecco vines.

We stopped to stretch our legs in the sunshine around the old town of Vittorio Veneto.

Through its castellated gate we emerged on the set of Shakespeare play – all galleried streets and balconies. We didn’t find an arras to whip behind!

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But we did find out that in more recent history the town was the site of the last battle between Italy and Austria-Hungary in World War I. The bullet holes on the northern town gate were testament to the fierce fighting.

And we also found this very beautifully cared for old car which led to a breakthrough in my fledgling Italian. I was able to have my first proper conversation outside of ordering food, drink and the bill. Translating Stefan’s questions about the car I was just about able to make myself understood by its kind and patient owner and work out the answers. I was even able to tell him that the car was as old as me as I was also born in 1972!

That night we stayed in an old farmhouse surrounded by the golden vines and learnt a little about one of my favourite wines. Who knew that prosecco comes in three varieties – spumante (bubbly), frizzante (sparkling) and still? And who would have guessed that I would manage to leave the prosecco hills having only drunk one glass of the lovely, bubbly stuff.

Before we flew back to Sicily we didn’t have time to visit nearby Venice but we did have time to stop for coffee in Treviso, which with its many canals was a worthy alternative.

Its triple domed Duomo was substitute enough for St Mark’s.

Its buildings provided another Shakespearean setting

and it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

We even found a shop dedicated to all things festive.

And so as November came towards its end we flew back to Sicily where despite the warmth and sunshine our thoughts and stomachs also turned to Christmas…

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