Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marostica Flea Market

Marostica itself is a nice town to visit at any other time, but on the first Sunday of every month the town is taken over by stalls selling everything from vintage clothing, paintings, war memorabilia, and the ubiquitous kitsch.  Not only is the market a nice place to get your local acquisition of random useless stuff, but the setting itself is also perfect: sit in a cafe and people watch, walk around with a gelato, and maybe even hike all the way up to the castello superiore.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pasubio: Cima Palon, Dente Italiano, and the 52 Galleries

Although its beauty and its height--it is the tallest chain of peaks in the Prealpi mountains--are reasons enough to hike to the top of the Pasubio Mountains, it is really the remnants of the battles fought here during the first world war that are the real reasons for visiting these mountains.  Everywhere are reminders of the terrible battles fought here, from crumbling barracks, networks of underground tunnels, rusted shrapnel and bits of artillery, and even human bones. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Villas of the Veneto: Villa Barbaro (Maser)

Built in the 1550s, Villa Barbaro, located on the feet of the Asolani hills and right on the prosecco-producing hills of northern Treviso, was a turning point in the construction of countryside villas.  For the first time, the barn--the two adjacent wings that are dominated by the large series of arches leading to the two outer towers used to hold pigeons--was united with the central villa, used to house both the business of the agricultural operations of the villa, as well as the living quarters of the owners.  This was the start of the five-part profile, with a central building harmoniously flanked by two elements on either side. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italian Beer Series: Birrificio Italiano Vudu (Lurago Marinone)

Like Tipopils, Vudu is one of Birrificio Italiano's rifts on classic German recipes, many lost in time due to changing beer consumption habits.  In this case, the dark weizen, a version of the typical German weizen that went away due to the increasing popularity of the pilsner.  Unlike a bock-weizen, this beer is not so strong, at 5.6% alcohol.  Although dark like a dunkel, the flavor of roasted fruits or chocolate is not so pronounced, maintaining the clean fruitiness of a summer weizen.  On pour, the cloudy, dark amber beer produced an off-white large head that lingered on the sides of the glass.  The aroma is of chocolate and the grasiness of weizen, even with a little bit of banana.  The taste is of roasted fruits balanced by the lightness of very prominent carbonation, finished off by a pleasant bitterness.  A surprising beer from Birrificio Italiano, a balancing act of heavy and light that is pulled off with perfection.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I visited Orvieto during a three-hour stop on my train ride from Rome to Vicenza.  I have heard much about its famed duomo, with its lushly decorated facade and frescos depicting Judgement Day by Signorelli, but unfortunately I visited on a Sunday and the church was closed for services until the afternoon.  But it wasn't a complete waste:  the facade is itself a marvel to look at, and Signorelli's frescos were terrifying, even if viewed from afar through the metal gate that closes it off from the public.  And the town itself is pleasant to walk through, with its high position affording it great views of the surrounding Umbrian landscape and its devoid of visitors early in the morning made it ideal for roaming.  I'm sure there were a lot to discover, but I am convince the few hours I spent were enough.  The town is special, but its appeal--like ever charming town in the country--could be had in many other towns fortunately far more convenient for me to visit. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Via Ferrata Angelo Viali (Arzignano)

I have never done vie ferrate before, but knew about them and have been itching to do them.  Hikes in the mountain and skipping and yodeling in big malga open fields will always be fun, but after a while one starts to want another view of the mountains.  In this case, the view from the rock faces one can only gape at when hiking.  Finally, me and my friends decided to "try-out" this via ferrata, to "prepare" ourselves for the bigger vie ferrate in Marmolata in the Dolomiti or the Via Alta in Pasubio.  Although the trek itself is short--no more than 90 minutes--it was tough going, especially for beginners.  The biggest draw for vie ferrate is that it is essentially an inanimate guide walking you through a well-marked path through the mountain, but in this case, at times that's where the "draw" ends.  In parts, the trail is just like mountain climbing, where one has to muscle one's way through vertical climbs with little to no footholds.  It was a great trek nevertheless, and I'm looking forward to tackling the bigger trails in the Dolomiti

Perfect Timing

Taken at around 3:00 AM, this was the earliest time that the Trevi Fountain really cleared out of other visitors so I could have it all to myself.  Hardly the time when romance is at its peak, the perfect lighting and the relative silence (except the water echoing throughout the piazza) made it a worthwhile wait nevertheless.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Italian Beer Series: Acelum "Freya" (Castelucco)

Brewed by a company that made the switch from producing equipment for wine production to  producing equipment beer brewing, Acelum only started making beers as a way to demonstrate the capabilities of the machineries and parts that they produce.  A year later, the company decides to commercially manufacture and bottle their "sample batches" due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback they receive.  One of the four beers they produce is Freya, named after Freya Stark, the turn of the century British travel writer who wrote about exotic locales in the Middle East but called the hills of Asolo her home.  Freya is a 4.5% Belgian style ale perfect as a session beer, the lightness of which is made more pronounced by the fizziness reminiscent of the area's prosecco. The color is a deep and hazy gold that produces a god solid head.  The aroma is of citrus and hops with the sweetness of honey.  The flavor is nice and balanced, with the bitterness of hops and citrus peel coming in the middle.  A great beer--hopefully the company decides to make more than just a side project of their brewery!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Palio di Romano

Every first week of May, the city of Romano d'Ezzelino celebrates the downfall of their most famous son with historical reenactments and a donkey race.  The town was the birthplace of Ezzelino da Romano, a 14th century podesta who managed to unify Verona, Vicenza, Treviso, and Padova before the Venetians, and despite numerous and powerful pressures from the Germanic states in the north, the Lombards, the papacy, the Venetians, and the numerous competing families from each city-state.  Despite his great contribution to Venetian/Italian notion of "statehood"--he was one of the first to really accept the possibility of neighboring Italian city-statesforming a unified nation--he was and still is a reviled historical figure because of his cruelty (but most likely because he was the top dude in a field of eternally competing forces: his negative reputation could be chalked up to the rumors spread by those seeking to replace him).  His death was a cause for celebration, and all four city-states threw a grand palio party before they went back to fighting each other.  

Malga Ronchetta, Spring Views

Back to Malga Ronchetta, this time with spring flowers, short-sleeve shirts, and a very energetic dog.  There were paragliders that some in the party knew, and it was funny seeing them carry on a conversation like Rose and Ingrid in St. Olaf (6:20). Good spring hike, and best thing: little doggie was beat and wanted nothing but lie on her back and have her tummy massaged!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Villas of the Veneto: Villa Pisani (Stra)

Located in Stra, about ten minutes outside of Padova facing the Brenta River, Villa Pisani is a very grand complex originally owned by the Pisani family, a very influential and powerful Venetian family during the 17th and 18th centuries.  During this time, the family cashed in on Venice's ever-booming trade industry, and various members of the family became influential politicians, culminating in Andrea Pisani Alvise becoming doge in 1735.  Unfortunately, with the fall of Venice also came the end of the Pisani family's fortune, and the villa was sold to Napoleon, who in turn gave it to Eugene Beuaharnais when the latter was appointed as the French Viceroy of the former Venetian Empire.  The ownership of th villa did not switch back to Italian hands until the unification of Italy, when the villa came under state ownership and subsequently abandonment and disrepair.  Other than some notable visitors and the first meeting between Mussolini and Hitler, the villa only started to gain attention again and much needed restoration until the late 1970s.  During this time, renowned Italian avant garde filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini filmed a part of his film Porcile in the grounds of the villa: