Discovering the Italian Unesco District: Veneto
In the north of Italy, where the River Po and its tributaries fan out in the last lazy miles towards the Adriatic Sea, lies a collection of regions united by their distinctive architectural, cultural and gastronomical histories. Notable cities and areas of Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Lombardy have each been designated Unesco World Heritage Sites, forming an entire district (the Quadrilatero dell’Unesco) of remarkable buildings, art, food and scenery to explore.
It’s not just cities that have earned Unesco recognition. The entire Po River Delta is a heritage site too, so we headed off the beaten track to sample some “slow tourism” in the beautiful countryside near Rovigo.
We stayed at Agriturismo Corte Carezzabella, a farm partially converted into a spacious guesthouse. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed to the dining room and provided with espresso, mineral water and a pitcher of apple juice so fresh we suspected it was still hanging on the tree that morning. The decor was homely and eclectic, antique farm implements and wooden furniture mingling with crisp linens and a wall full of paintings by the last owner of the property. Outside had sun lounges and a sparkling swimming pool.
After checking into our rooms we borrowed some of Carezzabella’s bikes (free for all guests to use) for a gentle ride along the banks of the slow-moving Adige river. A leaning bell-tower chimes the hour while the sinking sun sets the river aflame. Fields, dotted here and there with clusters of farm buildings, stretch as far as the eye can see. We returned to a homemade dinner of regional specialties: bruschetta with vegetables and tiny blocks of scamorza, a superb pumpkin risotto, a taste of the local game with a main of roast guinea fowl, and a pear and red wine tart for dessert. All the fruit and vegetables are grown at Carezzabella, the cheese is locally produced, and the wine – Temetum – is Carezzabella’s own specialty, produced (of course) from their own grapes.
The next morning we tried one of the many activities on offer at Carezzabella: Nordic walking. Owner Chiara and her father took advantage of the lesson to show us around the farm, and once we had our walking poles and legs tolerably coordinated, we followed them through rows of asparagus, zucchini, aubergines, apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, coriander, peppers, and tomatoes. If you’ve never eaten a fresh-plucked apple whilst juggling a pair of Nordic walking poles in a sunny Italian vineyard with the distant cacophony of church bells in the air, we would definitely recommend it.
We returned from our walk to find Chiara’s father gathering a magnificent harvest of fragrant piopparelli mushrooms from a cavernous crack in a poplar tree. Lunch was spread on a table in the al fresco dining area, adorned with fresh-picked bunches of grapes from the vineyard. There are locally made cheeses – pecorino, parmigiano-reggiano, and a ricotta so good we wanted to marry it – walnuts, and Carezzabella’s home-made honeys and preserves (the red pepper preserve is exceptional). A platter of cured meats rested next to a basketful of warm olive bread and a dish of pear slices. And of course, the Temetum flows freely – a light clear bianco this time. Dessert was a latticed strawberry tart and champagne glasses were brimming with a criminally tasty strawberry sorbetto. It was the perfect ending to our stay – despite lingering regrets that we wouldn’t be around to try the piopparelli that night.
Photos: Marion Rankine
Next Friday check out how our trip to Italy ended up in Lombardy’s lake-locked Mantua and tiny Sabbioneta heritage sites. Make sure you have not missed our previous stop in Emilia-Romagna.
We stayed and ate at Agriturismo Corte Carezzabella, Marconi 754, 45030 San Martino di Venezze, (+39) 0425 176157. Visit their website here.