‘Classes for teetotallers’ was the first sign I spotted in Italian region Veneto. People here take wine quite seriously, and if you don’t love it already you will learn. I did in six days.
My journey in the land of Piave river started with a glass in my hand in a charming inn near Jesolo. It was ‘Ai Pescatori’ in Cortelazzo, an ancient fishermen hamlet where time stands still and on the river still float the traditional colourful boats. Many fishermen still uses ancient fishing techniques, with huge nets and old scales holding the same old mechanisms.
But let’s get back to the real protagonist: the wine. The first stop-over you shouldn’t miss is in the province of Treviso, in Zenson di Piave, where the farm Barbaran made a little miracle and recovered the almost extinct grape variety Rabosina and now makes an excellent wine out of it.
Wine being a sacred thing becomes obvious in the land of Prosecco, between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Here you may stumble upon the Knights of Prosecco (Cavalieri del Prosecco), a brotherhood founded in 1946 in Valdobbiadene. Today this group goes through its third generation and keeps promoting and safeguarding the local wine production, exalting the tradition and networking among companies and organizations.
Leaving the hills and moving towards the Piave you will enter the land much beloved by Ernest Hemingway, so deeply impressed by this area’s beauty that he called himself ‘a lower Piave boy’ in one of his books. Here is also where the author, a Red Cross volunteer during the First World War, had been seriously wounded.
Many are the poets and writers that here lived and worked, surrounded by a stunning peacefulness which nowadays one can still feel in the faint little houses and the green landscapes.
Near Treviso you should also spend a visit in Portobuffolè, a small Italian marvel of 50 inhabitants. It’s one of Italy’s smallest villages, a pearl the colour of sand and completely restored to his ancient beauty.
For a spiritual experience, instead, go to the Church of Saint George in San Polo di Piave. You will find a fresco of the Jesus’ last supper, a wonderful work that speaks about Middle Age, symbolism and cycle of life.
Ten minutes further you will find the Temple of Saint John the Baptist, once a Templars’ abode and then owned by the Knights of Malta. Today it offers itself with its magnificent columns and an interesting mix of architectural styles.
But what I really fell in love with at first sight has been the Abbey of Saint Bona. Unfortunately, visits are only allowed in specific days and you will have to contact the municipality of Vidor to check.
This benedictine monastic complex ages back to 1107, when John from Vidor, back from the first crusade, brought from the Holy Land the reliquaries of Saint Bona and presented them to the benedictine friars in Pomposa. In time the building became an important religious site and pilgrimage destination, but also a cultural and economic centre thank to its strategic location and to a boat way to cross the Piave. Sadly the war took its toll on this place, with heavy bombings in the First World War after the Italian debacle in Caporetto.