Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Prosecco and Lake Garda

The Fiat Panda, which we didn't get around to naming
So we pickup our Fiat 500 hirecar from Europcar Trieste.  Except that it's not a Fiat 500 at all, but again the Fiat Panda (the Fiat 500 is unavailable, signore) that seems to epitomise the Italian economic crisis - every second car on the road is a Panda, because they cost just $10,000 brand new.

2 hours drive and we're soon in the heart of the Prosecco region, and what becomes our favourite accommodation of the trip, Agriturismo Le Noce - where the owls hoot during the night, the valley view from our upstairs bedroom window reveals the autumnal greeness of the season, and the loud braying of a donkey wakes us up in the morning.

 The next day we spend visiting a winery or two,  stocking up on some Prosecco, and watching families picking grapes in the vineyards as the vintage is in full swing, as you can see from these plump grapes.

You should see the size of the handle on the door!

We also visit the two main towns of the Prosecco region: Valdobaddiene is a thriving, prosperous town with some magnificent buildings, such as the one on the right.  Apparently, Prosecco consumption has grown massively in the last 20 years, and many vineyards owners are now quite wealthy.

The other main town is Conegliano, the home of the global Prosecco winery Carpene Malvolti (their prosecco was served at our wedding reception) so we visited their winery and bought a couple of their premium bottles, purely for sentimental reasons, of course.

Onwards to the town of Bassano del Grappa, the home of this wonderful digestive spirit.  We came across a popular cute little trattoria, and enjoyed lunch and a glass of Pinot Grigio, which is made a coupel of hundred km north from here.

Melanie's dish, called Tagliere (the last one on the blackboard menu), was like an Italian version of a ploughman's lunch - polenta, fried mushrooms, frittata, local salami, cheese and beans.

After lunch, we visit both of the two antique giants of the Grappa world - Nardini (we have a bottle of this in Lucca) and Poli, who have a cute museum and offer free tastings, which we try purely to help digest our lunch, of course.  We restrain ourselves and buy just the one bottle of grappa, which means we now have 3 grappa bottles on the go in Lucca.

There is a historic (well, rebuilt as historic after it was destroyed by the retreating Nazis) wooden bridge in Bassano del Grappa, which is popular with locals who drink the rhubarb based drink 'mezzo e mezzo' - we quite enjoyed it!

View of Riva del Garda from a Venetian castle lookout
Onwards to Lake Garda, which is a surprisingly huge lake with a perimeter road of 160km.  We chose to stay in an agriturismo overlooking the lake, situated just outside the town of Riva del Garda.  The town has a cute historic centre, but is overrun by packaged tourists, and is one of my disappointments of the trip, although Melanie quite enjoyed the town.


Any guesses as to the definition of 'tossico'....
In town, as it is now autumn, there is a display of different types of mushrooms, with each type listed as edible or not.  Incredibly, there are maybe 500 different examples in the display, all collected from the nearby forested mountains.

A lake cruise is a good way to get around, see other lake towns, and admire the nearby mountains.
The next morning, with a boot full of vinous loot, we set off for home from Lake Garda, stopping off for lunch in the town of Prato. It's been a varied trip, from Venice to Trieste to Prosecco to Grappa to Lake Garda, but there's no place like home!

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