“Okay everyone…” Dr. Lazar cooed over the bus intercom, “it is time to wake up.” I stirred in my seat and reluctantly opened my eyes after dozing off in our modern private bus for an excursion into the hill country of the Veneto. For my effort, an incredible view of the Maser countryside rewarded me. Leaving the hotel early, we caught a vaporetto at Rialto to meet our waiting bus in the Piazzale Roma. Now, we were minutes away from Palladio’s masterpiece, the Villa Barbaro. This sumptuous villa, which still served as a home, farm, and working vineyard, was impressive for both its art and architecture.
I found Veronese’s elegant yet playful trompe-l’œil painting to be particularly mind bending, as well as the goofy slippers we were required to wear to protect the parquet floors.”
Following our tour of the villa and its collection of antique carriages, we returned to the bus and set out for the medieval hill-town of Asolo for lunch at the Hotel Villa Cipriani.
As we admired the hotel’s Eden-like garden, the staff served us glasses of Bellinis (Prosecco from nearby Valdobiaddene with fresh-squeezed peach juice), toast with Pâté de Foie Gras, Fritto Misto di Verdure, and (for the homesick Americans) potato chips. Raising our glasses, one of us smiled and asked, “Isn’t it good to be alive?”
I certainly did not argue. Sitting down in the garden terrace, the wait staff poured us glasses of local Pinot Grigio and served us homemade Green Noodles and Cannelloni with White Asparagus, Butter, and Sage Sauce. After refilling our glasses and plates several times, the main course, Ribs of Veal with Rosemary Sauce, arrived. Served with corn, spinach, and glasses of local Merlot, the meal was among the best that I have ever had, and left me in a contented haze that lasted for the remainder of the day, not even counting the luscious Caramel Semifreddo.
After waddling back to the bus, I promptly fell asleep. Just as in Dante’s swooning in the Inferno, when I awoke, I found myself in a new destination, Vicenza, where we walked through this most Palladian of cities. After touring the elegant Teatro Olimpico, with its forced perspective stage, we viewed a few city palaces, along with the grand Palladian Basilica, and culminated with a view of the Villa Rotunda, an inspiration for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Returning to Venice, we took a twilight vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal, followed by a leisurely walk back to the hotel.