On a typical morning, I wake to the sounds of the ebb and flow of early morning commerce filtering through the open window of Locanda Ponte Dante. Five guestrooms have been created in this three-story, 14th century building. Retaining its medieval charm, it has recently been renovated in Italian minimalism. And it stands on the very site mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy: the bend where the rivers Sile and Cagnan meet. The heart of Treviso.
It is possible to fall in love every day in Treviso. The city embraces you with its charm and old worldliness. A kiss on the hand, a chair pulled out, and all the mannerliness that has disappeared from our social intercourse.
In the first floor Antica Osteria, where traditional, seasonally changing Veneto cuisine is as popular as it ever was, breakfast is fresh apricot cake and espresso. During my morning stroll along the streets, I pause at Piazza Monte di Piete to admire the ancient architecture, and absorb the fashion forward Italian style in shop windows. At the Frutta e verdura da Piazza, they have been grooming their wares until they take on the appearance of jewels. Unblemished, unbruised and perfect, each exceptional piece is an ode to nature. On the street, they call it Bulgari, and I do tend to agree.
Midmorning, I’m anticipating a new experience. How often do I have an opportunity to enjoy an ombre and panini at a 100-year-old restaurant? At Vecia Hostaria dai Naneti, there are no tables; everything is focused around the bar where Beppi and Fabio keep wines from Italy’s vineyards. Every corner breeds tradition. It is a fascinating museum of the local culinary history.
There is an afternoon of excitement planned at Villa Sandi. The Chairman, Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, is the supreme host, and escorts me through the cellars, his grounds and his motorcycle room, where I’m surprised to see taxidermy of Canadian moose. We are in the town of Valdobbiadene, the heart of prosecco country in Treviso. A tasting of vigna La Rivetta Cartizze and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is a reminder of why this sparkling elixir is one of my long time favourites.
History and cuisine march on the border of Venice and Treviso to the 90-year-old Ristorante Menegaldo. It has grown from a small trattoria after the First World War to a fine dining family run restaurant. Franco Menegaldo has a concise point of view: excellent ingredients and a lot of passion. It is self evident in the array of mollusk, scallops, razor clams and a variety of baked and grilled fish, all still prepared in the same time-honoured traditions.
It is easy to make friends in Treviso. Tonight Hanna, Vanessa, Ida and I will meet in the courtyard of Abituè for a classic local diversion, the long aperitivo. There is a style here so casual and unconstructed that it is no surprise it is replicated worldwide. A series of delectable savouries and cocktails carry us well into the dinner hour.
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To dine well in Treviso, one must take a table at Ristorante Da Alfredo Relais El Toulà. Overseen by consummate restaurateur Arturo Filipini and his son Nicola, this is where our high expectations for exuberant cuisine are met. In the bar, the patina of warm wood adds a glamorous glow. In the dining room paintings, frescos and art objects hark back to the Bel Époque. Fresh baby artichokes finely sliced into salads; zucchini blossoms bursting with their gentle fillings; fish from nearby lake-to-plate that comes redolent with herbs and local olive oils. Traditional cuts of veal and beef prepared to centuries-old recipes that have been admirably adapted to coincide with today’s palate. Pasta is offered with every meal, of course. I cannot order, I leave my choices to the kitchen and happily enjoy each course. Around us are the dialects and languages of an international community of gourmets, dining on naturally fine fare.
Romance flirts in the fabric of Treviso. At Pizzeria S. Agostino they make pizza in the shape of a heart. At the Fontana Delle Tette, the sculpture created for Treviso in 1559, the populous comes to quench their thirst at the breast of the Fontana in the courtyard of the palace Zignoli. Today, however, they quaff fresh water and not red and white wine.
I am seriously considering a return to spend a few months in this languid, lovely region. It is the stuff that dreams are made of, and I have my eye on a fabulous rental at Appartamenti Villa Domenica.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.