October 2017: truffles, Picasso; a weekend in the mountains in Veneto

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Hidden Italy newsletter October 2017:  truffles, movies and the big guns on show: Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Picasso plus a weekend on one of the most spectacular walks in the Dolomites.

Hidden Italy in October:

Hidden Italy in October:

It's been a busy year for Hidden Italy.  We now offer nine guided tours and twenty-one self-guided, which included the three new sections of the Cammino of St Francis, a 19 day walk that starts in Assisi and finishes in Rome, following the route Italy’s patron saint took from his home to the Vatican in 1209.  We also have two new self-guided walks planned for next year (Puglia and Abruzzo) and a new guided tour (in Basilicata, a stunning but rarely visited region in the very south of the peninsula) – I can’t wait!

In the meantime, we have a had two cancellations on our Sardinia tour (27 April to 9 May 2018) and Puglia (4 May to 16 May 2018) we now have one double room available on each tour.  Please let us know if you are interested:  www.hiddenitaly.com.au.

Exhibitions in Italy in October:

Exhibitions in Italy in October:

The 16th Century in Florence: From Michelangelo to Giambologna, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, www.palazzostrozzi.org, until 21 January.  The final act in a trilogy of exhibitions curated by Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali which began with Bronzino n 2010 and was followed by Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino in 2014, the exhibition explores an era of outstanding cultural and intellectual talent - a spectacular exhibition devoted to the art of the 16th century in Florence showcasing over seventy works of art by such artists as Michelangelo, Bronzino, Giorgio Vasari, Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo, Santi di Tito, Giambologna and Bartolomeo Ammannati.

Inside Caravagio, Palazzo Reale, Milano, www.caravaggiomilano.it, until 28 January.   Although he was only 39 when he died, Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) had a profound influence on Western painting, starting with the subject of his painting, the realistic ambiance and his distinct use of light and darkness.  Milan pays homage to one of its favourite sons bringing together eighteen of his masterpieces, each one accompanied an X-ray analysis that reveals the paintings evolution and the artist’s progress from idea to realisation.  Worth a trip on its own!

Picasso: From Cubismo to Classicism.  Scuderie del Quirinale; Rome; www.scuderiequirinale.it, until 21 January.  The celebration of the centenary of Picasso’s first visit to Italy, finishes with this wonderful exhibition of one hundred masterpieces that studies the master’s work immediately after his ‘grand tour’, revealing the profound influence of the Neapolitan ‘arte povera’, Pompeii and the ruins of Ancient Rome.

Events in Italy in October:

Events in Italy in October:

Alba White Truffle Festival, Alba (Piedmont) www.fieradeltartuffo.org, until 26 November.  The white truffles found in the oak forests around are said to be the best in the world (sorry France) .  The 87th edition of this festival spans over eight weekends and celebrates all aspects of the world of this fascinating tuber (worth more than gold) and the wine and culinary delights of the home of the Slow Food movement.  Tomorrow the champion specimens is adjudged while Sunday id Truffle-dog Day.

Maria Teresa and Trieste:  the history and culture of a City and its port, Magazzino dell Idee, Corso Cavour 2, Trieste, www.unadonnaetrieste.it.  For 800 years Trieste was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Under the patronage of Empress Maria Teresa (1717 to 1780) the city became the principle port for this vast empire, a thriving cosmopolitan city, a centre of commerce, trade and culture.  This fascinating exhibition celebrates the golden days of this beautiful and very interesting city.

Rome International Film Festival, 26 October to 5 November, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, www.romacinemafest.it.  Other than the competition for best film (entries from Italy and around the globe) the 12th edition of this festival includes meeting with people such as David Lynch, Michael Nyman, Chuck Palahniuk and Nanni Moretti and a wonderful retrospective of the ‘Italian school’ movies from 1945 to 1975, from Rosellini to Pasolini, as well as movie classic by directors such as Francesco Rossi and Federico Fellini.

Hidden Italy weekend: an historical hike in the mountains of Veneto.

Hidden Italy weekend:  an historical hike in the mountains of Veneto.

The peak of Mt Pasubio, Alps forty kilometres north of Vicenza, offers spectacular views, a 360-degree vista that takes in the Dolomites and the Brenner Pass to the north, Lake Garda to the west and, on a clear day, Venice and the Adriatic Sea, one hundred kilometres to the east.

Although the decaying network of trenches that criss-cross the peak are a bit of a give-away, it is still hard to imagine that one hundred years ago during World War I, Mt Pasubio was the scene of sustained and brutal battle between the Austria and Italy.  The road that was built to the top of the mountain has become of the most popular walks in the area, a remarkable engineering achievement that is a tribute to audacity and courage of the soldiers who created it.

At the end of the winter of 1917, the harshest in a hundred years, when the fighting was at its worst, two young Italian engineers, Giuseppe Zappa and Corrado Picone, were given the mission to create a new road up the cliff faces to the top Mt Pasubio to get provisions up to the base that had been dug under ridges dominated by the Austrians. 

In only six months the soldiers built a six and a half kilometre long road, wide enough to allow two ladened mules to pass, that climbed nearly eight hundred metres in altitude and passed through fifty-two tunnels.  The longest of the tunnels is over 350 metres while the most spectacular is a two-way, double helix tunnel carved in a rock tower, that twists around itself four times like a corkscrew.

Completely restored to celebrate its centenary, the road has become one of the most extraordinary walking trails in the Dolomites, the Strada delle 52 Gallerie (the Road of 52 Tunnels, a real local treasure.  At the end of the walk, under the peak, is a convivial mountain lodge, Rifugio Achille Papa, a local institution that was founded in 1921.  Here you can rest your weary feet, get a hearty feed, enjoy the views and even stay the night in very comfortable accommodation with views to die for.

The hike is the centre-piece for this month’s Hidden Italy weekend, which also includes a visit to the charming town of Schio and a day cycling around the rich farmlands of the alluvial plains of northern Veneto.  What more could one want?

How to get there:

By car:  The best base from which to explore the Strada delle 52 Gallerie is Schio, an attractive town at the foot of the mountains, 26 kms across the plains from Vicenza.  To drive there, you take the A4 autostrada that connects Milan and Venezia, taking the Thien-Schio exit just past Vicenza.  You then take the A31 that leads from Vicenza to Schio.  By train:  Take the Frecciarossa fast train to Vicenza and change here to get the regional train to Schio.  By air:  The closest airport is Verona Villafranca, 90 kms away.

Where to stay:

Hotel Miramonti:  A traditional 4-star hotel in the centre of town.  Doubles from 70 euro per night.  Schio Hotel:  A modern 4-star superior hotel in a quiet area on the edge of town, this very comfortable hotel has four categories of rooms.  Doubles from 110 euro per night.  Agriturismo Podere La Torre.  In the countryside on the Gogna River, this handsome agriturismo has eight elegant rooms, a swimming pool and an excellent restaurant that celebrates local cuisine.  Double rooms from 139 euro per night.  Rifugio General Achille Papa (Mt Pasubio).  This very comfortable mountain lodge was founded in 1921 and sits under the peak of Mt Pasubio at the end of hike.  It is also a great place for lunch or dinner, serving classic mountain cuisine such as polenta with mushrooms or sausages.

Where to eat: 

La Roza (Largo Fusinelle).  This elegant restaurant serves local specialities with a modern twist, such as gnocchi made from local Rotzo potatoes with goat cheese cream and asparagus or sliced duck breasts served with cherries and a Merlot jus.  35 – 40 euro per person.

Due Spade (Via Carduci):  This historic restaurant has wooden lined ceilings supported by giant beams and walls lined with photos of famous people who have eaten here, including Ernest Hemingway (an ambulance driver on this front in WW 1).  Its limited menu presents some of the local classics such as gnocchi con la fioretta (fresh ricotta) and rabbit stew.  20 – 25 euro per person.

What to do:

Friday evening:

Check into your hotel.  Get there early because Schio has much to offer: a fascinating small town that was known as the ‘Italian Manchester’ thanks to its important wool textile industry which dates from the Middle Ages.

There is a fascinating ‘industrial archeology’ trail through the town that takes you to a number of historical sites including the enormous neoclassic mill built in 1872 known as the Fabbrica Alta (the tall factory) 6 stories high and over 80 metres long, which housed 800 workers;  the Jacquard Gardens, originally opened to provide the workers with a bit of R&R, and the Villa Rossi Park, which includes the Alessandro Rossi’s residence (now a museum), a small chapel and a lovely lakeside walk through centuries-old forest.

In the evening, join the passeggiata, enjoy an aperitivo and have dinner before getting an early night, ready for tomorrow’s efforts.

Saturday morning:

Walk the Road of the 52 Galleries.  The walk starts from Bocchetta Campiglia, a 40-minute drive from Schio, a shuttle bus also operates on the weekend from Schio.  Although it is a long the climb, the walk follows a well-marked walk (Route 366) and is in excellent condition after the recent restoration.  It takes three hours and climbs 780 metres and offers no ‘technical’ challenges.  As well as the usual walking gear (good boots, a day pack with at least a litre of water, snacks and wet weather gear) a head torch is essential.

The walk ends at Porte del Pasubio (1,928 mts) where you’ll find the Rifugio General Achille Papa, the perfect place for lunch.  The Rifugio is open continuously from late May until mid- October and then on weekends until late November.

Saturday afternoon:

After lunch at the rifugio, if you are feeling energetic, you should climb up to the peak of Mt Pasubio (Cima Palon, 2,239 mts) which is a one-hour hike from the Rifugio.  Here you can enjoy extraordinary 360-degree views over the whole of the Dolomites range to the north and the Po Plains to Venice in the south.  The peak was the front line between the Italian and Asutrian forces.  The sites have also been recently restored to create a remarkable open-air museum, a marked trail takes you through the Italian and Austrian trenches and a small cemetery, a monument to the futility of it all.

There is a well-marked short cut back to Bocchetta Campiglia.  It was the first road built in the war with no tunnels.  Exposed to the cover fire of the Austrian army it had the rather melancholy name of the ‘Strada degli Scarubbi’, the Road of the Wretched.  It is in good condition and is well-marked (Route 370).  It takes two hours to get back to Bocchetta Campiglia from the Rifugio.


The alluvial plains that surround Schio are fertile farmlands that have long very long and proud traditions.  The Agritour Dea Molonara is an association of local producers from the three neighbouring towns of Schio, Marano Vicentino and Zane which aims to present and promote the area’s fine produce and cuisine.

The association has developed a number cycling circuits (7 kms, 8.5 kms, 10 kms and 24 kms).  The loops routes follow easy flat routes that take through beautiful countryside along a mix of dedicated cycle paths, secondary roads and country lanes, with the possibility of visiting eighteen registered producers, where you can try and buy ‘0 kilometre’ fruits, vegetables, salamis, cheeses, eggs and wine. 

The route notes also includes the details of some excellent country restaurants where you can stop and have lunch along the way, including:

Ristorante Da Beppino alla Palazzina in Località Ceresara, www.ristorantedabeppino.com
La Corte di Villa Fioretti in Marano,  www.cortedivillafioretti.it.

Bikes can be hired from Zaltron Cicli in Marano Vicentino (tel. 0445 621 218 – e-mail zaltron.cicli@gmail.com – www.cicli-zaltron.com) who will also provide you with the maps and details of the circuits. 

Full details of the cycle paths, producers and restaurants can be found on the association’s website:  www.agritour.vi.it as well as a detailed map of the four itineraries - on the home page click on the box marked as Il Percorso (the route) and then click on Sacarica guida (down load the guide).  The information is mostly in Italian but everyone in the area speaks some English and they are all very happy to help.

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July 2021: Venus, Le Corbusier, American art and four fabulous tiny islands off Sicily

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