The Veneto region is a popular destination for tourists, both nationally and internationally. Veneto’s prismatic scenery features majestic mountains, pristine waters, rolling plains, charming towns and numerous artistic cities. There is plenty to do no matter which time of year one visits as the cities and towns of the Veneto region are some of the most romantic and active in the country.
Festivals and Events
One of the biggest draws to Veneto is the Carnival of Venice. It’s an elegant, intriguing and nonstop celebration that lasts two weeks each February. The carnival draws around three million people every year and features an array of parades, gatherings, games and special events. There’s enough here for visitors to casually enjoy themselves, but for those who want to truly get into the spirit, wearing a mask is the way to do it. Since the carnival’s origins (which date back centuries), masks have characterized the spectacle, and they come in a cornucopia of colors and designs. This, in effect, makes the Carnival of Venice an ideal opportunity for people-watching, as festival goers are encouraged to explore their creativity and identity through the mask they wear. And there are a few designs that tourists can opt for if they don’t have a mask of their own – like the Bauta, Tabarro, Pantalone and Gnaga.
Another event steeped in tradition and history is the Marostica Human Chess Game. The Marostica event is linked back to 1454, when the area belonged to the Venetian Republic. According to legend, two of the nation’s noblemen, Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, were enchanted by the same woman – the daughter of the Lord of Marostica, Lionora. As was customary back then, the two noblemen challenged each other to a duel to the death. But not wanting to make enemies or lose his valued subjects, the Lord of Marostica ordered the rivals to settle their dispute over a chess game. The winner would have the hand of Lionora, and the loser would still make out pretty well, marrying Lionora’s younger sister instead. During the second weekend of every September, the game is played again, with historically-dressed people standing in as the chess pieces. It’s intense and captivating for adults and children who can follow the game.
During the spring and summer, the place to be is in Verona, where the Arena of Verona offers a world-class assortment of musical talent. This includes some of the world’s great lyricists, like Maria Callas, as well as rock and contemporary performers, like Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen. And it is set in a building constructed in the year 30 AD.
Casual Outdoor Activities
Although Veneto is a prime spot for those who love sports, the region’s extensive wine country offers an excellent opportunity to partake in the grape harvest. From late August to September, the harvest is begun in earnest, while festivities are in order to celebrate the new grapes and wines. And because most of Veneto is involved in wine making to some extent, there are plenty of festivals and celebrations to choose from.
Veneto was made for sport, and outdoorspeople of every interest will find something compelling amid the forests, lakes, mountains and valleys of the region. Veneto’s most striking natural feature is the Dolomites, a part of the Italian Alps that attracts all manner of nature lovers. The Dolomites can accommodate skiers, hikers, bikers, climbers, snowboarders and photographers. Throughout the year the Dolomites are perfect for outdoor activities, but the mountains are at their greatest heights during the winter, when skiing opportunities abound. Without a doubt, the hub of the Dolomite skiing world is Cortina D’Ampezzo. It’s among the most well-known and luxurious ski towns in all of Italy and Europe, and is an ideal staging spot for anyone spending their vacation time in the Alps. Also, one would be remiss if they did not see the splendid Lake Misurina while in the Dolomites, as it is an untouched, sapphire-blue natural wonder.
For those that prefer something a bit more grounded, the Colli Euganei should make the short list. Located south of Padua, the Euganean Hills don’t rise to the level of the Dolomites, literally, in that they range from 300 to 600 meters tall. However, there are plenty of vineyards nestled in the hills and the scenery makes for excellent walking or biking, especially when trekking across the Anello dei Colli Euganei (Ring of the Euganean Hills).
Although the mountains, rolling plains and tranquil lakes may capture many, don’t forget that Veneto is bordered to the east by the sprawling Adriatic Sea. Here, there are many beaches to choose from, each offering a bit of luxurious relaxation. Of particular note is Lido di Jesolo, which is paradise for tourists who like to take things slow.
Italy is a land of craft, and Veneto is the place where tourists flock to, so it’s no surprise that there are ample shopping options in the area. If a priceless keepsake is the target, there are two excellent choices.
One is the legendary Burano glass, which is only crafted on the island of Burano. A ferry ride away, Burano has a long tradition of glassblowing, and its artisans are arguably the finest in the world. The masters here can craft glass in seemingly any color, any design and any size. From earrings and necklaces to staggering pieces of display art, the options are seemingly limitless.
Vicenza leather is also an extremely admired product in Veneto, and because Vicenza is a city of fashion, there are many high class leather products to choose from. Bags, belts and various leather accessories are produced at an artisan level in Vicenza, with a degree of quality that cannot be denied.
Veneto is a land of natural beauty, but it has plenty of cultural beauty too, and tourists that would rather indulge in art and architecture will find that Veneto meets their needs.
Italy is dotted with some of the most beautiful and oldest churches and basilicas in the world, and Veneto has its fair share. Each one is worth a visit, but there are some that deserve extra attention. In Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica is located close to Piazza San Marco and its bell tower is one of the most iconic sites in Venice. Other basilicas in Venice to consider include the Basilica of Saint Giorgio Maggiore, the Basilica of Saint Maria della Salute and the Basilica of Redentore.
In Padua, the Basilica of Saint Anthony is considered a pilgrimage point and is one of the eight international shrines recognized by the Holy See. This makes it an area of major religious significance, though it is also filled with noteworthy religious art, including works by Girolamo Campagna and French sculptor Rainaldino di Puy-I’Evéque. A couple of other noteworthy religious sites in Padua include the Abbey of Saint Giustina and the Duomo of Padua.
Vicenza is home to the Church of Santa Corona, and though it is a bit modest compared to the sweeping basilicas of Venice, it is still more than 750 years old. It is also the burial spot of Andrea Palladio, who is considered the father of modern architecture and the man who designed the church. Before leaving Vicenza, the Sanctuary of Mount Berico is also worth exploring.
Of course, basilicas and churches are not the only sightseeing spots for the culture-hungry visitor. One could spend an entire week exploring Venice, with the triumphant St. Mark’s Square, the glittering Doge’s Palace, the stately Arsenale (perfect for military buffs), the iconic Grand Canal and a pair of bridges, Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs, each with their own interesting history.
Vicenza is a major hub for architecture lovers, as the aforementioned Andrea Palladio established many of his high profile works here. As an absolute master, his buildings epitomize the potential of modern architecture to captivate the imagination. The Villa Capra La Rotonda is one example, but perhaps the finest is the Olympic Theatre, which is only one of three remaining in the world. It is a colorful, intricately designed marvel that makes patrons feel as if they are back in time, watching a performance from another era.
A city of romance, Verona is perfect for couples who aren’t in a hurry. The Piazza delle Erbe is a natural spot for a stroll and a bit of browsing among the piazza’s vendors. The Arena di Verona and Castelvecchio are massive architectural wonders that can fill up an afternoon.
Beyond Veneto’s cities, there are plenty of points of interest to consider. At Lake Garda, there is Scaliger Castle, a lakeside history and natural science museum, with panoramic views from the castle tower. At Bassano del Grappa, the Ponte Vecchio is a historic old wooden bridge that has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. The Marostica Castle is the site of the human chess game and is surrounded by a charming town. And there are the gorgeous villas of the Brenta area, with Villa Pisani, Villa Foscarini Rossi and Villa Foscari being some of the finest examples.
Activities with Kids
Veneto is likely the most kid-friendly and family-friendly part of Italy, as it offers numerous amusement centers and parks that will keep the little ones engaged and excited. Caneva World is where every kid can cut loose, with its waterpark rides, a lazy river, play areas for smaller children and an array of restaurants to enjoy.
Where Caneva World is a waterpark, Gardaland is a traditional amusement park with heavy Italian influences. In addition to many thrill rides and rollercoasters, Gardaland has several themed areas and a couple fantastic sections that will appeal to younger children.
Movieland is themed around iconic movies and Hollywood, and the park offers a host of attractions for people of all ages.
If amusement parks aren’t quite active enough for the family, then perhaps sailing, waterskiing, swimming and hiking around Lake Garda would be more the speed. Lake Garda is a globally popular spot for all kinds of watersports, and because it is such a tourist hub, there are many restaurants, inns, villages and points of interest ringing the lake.
Group and Private Activities
It isn’t Italy without wine, and Veneto’s best example of wine country is Valpolicella. Though not as recognizable as Langhe or Chianti, Valpolicella boast a fantastic collection of wines, including Recioto, Ripasso or the hugely successful Amarone, along with delectable foods that are locally sourced. The Valpolicella countryside is one of abundance, and visitors here will never go hungry or with thirst. And it’s not all wine and food, either, as there are several castles in the area that can serve as exploration spots between wine tastings.
A cruise up the Brenta River can bring the scenery to you, as it courses from the Venetian lagoon up through Padua. As a major water thoroughfare, the Brenta River is surrounded by incredible and colorful examples of architecture, including the several villas once home to Italian nobility. Of special note is the Villa Pisani, which has been home to kings. Inside are precious Tiepolo frescoes and an enchanting maze garden.
A Closer Look
There’s too much to talk about when it comes to Veneto, but there are several unique experiences that every visitor should consider before making the trip.
Anyone with a love for architecture or culture should consider exploring Vicenza by foot. Yes, there is a lot of high fashion here for avid shoppers, but one of the most influential architects in the history of the world exercised his craft here, and it shows. Palladio’s works and the city’s focus on class make Vicenza one of the most interesting and superbly crafted cities in all of Europe.
St. Mark’s Square in Venice is something of a gathering point for all visitors to the city, and it’s not a trip to Venice without at least a stop there. The square glitters day and night, and the sounds of violins can always be heard from nearby cafes. Here, visitors can marvel at the bell tower of St. Mark or the columns of Saint Marco and Todaro.
The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua is an absolute must-see, though it may not look it from the outside. The exterior is modest, but inside features priceless, masterful frescoes by Giotto, each one a colorful tour de force. There’s a reason why this site is considered a significant heritage point of interest.
The Verona Theatre is perhaps the best preserved Roman amphitheater left in the world, and it still sees plenty of international artists, operas and ballet performances each year. And because Verona is a city of heart-swelling romance, couples cannot pass up visiting the house of Juliet, complete with the iconic balcony made famous by Shakespeare.