One of the first trips that we ever took as a couple was to Europe – Italy, England and France – to visit family and friends as well as explore three destinations that I have been wanting to explore since I was a little girl. My dad would always douse me in his exciting, adventure filled stories about his trips overseas and I grew up with the aspiration that I would visit as many places as he has. Haven’t got there yet but I will one day! Thankfully I found someone who has the same penchant for adventure like me so that we can see and do so many wild and wonderful things together.
The Brenta River that flows from Trentino to the Adriatic Sea
And as you can see from the pictures, we did it in Winter, and yes we froze butts off but honestly I wouldn’t have done it any other way! Everything felt just that extra bit more special and magical during our trip thanks to the chilly atmosphere.
One of our favourite places that we have ever visited has to be Italy – from the romantic atmosphere of Venice to the bustling city of Rome, we just couldn’t get enough of this Italian wonderland. But in the midst of all the well-known travel destinations within Italy, we found a place that we will return to again and again thanks to the stunning memories made there. And that has to be Vicenza – an extraordinary hidden gem that can rival the likes of Italy’s famous leaning tower and their otherworldly floating city.
The beautiful area of Vicenza located in the Veneto region and founded in 2nd Century BC was luckily on our travel itinerary due to the fact that Darren has family there; I had no idea Vicenza even existed until he told me about this beautiful area that boasts Palladio architecture, aged castles and classic churches abounding in history. Not to mention a wooden bridge (in Bassano del Grappa) which has stood the test of time and a bar which makes its very own, highly sought after (and extremely strong) grappa. The great things that come out of this inconspicuous area will surprise you.
Our stay in the quaint town of Dueville, aptly named after two villas – one villa that welcomes you into the town and another that fares you goodbye as you exit the town – was simply perfect. The town being a mere 20 minute train ride away from the city centre of Vicenza was a great home base for our exploring of the area and surrounds. Our travels together had many amusing anecdotes – one being us nearly missing the only train back to Dueville – and fun sightseeing but one of my favourite parts of the entire experience was the gastro side of it.
One thing you learn very quickly when visiting anywhere in Italy is that food is a very important, almost sacrilege, aspect of the Italian culture and it is no different in the city of Vicenza. Nearly everywhere you go there are people inviting you to try delectable jams or buy the most amazing produce from fresh zucchini to moist prosciutto. One of my absolute favourite parts of the trip was getting to drink REAL hot chocolate – none of that powder mix that I am so used to back home – melted milk chocolate and a bit of milk, that is all it takes to make the best cup of hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Yes, when you come to Vicenza please expect to put on an extra kilogram or ten for that matter.
Luckily in Vicenza the main mode of transportation is your own two feet which helps to thwart the inevitable weight gain. One place in Vicenza which was an absolute highlight for us (and was done by our ever dependable feet) was the village of Marostica and the two transcendent castles found there.
Marostica takes you back in time to a place where you’d expect to see gallant knights fending off their foes and saving damsels in distress – a picturesque fairy-tale town. The eye-catching object that nobody will miss is the life-size chessboard painted on the cobblestones. Found in the Piazza Castello, having a charming story surrounding it of an indecisive princess who couldn’t choose between two male suitors which resulted in them competing against one another for her heart. Marostica hosts an annual festival that reimagines the story where the locals put on a show re-enacting the long-told love story.
While a hike up to the top castle will take your breath away, not just from the actual strenuous walk but from the views on top which are positively magical and give you a sense of how big the ancient city used to be like.
Vicenza isn’t the most raved about Italian destination like Venice or Rome but it goes without saying that it is definitely one of the most special. We absolutely loved it there and cannot wait to book our ticket back!