Who doesn’t like a glass of Prosecco – that fresh, light, crisp and intensely aromatic Italian sparkling wine with the flavour of yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot? I love it on its own, in a Bellini or Mimosa cocktail, or in a Sgroppino with vodka and lemon sorbet. The Glera Prosecco grapes are traditionally grown in the area north of Treviso, between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, not far from where we live. The “strada del vino bianco” (the white wine road) winds through hills, their slopes covered in vineyards, and enchanting villages where we occasionally stop for a delicious lunch washed down with – you’ve guessed it – Prosecco.
There is much to explore and we sometimes visit Vittorio Veneto, the site of the last battle between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. This area was familiar to Ernest Hemmingway as it was here he set part of his wonderful novel A Farewell to Arms. Soon we are back on the road again and put behind us the carnage of WWI, letting the vines sooth us with their timelessness. It seems they care not for human folly as they mark the passage from one harvest to the next.
Wherever you go in the surrounding area you can’t fail to notice the rather austere fortress of Asolo, (also known as “La Rocca”).
It dominates the landscape from every angle and this is how we view it from our our place.
I’ve climbed up the steep path leading from the centre of Asolo to the summit of Monte Ricco and have gazed south towards Venice on the left and the Colli Euganei behind Padova on the right. When I swivelled around to the north, this was the panorama of the foothills of the Dolomites:
Although in the past attributed to Roman or even pre-Roman construction, the fortress was, in fact, built in medieval times between the end of the twelfth and early thirteenth century on the remains of an earlier settlement. At the start of the Middle Ages, Asolo was a possession of the notorious Ezzelino family. In 1388 the fiefdom came under the control of the Venetian Republic. My novel, Lady of Asolo, is set in this beautiful location.
Today is the start of a new year in the Chinese calendar and also marks a new horoscope in the zodiac. Anyone born between today and 30/01/2014 is a snake. You can read about it here
Xin Nian Kuai Le ! 新年快乐 Kung Hei Fat Choy! 恭喜发财
This painting – my favourite view of Asolo – by my father, Douglas Bland (1923-1975) is from an old print
Both works are in the Mellor Collection. You can see some of my father’s work on the Facebook page I have dedicated to him Douglas Bland Artist to which I shall be adding over the coming months, and also on the Douglas Bland Artist website.
I have used the painting on the cover of my novel, Lady of Asolo.
Via Roberto Browning in Asolo was named after the English poet and playwright Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889). I remember studying his poem Home thoughts from Abroad at school: O to be in England, Now that April’s here …
A play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, was made into two films about Browning’s romance and subsequent marriage to the poet Elizabeth Barrett, suposedly a sweet, innocent young woman who suffered endless cruelties at the hands of a tyrannical papa but who nonetheless had the good fortune to fall in love with a dashing and handsome poet named Robert Browning. From the time of their marriage and until Elizabeth’s death, the Brownings lived in Italy. I quote from Robert Browning’s poem, Asolando:
How many a year, my Asolo,
Since–one step just from sea to land–
I found you, loved yet feared you so–
… Italia’s rare
O’errunning beauty crowds the eye
which sums up my feelings for this beautiful place, and one of the reasons why I have set my novel, Lady of Asolo, here.