Treviso or “Little Venice”

I used to think it such a shame that “Little Venice” is overlooked by the tourists who arrive on their RyanAir flights, and hop on a bus direct to the larger city of canals. The other day we decided to visit Venice’s “poor relation” and the capital of the province where we live. We arrived at lunchtime, a good time as parking is easier, and immediately found a space in the Piazza del Duomo.

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Having already planned our route we set off on foot down the Via Calmaggiore.

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This charming porticoed street leads to the Piazza dei Signori and was the main road in Roman times.

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We took a pic of the Palazzo dei Trecento, which was built in the early thirteenth century,  but on Wednesday echoed to the sound of university graduates celebrating their laureate with crowns of laurels, drinking in the numerous wine bars, and singing a dirty song Dottore .. Dottore … Dottore del buso del c***. I wonder how many of them will find work in these difficult times?

Giving them a wide berth, we headed for the Buranelli Canal to take some photos.

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The River Sile and its tributary the Botteniga meet in Treviso and the water flows through several picturesque waterways that give the town its Venetian look. The warmth of the first sunny day in weeks on our arms, we soaked up the atmosphere and decided to come back here more often.

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Back in the Piazza dei Signori we stopped for a gelato before returning to our car. A good thing Treviso isn’t too touristy, we thought with hindsight. It’s a gem we can keep to ourselves. Che bella città!

Dame Freya Stark’s Villa in Asolo

Yesterday, on our way back from taking visitors to Venice airport to catch their plane home, Victor and I stopped off for a pizza in Montebelluna then went for a coffee (macchiato for me and corretto con grappa for his nibs) followed by a walk around our beloved Asolo. We took pictures of Dame Freya Stark’s old villa, which is now owned by the local Comune and used for official functions. We’ve decided to visit the gardens when the weather gets a bit warmer.

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Freya Stark was a British explorer and travel writer, born in 1893, and a great friend of the late Queen Mother, who visited her in Asolo. Dame Freya was inspired by the copy of One Thousand and One Nights she received at the age of nine. She became passionate about the Middle East and was one of the first Western women to travel in the Arabian Desert.

During her childhood, Freya was a regular visitor to Asolo, where her father’s friend, Pen Browning (son of Robert Browning), had three houses. Her parents separated when she was a child and her mother Flora lived with the landscape artist Herbert Young in the house Freya was to buy for herself after WWII. These photos are displayed on the outside wall of the villa and show the young Freya with her sister, Vera, and a tea party with her mother (and dolls) in the garden (under which have been discovered the remains of a Roman amphitheatre).

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It’s a beautiful old villa, dating from the end of the Eighteenth Century, built along the pre-existing medieval town wall. Dame Freya lived here until 1966, when she moved into the country house my stepfather built for her. I remember meeting this fascinating woman. She invited my little sister and me for afternoon tea and a swim in her pool. (She approved of the fact that we were avid readers.) When the house became too much for her she sold it and bought a flat in Asolo, near the Hotel Cipriani where she had lunch every day. Dame Freya died in Asolo on 9th May 1993, a few months after her hundredth birthday. She is buried in the Sant’Anna Cemetery.

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