Sight Seeing and Excursions

In cultural terms the Dolomites and the Veneto offer a greater variety than the typical Italian villa rental holiday: the enormous wealth of Venice and the north Italian towns - Padua, Vicenza, Mantua and Verona, as well as many smaller ones - have left plenty to see. The meeting of Italian culture with the influence of the old Holy Roman Empire is the central cultural theme of the Trentino. It is as much illustrated by the juxtaposition of names such as Cornaro or Contarini with Trapp or Thun among the tombs of the Prince Archbishops in the crypt of Trento's cathedral, as by the contrast of gnocchi and knoederli in the region's restaurants. This provides the background to much of the local art and architecture, the history of the First World War, the development of Roncegno's spa and the building of Villa Gordon itself.


Art, Culture and Excursions

Culture vultures can start in Roncegno: the parish church has an altarpiece by Francesco Guardi (one of his rare religious works); and then on to the Palace Hotel, with its art nouveau ballroom, Viennese secessionist paintings and 1930s art deco bar.

  The Palace Hotel, Roncegno: Art Deco furniture on the terrace

Trento has one of the finest medieval/renaissance city centres in northern Italy: as well as the cathedral and the imposing Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento boasts a large number of old renaissance Palazzos with charmingly frescoed facades. The castle is well worth visiting, particularly the Torre dell'Aquila, a pearl-like interior whose decoration recalls the illustrations of Les tres riches heures du duc de Berry.

The town was the site of the Council of Trent in the 16th century, which gave us the Tridentine mass: this gives you a clue as to why there is a statue of Neptune in the cathedral square?

  Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento
Vinyards in the Val d'Adige   The Adige valley is one of Italy's major wine producing regions. North of Trento the German influence predominates: as well as local red grapes such as Teroldego, there are good whites: the village of Tramen is argued to be the origin of the tramminer grape, grown locally. The Strada del Vino through San Michele and Mezzocorona has many centres worth visiting. Trento is the home of Ferrari, which boasts the best quality Italian champagne. South of the city are the wine cooperatives of Mori and Aldeno. Here you will find Marzemino, a red grape made famous in Mozart's Don Giovanni, and Schiava Gentile, or gentle slave, a rosť ideal for summer quaffing. At Mori and Aldeno you can taste the wines and buy at wholesale prices.
To the west of the Adige is Lake Garda: where scheduled boating trips can take you down to Sirmione (about two hours) to visit the resort and Roman ruins. There is also Gardaland (if you can bear it), a large Disney style amusement park that will appeal greatly to children.   Garda Land
The Arena, Verona   The Adige valley opens out to the plains at Verona, whose Roman origins are still clearly visible throughout the town centre: as well as the remaining city gates there is the large amphitheatre or Arena, where in July and August an opera season is staged. As well as its museum of art Verona has many fine shops and a very picturesque open-air market.
    Mantua is a little further on, but is well worth a day's excursion. The town - Virgil's birthplace -lies on what is almost an island, surrounded by the lagoons of the River Mincio. The Ducal Palace is very impressive, featuring Mantegna's Camera degli Sposi, as is Giulio Romano's delightfully eccentric Palazzo del Te. The Teatro Virgiliano is like a little fairy-tale music box, while for the serious art historian the visit would not be complete without tours of Alberti's two churches, Sant' Andrea and San Sebastiano.
    Bassano: Ponte degli Alpini
    From Roncegno to the east the Valsugana opens onto the plains at Bassano del Grappa (40 minutes drive), where the mountains come down from 1,800 metres to an abrupt stop. Bassano is famous for its food and wine, its covered bridge over the Brenta, and its ceramics. The bridge combines all these elements: a concentration of shops culminating with Nardinis, an eighteenth century wine shop where you can taste a bewildering selection of grappas and herbal liqueurs. Bassano also has a good art museum and a ceramics museum.
From Bassano you are within easy striking distance of both the small towns of the Veneto - Asolo, Marostica or Castelfranco, for example, as well as the major centres of Vicenza, Padua and Treviso. Wherever you go you will not be far from a Palladian villa or a fresco by Veronese or Tiepolo.   Adoration of the Magi, by Jacopo Bassano
Venice (148km) is two hours by car or train from Borgo; a day does not allow for much, so it's best not to be too ambitious. Some carefully targeted sightseeing in the morning, a good lunch and perhaps a visit to the Lido in the afternoon for swimming and snoozing would not be a bad way of passing the day.   The Rialto, Venice
    The First World War left an indelible mark on the Trentino. The front line passed over Villa Gordon twice, leaving bullet holes on the veranda and damage still visible on brickwork below the roof. On the mountain ridges you will find the traces of the Austrian trenches. This is the landscape of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.
Forte Belvedere   Austrian forts of the First World War
    There are a number of Austrian forts south of Roncegno on the Altopiano of Asiago, particularly the Forte Belvedere, whose Maginot-like underground tunnels have been turned into a museum. Also worth visiting are the Military Museum in Rovereto, south of Trento, and the war memorial and museum on Monte Grappa, above Bassano. On a clear day you can see Venice: it was from here that the Austrians lobbed shells over to bomb the city