From the famous canals of Venice to the shores of Lake Garda to the sights of Verona, art of Padova, architecture of Vicenza, villas of the Brenta, and hilltowns of Asolo and Bassano del Grappa
For every one person who has heard of the Veneto, a prosperous province in northeastern Italy, probably 10,000 more have heard of its most famous city and regional capital: that genteel and otherworldly city of Gothic palazzi threaded by canals called Venice.
Beyond Venice—and suffering the tiniest fraction of the Venetian crowds—there's fair Verona, where Shakespeare lay his scenes in Romeo and Juliet and where an ancient Roman amphitheater in the heart of the city still holds a renowned summer opera season.
Giotto frescoes decorate the Scrovegni Chapel in the university city of Padova (Padua).
The shores of Lake Garda—largest of the Italian lakes, lined with castles, ancient Roman ruins, and low-key lakeside resorts (and home to some fine windsurfing)—are actually split between the regions of the Veneto, Lombardy, and the Teutonic-flavored Trentino (Riva del Garda, on the north shore, is a beer-and-wurstel kind of town). The excellent resort village of Sirmione, at the the lake's southern end, sits beyond a tiny but impressive castle on the end of a long, thin peninsula of land jutting into the lake, with the evocative ruins of a Roman villa at its tip.
Fabulous villas line the Brenta Canal, which beelines its way west into the Veneto from Venice. They also fill the genteel hilltowns of Asolo and, most impressively, dominate the city and surroundings of Vicenza (the best of which were designed in perfect Neoclassical precision by Palladio, the man who inspired Jefferson and, by extension, the monumental architecture of Washington, DC).
Bassano lies at the heartland of Italy's famed firewater, grappa. And the tiny town of Marostica throws a biannual chess match on the piazza before it glowering medieval castle—using live humans people as the pieces.