Asolo, a walled medieval hilltop town outside of Venice, is one of the Veneto’s best kept secrets and the perfect 3 day getaway pre or post tour, if you’re joining us on our Dolomites & Prosecco Road Tour or Giro d’Italia Tour.
Situated an hour from Venice Airport in the often referred to ‘garden of Venice’, the small charming town of Asolo has attracted artists, poets and writers for centuries and to this day remains a creative, quiet haven for those who visit. It is a town that can easily be visited in a day but for those who stay to soak in its quiet streets and piazza’s lined with stone houses and medieval architecture, and its surrounding natural beauty and easy way of life, it is pure joy.
On first arriving to Asolo, you’ll be mesmerised by its beauty and understand how it has come to be called ‘the town of a hundred horizons’ for its location and setting, and how it features as one of the ‘Borghi piu belli d’Italia’ (one of the most beautiful towns in Italy). Like many who visit, you may feel that there’s not too much to do other than stroll, eat, drink and shop, and if you’re staying in one of its lovely hotels, relax by the pool….which is not such a bad thing when you’re looking for some down time pre or post tour. However, if what you’re after is a couple of days of relaxation mixed in with a little activity and sightseeing (and possibly some riding), then it is also a great place to stay and use as a base to reach other nearby attractions.
Meet, Stroll & Shop
In the centre of Asolo is Piazza Garibaldi; home to Caffé Centrale, the meeting place for locals and a great place for a coffee or aperitivo, and the Maggiore Fountain which still today spouts water from an underground aqueduct built by the Romans.
As you explore the streets and sights of the centre of Asolo, you’ll find yourself browsing its many chic shops; from jewellers to designer clothing, leather bags and wonderful home-made local food products, to galleries, antiques and unique art products, it is a small town that packs a punch on the shopping front.
If you are interested in antiques, the Asolo antiques fair held on every second Sunday of the month, is well worth visiting.
Visit & See
You can cover the main sights of Asolo within a couple of hours however a visit to the 13th century castle of Queen Cornaro, the last Queen of Cyprus, who was exiled to Asolo after Cyprus was taken over by Venice in the 15th century, is a must. The castle houses a theatre dedicated to the Italian actress, Eleonora Duse and also a small cafe but be sure to walk up on its walls and to its several balconies to enjoy the beautiful views over the rooftops and surrounding hills of Asolo. The Cathedral which houses a magnificent piece of artwork called ‘Assunta’ by Lorenzo Lotto and the Santa Caterina church with its 15th century frescoes are also both worth a visit.
Walk & Explore
For a little more exertion, walk the half hour vertical climb up from the piazza to the pre-Roman Rocca fortress sitting high above the town centre. Start your walk near Albergo al Sole, walking past the old cottages until you arrive at the 16th century monastery. Fill your water bottle at the fountain here, before beginning the 300 steps up to the fortress. Dominating the skyline of Monte Ricco and originally built to guard the city, the rocca provides the perfect setting for spectacular 360 degree views over the plains and hills, and on a clear day, views of Venice.
Another walk which allows you to enjoy the spectacular views and history of the villas and gardens surrounding Asolo, is the walk around the medieval walls of the town. Allow approximately 2 hours for this walk which begins from the town centre and circles its way around, virtually hugging the walls.
If you feel you’ve enjoyed the culture and lifestyle of the captivating town of Asolo and perhaps have had enough of lounging by the pool, then you don’t need to venture far to enjoy some other wonders of this part of the Veneto region.
Freya Stark’s Garden
Hugging the walls of the town, the restored garden that belonged to Freya Stark, great traveler and writer of the 20th century, can be visited. On the first three Saturdays of each month you can enter the Garden and visit the rich botanical setting and also the restored archaeological site of the Roman theatre of Asolo.
Villa Barbaro del Palladio (or Villa di Maser)
7km from Asolo, the Villa Barbaro makes for a nice half day outing to experience the ‘villa civilisation’ that started to develop at the end of the 15th century as a reflection of the veneto’s interest in the agricultural riches outside Venice. Owned by several different important families over the years, the villa is one of the greatest masterpieces of Andrea Palladio and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is a flourishing estate which you can tour around and with a historic winery, enjoy a wine tasting and/or light lunch.
Villa Sandi in Crocetta del Montello is the biggest wine estate of the area located between the DOCG area of Prosecco of Valdobbiadene and DOC area of the Montello and Colli Asolani. The villa is a Palladian-style beauty that was built in 1622 and has been in owner Giancarlo Moretti Polegato’s family for many generations. It’s a great place for a tasting of the Asolo – Prosecco.
A small walled city with an atmosphere and buzz, particularly at aperitivo time, Castelfranco Veneto is home to one of the most important artists of the Venetian Renaissance, Giorgione, where his altar masterpiece can be seen in the Duomo.
Asolo enjoys a range of local products and as you wander its streets, you’ll find shops and small cafes that pay homage to its produce. Amongst its specialties are the extra virgin olive oil and prosecco of the hills of Asolo, local mountain cheeses including Bastardo, Morlacco and Imbriago, and its local cake called Pinza, a dense richly filled cake with apple, currants and dried figs. Delicious.
Osteria Al Bacaro is a favourite for local cuisine and with its authentic, home made dishes of pasta and gnocchi, amongst other local seasonal produce, it is definitely worth a visit. Also, next door is the Robert Browning Gallery dedicated to the poet who loved Asolo.
In our books, the best aperitivo in town is at Corte del Re. With views over the piazza and great antipasto plates to share, you can eat, drink and people watch for hours here.
Another great aperitivo and casual dinner venue is Henry’s Bar. Tucked away in a narrow street, this lounge restaurant and bar offers soft lighting and good groove. It’s menu is ‘international’ which is a slight detraction for us, however everything is homemade, which is a plus.
Due Mori is our absolute favourite restaurant in Asolo for dinner (or lunch). With sensational dishes which combine tradition with modern cuisine and spectacular views of the Asolo hills, both from its panoramic window and terrace, there is everything to love about this place.
A hidden treasure with elegant rooms, stunning views and pool and gardens that allow you to feel like you are in heaven. If you’re up for spoiling yourself for a couple of nights, enjoying bar fame (Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar in Venice once owned the hotel) and sipping a bellini poolside, Villa Cipriani is the place to stay.
Albergo al Sole
A small luxury 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of the medieval town, Albergo al Sole is a great place to stay, albeit without a pool. However, it does cater well to cyclists.
Still centrally located but a fair step down in style from the luxury of Villa Cipriani and Albergo al Sole, Hotel Duse offers comfort and ease in the town centre.
Getting to and from Asolo
It is easiest to arrive to Asolo by car, whether you’re hiring your own car or booking a driver from the airport.
You can also catch a train from Venice to Treviso (which runs every 20 minutes) and then a bus from Treviso to Asolo (which also takes about the same time, but is less frequent).