Located in the northeastern part of the country, the Veneto is one of Italy’s twenty regions, and the fifth largest in population. As a fair-sized region, the Veneto covers a good amount of the north and has many neighbors: bordered to the north by Trentino Alto-Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia, to the west by Lombardia, and the south by Emilia-Romagna. What can be called a geographical boon, or a curse – depending on the political climate of the time, is the region’s eastern border, which is the Adriatic Sea. This, combined with the number of rivers that crisscross the region (including the Po River – the longest in Italy), provided instant trade routes to the rest of peninsula, and even into Austria. The northern part of the region is covered with mountains, including the glorious Dolomites chain, focusing the population to live in the southern hills and plains of the region.
As with most in Italy, the region’s roots stem back to Roman times, where the Veneti fought along side the Romans in the 3rd century BC. This relationship changed from being equals to being under Roman power, and remained that way until the barbarian invasions of the area began in the 2nd century AD, and continued until the 8th century. These invasions chased the native Veneti to seek refuge in islands on the lagoon, off the southeastern coast, in what we know as Venice. This ushered in the time of the Doge, the ruler of the independent Venetian Republic, and 1100 years of uninterrupted power. It wasn’t until Napoleon came a-conquering that the Republic was split up, and changed hands over the next 60+ years, belonging to the Austrian Empire for a fair amount of time. The Veneto officially joined the newly unified Italy in 1866, but continued to suffer from vast emigration and poverty until the most recent years, when its industry and agricultural development blossomed, and the Veneto welcomed people home.
What You Should See There
The Veneto is home to a city that is part of what we lovingly call “The Big Three” – Venice. What once served as a wartime sanctuary is now one of the most visited destinations in Italy; a floating city that is a labyrinth of canals and bridges, of quaint piazze and grand palaces, and of elegant sights and bold tastes. The most classic must-dos in Venice are a boat trip along the Grand Canal, a visit to the furnaces of Murano, and a tour of the golden treasure chest that is St. Mark’s. Of course, the Veneto is so much more than simply Venice. Go beyond the lagoon to taste some of the finest wines in world at the sumptuous Allegrini estate, or tour the classic architecture of Palladio, nestled in the region’s rolling hills. Visit Padua to admire the frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel, or Marostica to see its giant chessboard, and of course, a trip to Verona to glimpse true love.
What You Should Eat There
The Veneto’s cuisine development had much to do with its topography: mountains, plains, and seaside. The northern, mountainous area tends to offer hearty meats, like pork and game, with a heavy Austrian influence. The central, plain
area allows for more grazing meats, like beef and chicken, with more vegetables incorporated. The eastern, seaside area clearly focuses on the fruits of the sea. Grains are used throughout the entire Veneto: polenta being a favorite, as it was the most affordable grain for the poor, and offers tremendous variety in preparation; risotto and other hand-made pastas (ravioli and bigoli, a very typical thick Venetian noodle) are also staples of the cuisine. The Veneto’s wine culture is widely celebrated as one of the strongest in Italy, producing a number of DOC-level wines, including many white varietals like the Soave wines, and full-bodied reds like Amarone. Perhaps the best-known, and one of the most appreciated, contribution to the wine world would be the dry, sparkling wine, Prosecco, gracing the table of many celebrators this side of the pond.
Bring Veneto to Your Kitchen Table
Throughout this year, Select Italy has been teaming up with Eataly, the Italian food emporium, to present the regions, in whole, and bring the best of that region straight to your table. In a completely selfless endeavor, we smell, sip, and savor these products, so you don’t go it alone. For the Veneto region, Eataly has supplied two items designed to bookend any great meal: Biabensi Kamut Breadsticks and Bauli Pandoro. The breadsticks are the perfect pairing for robust Italian meats and cheeses. They are light and flavorful, with the hint of extra virgin olive oil, and the crunch is just what you need for a successful charcuterie platter. In this case, I used Veneto alums, sharp Asiago cheese and Taleggio, alongside hard salame and capicollo, with some sweet jam to cut the bold flavors. Pandoro is a sweet yeast bread that traditionally is dusted with vanilla powder, and appears in the bakeries and shops around the holiday season. Given that it is that time of year to think beyond oneself, in both small and great ways, I saved the pandoro for our office Thanksgiving potluck celebration. Given that our Italian colleagues graciously embraced our unfamiliar Thanksgiving traditions, ending the party with a taste of the “Golden Bread” was a great way to combine our holiday traditions.
@ItalyFoodies: Join Our Discussion- What’s Your Take
- What makes Soave wine so special, and what is the best pairing for it?
- What are the top three tips to keep in mind when shopping for fresh seafood?
- Polenta can be intimidating to tackle, for a novice: is there an “Intro to Polenta-making” recipe that you would recommend?