The picturesque hometown of Prosecco DOC and grappa, plus 3 museums of companies that produce top-quality Made in Italy products.
We are in Veneto, between the provinces of Treviso and Vicenza, an area steeped in history, art and artisan tradition. Visiting this area means immersing yourself in landscapes featuring vineyards and aristocratic villas, castles and ancient walls, quaint villages and spectacular reenactments of historic events. It is also possible to visit three corporate museums that epitomize the successful combination of industry and culture.
Conegliano, the home of Prosecco DOC
Close to the foothills of the Alps, a small town and its castle overlook the hills, outlined by row after row of vines, where Prosecco DOC is made. Conegliano is the starting point of the Strada del Prosecco e Vini dei Colli Conegliano Valdobbiadene (The Prosecco and Wines of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills Route). These wines and their fruity bouquets were celebrated by Renaissance painters such as Giovanni Battista Cima (known as Cima da Conegliano) who was born in this town and drew inspiration from it for his work. The fortress was built around the year 1000, but its role in controlling the territory did not last long. In fact, between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, the new manufacturing and trade districts sprung up outside the city walls. The old town center runs along the Contrada Grande, now called Via XX Settembre. It is still steeped in the aristocratic atmosphere of the past and people still stroll under the porticos and meet in the many cafés and restaurants around the Teatro dell’Accademia. Your gaze is inevitably drawn to the facades of the town’s most beautiful buildings, such as Villa Sarcinelli, Casa Longega and the palace of the former Monte della Pietà. The Cathedral, covered entirely by frescos portraying biblical scenes above the elegant arches, preserves several valuable works of art, including the famous altarpiece by Cima da Conegliano (1493), cited in all art history books.
Conegliano is also home to the museums of two historic companies, both of which are worth visiting: the Museo della Chiave Bianchi 1770 (Bianchi 1770 Key Museum) and the Museo del Caffè Dersut (Dersut Coffee Museum).
Museo della Chiave Bianchi 1770
Keys. They open doors, gates, cells, cabinets and padlocks. They keep vaults, wall safes and precious jewelry boxes secure. These everyday objects are rooted in ancient civilizations. The Chiave Bianchi 1770 Museum tells the story of the Bianchi family, the world’s longest-lived dynasty in the production of keys and related items. The detailed story starts with an age-old artisan tradition which began in 1770 and was handed down from father to son. Over two thousand exhibits from all over the world, which date back to different historical periods from the first century AD to the present day, bear witness to the technological evolution of the key over the centuries.
Museo del Caffè Dersut
From plant to cup, the Dersut Coffee Museum tells the story of a fine coffee and the artisan and entrepreneurial knowledge behind it since 1949, when the Caballini Counts of Sassoferrato took over a small roasting company: Dersut Caffè. The Dersut Coffee Museum was inaugurated in 2010, not far from the production plant where blends with an unmistakable taste are created through careful crop selection and cutting-edge technology. The exhibition space guides visitors through the entire coffee production process. The museum is located inside the former Bozzoli drying room, a building dating back to the 1930s. The visit ends in the tasting room on the upper floor of the museum where the Accademia Baristi Caffè Dersut, the ABCD, is also located. The knowledge and passion, the hallmark of the company for over 70 years, has led to the creation of the Academy, whose aim is to promote the excellence of Italian espresso. It offers all-round training courses for anyone wishing to learn more about coffee culture.
Asolo, a refuge for writers
A retreat for writers like Browning, Benson, Henry and Hemingway, Eleonora Duse, Freya Stark and Francesco Malipiero, the hilltop village of Asolo, dominated by a medieval fortress and surrounded by vineyards, is well worth a visit. The magnificent views offered from every vantage point led the Italian poet, Giosuè Carducci, to describe Asolo as “the city of one hundred horizons”. An Italian Touring Club Orange Flag town, Asolo abounds with alleys and porticos lined with cafes, restaurants and craft shops, Venetian palaces, a Cathedral and the castle that was home to Caterina Cornaro and her court of scholars.
Bassano del Grappa, home of the most Italian of distillates
Water and rock are the key features of Bassano. The water comes from the Brenta River which meets the city at its outlet on the plain. The rock is that of Mount Grappa, the scene of commemorated patriotic battles during the First World War. The Ponte Vecchio – or the Ponte degli Alpini (rebuilt after being damaged in the Second World War) – is the symbol of the city and offers visitors a picture-postcard view. Its sixteenth-century wooden structure, designed by Andrea Palladio, has withstood the flooding of the river over the centuries. The old town center is dominated by a sort of medieval acropolis, with a castle that encloses the Cathedral within its walls. In the heart of the town is Piazza Libertà, with the Loggia del Comune and the big clock with a blue face. Grappa, the famous distillate and only spirit made solely from grape skins and seeds (the pomace), is a source of local pride. The Poli Grappa Museum, which also has a second location worthy of a detour to Schiavon, is located in this beautiful setting.
Poli Museo della Grappa
In 1993, the Poli family, distillers since 1898, opened the museum dedicated to the “most Italian” of distillates in the ancient Palazzo delle Teste of Bassano del Grappa. The story began when Giobatta Poli decided to acquire a mobile alembic (distilling apparatus) that he took from farm to farm to distil the fresh pomace. Part of the grappa obtained was used to pay for the raw material, the rest was sold in his tavern. The proceeds were used for the installation of a
permanent site, with three steam boilers. That is how the Distillerie Poli came about. Today, the company is run by Giobatta’s grandchildren, Jacopo, Andrea and Barbara. More than 100 years later, they are still distilling using the same alembic. The company’s museum, founded in 1993, takes you on a journey of the discovery of the production of this spirit through tools, illustrations and ancient documents. The final room hosts the largest collection of mignon bottles in Italy, as well as several olfactometers, which give a hint of what will be tasted at the end of the visit.
In 2011, Jacopo Poli and his wife Cristina opened the company’s second museum a few kilometers from Bassano, in Schiavon, which houses the largest collection of grappa in Italy, with 2,000 historical bottles produced between the 1930s and 1980s.
Marostica, queen of chess
The world’s most famous game of chess is played on the cobbles of the main square in Marostica. Dressed in fifteenth-century costumes, the participants (pawns, knights, kings and queens) are arranged on the huge chessboard made of white and red marble squares. It takes place in September, on even-numbered years. It is said to recall the duel in 1454 between Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara for the hand of the beautiful Lionora, daughter of the chief magistrate of Venice. Not much else can be said of Marostica, other than that it is a very well-preserved and picturesque medieval village, holder of the TCI’s Orange Flag. Founded in the fourteenth century, it is dominated by two castles, the lower one on the central porticoed square, and the one further up the hill. They are joined by crenellated walls marked by 24 towers, evenly spaced up the Pausolino hill.