If you're on a painting holiday in Venice, you may be tempted to let the city detain you forever, but the region around it is full of fabulous places to visit too.
Vicenza is a good base for exploring the region – it’s under an hour by train from Venice – and many of its historic buildings will seem familiar.
Why? Because the16th-century architect Andre Palladio made this place his home, and his take on Roman and Greek aesthetics didn’t just transform Vicenza, it influenced all western design too. Visit his iconic La Rotonda and Villa Valmarana – and afterwards, explore the town’s unpretentious cafes and restaurants to enjoy fine local food and drink.
Verona, two hours’ train ride west from Venice, is known for its remarkable open-air opera house, seating 30,000 – a Roman construction in pink marble from the first century.
The city’s historic centre is full of Romanesque churches, too, but its most famous location is one that existed only in Shakespeare’s brilliant imagination: Juliet’s balcony. Its fictional origins haven’t stopped Romeo and Juliet fans flocking to the Casa di Giulietta, a 14th-century house in the town. Afterwards, head to the old Roman forum, the Piazza del Erbe, for buzzing cafe life.
Padova (Padua) is only an hour away from Venice – you can even get between the two (though not as quickly) by boat, up the Brenta Canal.
In its glory days, a few centuries ago, it rivalled Venice, though industry now pays the bills. Art history fans will drool over Giotto’s frescoes in the Capella degli Scrovegni, which were a vibrant new world of colour and realism for churchgoers in the 1300s. It’s five minutes’ walk from the train station – but booking ahead is a must.
The old town is full of beautiful historic buildings, also a stroll from the train station, and even quicker by the new tram.
Veneto wine country, an hour or two west of Venice, caters for all tastes.
Crisp whites? Visit the vineyards of Soave, the beautiful medieval walled town.
Full-blooded reds? Drop into Valpolicella, northwest of Verona. It’s the home of those big Amarones enjoyed fictitiously by Hannibal Lecter (though the film Silence of the Lambs had him referring to the more audience-friendly Chianti).
Champagne-style bubbly? Explore Conegliano, home of Venice’s trademark prosecco.
And for the hard stuff, try Bassano del Grappa in the Alpine foothills. Yes: grappa, the hard-liquor offshoot of winemaking, originates here.
The Dolomites, a couple of hours north of Venice, with all those astoundingly needle-sharp peaks, are among the most dramatic mountainscapes in the world.
It’s a wonderful place for hiking in summer and skiing in winter, with Belluno as your base – a historic town balanced high above the River Piave.