Sunday, February 26, 2012

Asolo’s charms worth excursion by bike, bus, train and foot

Part of the view from just below where we
ate our lunch.

Saturday, February 25
Almost without our noticing, the weather has changed from ice and snow to nearly spring-like conditions—perfect for a day trip to the picturesque hillside village of Asolo. Unlike some of our excursions last year, when we just looked at a map and picked a destination city that looked remote and yet large enough to have some interesting streets and shops, this time we have a recommendation. Calvin and Patty, friends from Gig Harbor, took a vacation in Asolo some years ago, and they still speak fondly of their time there. We have also read that it was once the home of the poet Robert Browning, British writer/explorer Freya Stark and Italian actress Eleonora Duse.

Without a car, we start with a five-minute bike ride to the Padova stazione, followed by a 30-minute train ride to Castelfranco. Then we have a 20-minute walk to the CSM bus station, and then it’s another 25-minute ride to the lower edge of Asolo. The bus driver tells us where to get off and says we should take a little city bus five minutes up the hill to the centro. He honks his horn to get the attention of the city bus driver, who is just leaving, but without success. Now we will have to wait 25 minutes for the next bus. We decide to walk, though we predict—accurately, it turns out—that we will reach the centro at the same time the next bus does. Va bene, the walk helps us build up an appetite that will make our pranzo all the more saporoso.

An old bike on an old street outside an old antique store.
The city is definitely worth the effort, with meandering stone streets and the always intriguing hodge-podge of ancient gates, windows, doors and walls. Lucy finds a little shop with hand-made shirts on display. She persuades me to go inside, and with an inner struggle, I overcome my aversion for clothes shopping. Silene, the proprietress, makes clothing to order, but the shirts in the window are for display and are now on sale. I try on a white shirt with purple stripes, and it fits perfectly. I can wear it in July for Lindsey’s wedding. We spend a couple of enjoyable minutes talking with Silene, a conversation made more pleasurable because it is entirely in Italian. We ask her if there is a panetteria in the city with an ancient wood oven, a place that Calvin and Patty had told us about. It is only 100 meters away, she says, but unfortunately it closed two years ago, a victim of the declining economy.
Silene, me and my new hand-sewn shirt.

Lucy relaxing on the steps just below the
cafe where we had our lunch. You can
just see our table at the top of the stairs.
We continue our stroll and end up at the Bar Castello, where we take a long snack at an outside table, soaking in the sunshine and the panorama. We share the best panino I have ever had in Italy. Instead of coming with already baked bread, the panino is made with two flat circles of dough and kept in the refrigerator. Between the dough is fresh pork, local cheese and red lettuce. It is popped in the oven, so not only is the thick cheese deliciously melted but the bread exudes that unmistakable fresh-baked aroma and taste. Our lunch stretches on, with Lucy reading a novel and me writing. We don't want the moment to end, so we keep adding items—hot chocolate, then the panino with potato chips. Now a Coke with lemon and ice. More potato chips. Another Coke, with a shared tiramisú (also expertly made).

When it finally comes time to leave, we catch the city bus—actually it is a van—
going down, and we reverse our itinerary. It occurs to me that part of the authentic Italian charm that Asolo has retained is because it is not so easily reached. And this is what we have come to Italy to find, not the crowded cities packed with more foreigners than Italians, but places like this, where the natives enjoy the simplicity and beauty of their daily business as they have done for so many hundreds of years.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you enjoyed Asolo. We sure did. We hope to go back some day.



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