Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Treviso: not just the Ryanair airport

Treviso is the town in north-eastern Italy where I went to school, and the village where I grew up is only half an hour away in the countryside. I don't go often to Treviso nowadays, but the other day I coupled my walk in the historic centre with a visit to an exhibition held at Ca' dei Carraresi on classical India and its charms.

Treviso is a sleepy town with absolutely no tourists, half an hour away from Venice by train, and it's full of medieval buildings, quiet canals and also stylish boutique shops. It is smaller than Verona or Vicenza, and life here runs slowly. Even though it's not a touristic town, there are some cute corners if you know where to look. The fact that there are virtually no tourists made me look strange with a camera in my hands: people were staring at me and wondering why I was taking pictures! Has that ever happened to you?

Canale dei Buranelli, Treviso
A view of Treviso (Canale dei Buranelli)
If you're flying to Venice with Ryanair, you'll be landing in Treviso. If you intend to travel slowly, and don't rush immediately to Venice, you might want to take a look at this town, and then perhaps hire a car and explore the hills to the north. Treviso and its territory are famous around the world for some culinary delights, such as the radicchio di Treviso, the prosecco made from the vineyards in the hills to the north of the town, and of course heavenly tiramisù, invented here not many decades ago.
The main square is called Piazza dei Signori. Palazzo dei Trecento with its crenellated roof is the building you will notice first. It dates back to the 13th century and it is still home to the municipal council of the town.


Piazza dei Signori, Treviso
Palazzo dei Trecento

And now something that has always fascinated me. If you look closely at the palace, you'll notice that there is a crack that runs through all of it. This is not a real crack, but a reminder of where and how the palace was damaged during an American bombing in the Second World War. As for the reasons why the city was bombed, it is still a mystery: there was no reason to bomb Treviso, and the United States never gave an explanation on why they did it. A theory has it mistaken for Tarvisio, a town at the border with Austria, but to me it sounds more like a joke than a possibility. Another possibility is that the aim was damaging the railway connections towards the north.

In the loggia of Palazzo dei Trecento  there is a café with chairs where people love to congregate while looking out at the square. I snapped this picture of an old man sitting on a marble bench and reading something just in front of the medieval palace, because I find it a great description of small town life in northern Italy, where bicycles are more common than cars and espressos are drunk sitting at a café rather than hurriedly in your lunch break while standing at the bar.
Treviso, Piazza dei Signori
Small town life in Treviso

The most picturesque area of Treviso is that around the pescheria (the fish market), but you'll have to use a map to find it, because it's tucked behind the main streets. Here you can find canals lined with beautiful weeping willows and traditional osterie (taverns), a few surviving and functioning mills, and, in a particular spot, what appears to be an art installation jutting out of the water. This is where you should look for a place that offers a good risotto, or even pop in at Alle Beccherie to see where tiramisù was allegedly invented in the 1960s.

Treviso, some canals near the fish market

Here you easily forget that you're in a town of 80,000 inhabitants, as you observe the water running through the blades of the surviving mills. This area makes me think of old traditions, passed on from generation to generation, and of all the good food of the Veneto region.

Mills, Treviso
Mills in the centre of Treviso

Make sure that you check out Canale dei Buranelli for lovely views, and nice reflections on the water. If you're curious  to know why the name, you'll be happy to learn that the canal takes its name from a storehouse once owned by merchants coming from the island of Burano, in the Venetian lagoon.
Treviso, Buranelli
Traditional osterie under the portici

The city harbours other treasures: the church of San Nicolò, for instance, hosts some important frescoes, including the first depiction of a man wearing glasses, and the medieval walls that surround the city offer nice views and are perfect for walking. There are also some quirky sights: Fontana delle Tette (Fountain of  the Boobs), in a courtyard tucked behind Piazza dei Signori, is for instance a replica of a fountain statue that throughout all the 16th century, up until the end of the Serenissima Republic in 1797, used to spill both red and white wine from the tits for certain festivities. The thought of this statue always makes me smile!

Fontana delle Tette, Treviso
Fontana delle Tette
While it was getting dark and I started to make my way back to the train station, I thought that Treviso is perhaps a bit less alluring than Verona or even Padua for international tourists, who too often rush between the three ends of the triangle Venice-Florence-Rome without bothering to visit other places. It holds nevertheless a distinct character, and the feeling of having stepped back to a period when mass tourism didn't exist is strong here.


  1. Looks a nice place, and one which deserves at least a few tourists. Someone should create a Tiramisu museum. That plus the boob fountain would make me want to go!

  2. Wow I never knew Treviso was so cute!
    And the boob fountain??? If they would advertise that, that would probably become the most visited attraction in the world!!! :D

  3. Even if I'm Italian I've never been to Treviso and it's a shame because it looks very nice indeed. I especially like the canal, every cities should have canals :)

    1. There are so many Italian towns I have never been to!

  4. The fact this city is not often visited by tourists and it's so peaceful and quiet really makes me wanna travel there in the future. Venice is on my travel list this summer, so thank you for sharing that. I am adding it to my list!

  5. Treviso definitely looks like a smalll town that's worth exploring and a great escape from the bustle of the bigger Italian cities. And the fact that tiramisù was created here is just another great reason to go!

  6. I didn't know tiramisu was created here! But even if it were not, I'd love to visit Treviso. It's the small towns in Italy that I like. Hope I can go back someday.


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