Walking to work on my first full day in Treviso, I saw a distinguished-looking gentleman wearing a cloak. It wasn’t carnival time. He wasn’t also wearing a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ style mask! He was simply keeping out the chill of a crisp autumn morning. I knew at once that I was going to love living in this city! What’s not to love about people wearing costumes that wouldn’t have looked out of place 300 years ago?
Such sartorial elegance gives a whole new dimension to people-watching which has always been one of my favourite pastimes! We were to enjoy many happy hours doing just this during our two-year stay in this northern Italian walled city.
Essential Information about Treviso
- Location – Veneto region of north-east Italy.
- Population – c 85,000
- Transport – excellent rail links to Venice, Udine and Trieste. Airport used mainly by Ryanair with routes to the UK, Germany, France and other European destinations.
- Famous for – being the headquarters of fashion brands Benetton and Geox, appliance maker De’Longhi, and bicycle maker Pinarello. Also, for being the original production area of Prosecco and radicchio and, purportedly, the birthplace of tiramisu. In addition, Treviso has a renowned rugby team, sponsored by Benetton.
The climate in Treviso is mild, generally warm and temperate. Temperatures range from an average of 3 degrees centigrade in January to 25 degrees in July. Rainfall is pretty even throughout the year with an average of five days of rain each month.
All of this makes Treviso a good year-round destination. Obviously, summertime is popular with tourists, but the city looks particularly attractive in the spring when the trees around the city walls are full of pink and white blossom. Christmas is also a great time to visit Treviso. All of the shops in the old city really go to town with their window displays and the Christmas market attracts festive traders from all over Europe, giving the city an all-pervasive aroma of delicious gingerbread and mulled wine.
Best Things to Do in Treviso
Walk the Ancient City Walls
Treviso has been a fortified town since the days of the Romans. Today, the historic city centre is surrounded by four kilometres of near-complete, ultra-thick walls dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. These are punctuated by three hugely impressive gates, Porta San Tomaso, Porta Santi Quaranta and Porta Altinia, which offer triumphant entrances to the old city. Take the time to enjoy the perfect circular walk the walls provide. In places you walk inside the walls, at times on top of them, and only rarely is it necessary to endure the traffic noise when walking outside.
Eat Gelato at Midnight
OK, so it doesn’t have to be at midnight! Italian ice cream is good at any time of the day. In Treviso, though, it is de riguer to go out for gelato late at night. Friends and families get together to enjoy their favourite flavours. You will see queues around the block outside the most popular gelateria, particularly my favourite, Gelateria La Romana.
Forget the mass-produced versions you’ve had before, you haven’t tasted chocolate chip ice cream until you’ve tried their gelato stracciatella!
Visit Treviso Duomo
Treviso’s cathedral is undoubtedly the most impressive of the city’s buildings, crowned as it is with five huge green domes. The church you see today was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, but you can still visit the original 11th century crypt under the structure. The cathedral’s interior features some incredible artworks, most notably ‘Annunciation Malchiostro’ by Titian.
Fare una Passeggiata
In most Italian towns, ‘la passeggiata’ is a centuries-old tradition of taking an evening stroll, usually between 5pm and 8pm, either before or after dinner. This is the case in Treviso, where it also happens on a Sunday morning. It’s not just a case of ‘going for a walk’. Residents dress up in their finest clothes.
Whole families go out together. It’s a chance to see and be seen, to catch up with friends and neighbours, to pause for a gossip. It’s also an opportunity for youngsters to flirt with each other and, perhaps, even find their future spouse! People stroll hand in hand, arm in arm, old men, work colleagues, teenagers and toddlers alike.
There’s a real sense of community and belonging, something which our landlady was keen for us to experience for ourselves as she insisted we accompany her on her nightly amble. I think she enjoyed introducing her ‘English tenants’ to all her friends and acquaintances and, even, on one memorable occasion, to the city’s mayor! (He assumed I would want an autograph, so gave me a signed photograph of himself which he produced from the inside pocket of his cape – well, what else would he be wearing?)
Stop for a Drink in Piazza dei Signori
Whether it’s for morning coffee or an aperitivo (aperol spritz for me!), there’s no better place to sit and watch the world go by than Piazza dei Signori. This large square in the pedestrianised heart of the old city is a year-round outdoor sitting room where Trevigiani (inhabitants of Treviso) like to meet and ciacolare (chew the fat).
There are two large eating establishments in the square; Signore and Signori, a bar serving snacks including delicious plates of assorted cold meats and cheeses, and a pizza restaurant, both of which have numerous outdoor tables. Locals, however, are just as likely to be seen standing in groups chatting – sometimes for several hours at a time.
At Christmas, Piazza dei Signori, is transformed into a festive wonderland with fairground rides and a nativity with real sheep and donkeys, a magnet for the young and the young-at-heart.
Go Window Shopping in Treviso
Although Treviso’s prices might prove to be a little steep for the average tourist, there’s no charge for looking! The main thoroughfare of old Treviso is Calmaggiore which links Piazza dei Signori to the Duomo. The city’s beautiful boutiques, exquisite delicatessens and bijou gift shops are to be found under the attractive porticos of this street and the pretty alleyways that lead off it.
Explore the City’s Canals
As well as picturesque cobbled streets, the heart of Treviso also has several canals linking up with the River Sile. These were originally used for transporting goods through the city. This network of sometimes hidden waterways has a number of connecting bridges from where you can admire the tall townhouses with their terraces directly over the water.
The most charming place in the whole of Treviso is probably the Canale dei Buranelli, providing countless photo opportunities. It is named after the fishermen from the Venetian island of Burano who used to bring their catch to sell in the city’s fish market.
Have Lunch at Tavernetta Butterfly, Via Manzoni
Speaking of the fish market, wander through the pescheria, Treviso’s modern fish market, on Tuesday to Saturday mornings and watch local housewives, traders and restaurateurs haggle over the vast array of fresh fish. The market is situated on a man-made island in the centre of the old city, accessed by a couple of bridges.
Having worked up an appetite, go for a fish or seafood lunch at Tavernetta Butterfly. As my friend who still lives in Treviso confirms, the owner is gruff, the interior small and uninspiring, but the fish is the best in town, especially when accompanied by a glass or two of chilled local prosecco.
Other options for lunch would include Trattoria All’Antico Portico on Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. This traditional restaurant offers local dishes in a lovely setting. Outdoor tables are available. The truffle pasta and the tiramisu are both house specialities and absolutely delicious!
Osteria Arman, also on Via Manzoni, is another good choice. Serving local food, this traditional restaurant is always busy. Try the “pasta e fagioli” with radicchio.
Spend Some Time in the City’s Museums and Galleries
There are permanent exhibitions in the Musei Civici Bailo and the Museo Diocesano, as well as temporary displays in several galleries in town. My favourite is the Casa dei Carraresi on Via Palestro. It has interesting exhibitions and a delightful café with views over the water.
Don’t miss the Palazzo dei Trecento. This 12th century palace is now home to Treviso Municipal Council, but sometimes also houses art exhibitions. It is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons so that you can see the amazing frescoes saved after severe bomb damage during World War Two. These were painted from the 14th to 16th centuries by Venetian artists and depict coat of arms and themes of civil power and justice.
Go to See the Loggia dei Cavalieri
The Loggia dei Cavaliera is the only building of its kind in Europe. It was built in the 13th century on the site of the ancient forum of the Roman city. Its purpose was as a club for noblemen to meet, converse and play games. It is distinctive looking, square with five rounded arches on each of its three open sides. Inside, there’s a large granite column which bears the weight of the roof.
Today, the building is used for temporary art exhibitions, charity markets, jazz concerts and public meetings.
Walk Along the Restera
The Restera is the local name for the footpath and cycleway that runs along the banks of the River Sile from the centre of Treviso to Casale sul Sile 12 kilometres away. Whether you choose to do the whole route or just a section of it, you are sure to be joined by hundreds of Trevigiani who have the same idea. Joggers, cyclists, roller bladers and skateboarders all compete for space with the walkers. It’s a very social activity with total strangers greeting each other as they pass.
It is an incredibly varied walk, taking in disused and converted mills, a nature reserve with countless waterfowl, and even a boat cemetery where the remains of thirteen commercial barges can be seen.
Stop for lunch in Casale before retracing your steps back to Treviso. It is possible to catch a bus if a 25-kilometre walk doesn’t appeal!
Have Dinner at Odeon alla Colonna, Vicolo Rinaldi
This is the best restaurant in Treviso for atmosphere and romance. The setting is beautiful – outdoor dining under the loggia of a 15th century palazzo on one of the most picturesque canals in the city. The food is traditional with a modern twist. A favourite dish is the tagliolini with prawns, cherry tomatoes and rocket.
The Odeon holds a special place in my heart as it’s where we celebrated my Dad’s 70th birthday a few years ago. The staff were so generous and made the evening very special. My friend and Treviso resident, Ted, assures me that it’s still great!
Take a Day Trip to Venice
With a fast and regular train service making the 40-minute journey into Venice’s Santa Lucia station, Treviso is the perfect base from which to explore the ‘City of Canals’. It is also a cheaper option than staying in Venice itself.
Each year, the city stages a huge and colourful float parade on the last day of carnival and it’s one of the most unique things to do in Treviso. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the city at the right time, make sure you grab your bags of confetti and join in with this amazing street party.
Also, don’t miss the chance to sample the delicious pastries which are only available at carnival time. Crostoli (thin crisps of fried dough generously sprinkled with icing sugar), bugie (small pieces of crisp fried dough stuffed with chocolate, jam or creme patisserie) and my favourite fritelle (balls of fried dough studded with raisins and served either as they are or stuffed with chocolate, zabaglione or creme patisserie) are all sold strictly for the duration of the festivities only.
When purchased from an artisan patisserie, where recipes have been passed down for generations, rather than from the local supermarket, they are probably the most delicious sweet treats you’ll ever taste!
So, there it is, my take on the best of what Treviso has to offer. I hope some readers will be inspired to visit. Not too many, though! I wouldn’t want the city to change too much before I return!