If Padova, with its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is already a city that’s waiting to be explored, then just half an hour away to its southwest is another area that demands our attention. The Euganean Hills or Colli Euganei in Italian, are a group of hills of volcanic origin that formed about 35 million years ago. It is a now a regional park that covers an area of more than 18,000 hectares of land with beautiful rows of neatly-combed vineyards, olive orchards, Renaissance villas, historical gardens, monasteries and picture-perfect old stone towns in a picturesque landscape of eighty one hills with altitudes between 300 to 600 meters asl.
Ancient artifacts that date back to the Paleolithic period are found in the mountainous areas of Venda and Madonna, two of the highest hills in the area at around 600 meters asl. The Republic of Venice reached the area at the beginning of the 15th-century which led to the construction of resplendent villas of the noble families of Venice like the Villa dei Vescovi in Luvigliano di Torreglia which has been open to the public since 2011 when its private owners, the Olcese family donated it to Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI). In the same monument is the Enoteca di Strada del Vino Colli Euganei, a wine shop with a kitchen where the products of numerous wineries of Colli Euganei and some producers of gastronomic products of the area can be tasted along with some dishes prepared by an award-winning chef Isabella Guariento, the winner of Cuochi d’Italia Under 30 (Chefs of Italy Under 30) in 2021.
Wine has marked its importance in Colli Euganei most especially when its Moscato Giallo-based Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio was recognized with the second highest denomination in 1994 then finally, the highest quality standard of DOCG in 2011. Best known for its sweet sparkling wine that goes very well with desserts, Fior d’Arancio has also become a favored sip for aperitif with aromas of orange blossoms, sage and ripe apricot, and a low alcohol content of around 6 degrees. Then there is Passito version which requires more attention in the production process starting from the hand-harvesting of the grapes when they reach the right Ph levels and perfect maturation then left in the baskets to lose some of its liquid before continuing with the vinification and maturation in oak. A broadly complex wine without being cloying, splashed with a pleasing acidity – an excellent personality that pairs well with dry pastries and fruit tarts. The dry version, which is not as popular as its sparkling and sweet versions, manifests an aromatic profile of intense crispy fruits and citrus blossoms which are typical characteristics of the Muscat family. But then the interpretations of each producer differs, giving a variation in the aromatics and complexities.
The Euganean Hills have peculiar geographic and climatic conditions but the most notable ones are the volcanic soil, Mediterranean climate, and the temperature variation between night and day. Aside from vines, olives and jujubes have also found their home in this ideal territory giving way to excellent productions of extra virgin olive oil and Brodo di Giuggiole (Jujube Broth), a liqueur infused with nuts and jujubes.
Lastly, and perhaps considered the most central features of the Euganean Hills are the hot springs and mud baths offered by every hotel at Abano Terme. The natural thermal spring water has saline-bromine-iodine components with an average temperature of 80°C. The deep underground water is unique because of the long distance it travels. The water from the basins of the Lessini mountains in the foothills of the alps pass through calcareous rock at a depth of about 3,000 meters and approximately 80 kilometers in length. The abundance of the dissolved substances makes this water a unique thermal resource with an extraordinary therapeutic value.
The Euganean Hills is a very interesting territory to be discovered if you have adequate time to explore: visiting the monasteries, villas, gardens, churches, ancient towns, maybe even a walk through the vineyards or olive orchards. The wines, white, red and sweet, are to be appreciated with some dishes of tradition and at the end of the day, a body treatment at one of the hotel spas. It’s just a 10-minute train ride from Padova or an hour-ride from some of the stations of Venice.
Hotel Abano Ritz
Hotel Abano Ritz, a five-star spa hotel in Abano Terme has been managed by the Poletto family for generations. The family is committed to giving detailed attention to the needs of their guests and continue to do so with the daily presence of sisters Ida and Terry. Like all the spa hotels in the area, Abano Ritz has a direct thermal source within the structure which gives them the possibility to independently manage the maturation of thermal mud. The aged thermal mud or bio-thermal clay absorbs all the minerals contained in the thermal water after at least six months of running through the mineral-rich water. It releases the microparticles slowly once they come in contact with the body. The hotel is perfect for relaxation and a wealth of profound wellness rituals among the spa and swimming pools kept at a constant temperature of 33°C, as well as traditional culinary experiences at the hotel’s 3 restaurants.
The picture-perfect landscape of Torreglia in the Euganean Hills was easy to fall in love with and in the case of Roberto Gardina and his wife Natalia, they took one big step by buying the piece of land they so admired. In 2010, they decided to recapture the quintessence of the hills where wine has always reigned. Although viticulture has never been in their family line, Roberto and his daughters Silvia and Roberta, graduates of law and engineering, put together their knowledge and passion producing wines that recount the story of the territory. The 20-hectare land is divided into 7 hectares dedicated to vines, olive orchard with 600 trees and 10 hectares of woods creating biodiversity. The land is located in two areas, Baone and Luvigliano, each zone identified as optimum for specific varieties like Baone for growing whites where the soil is clay and marl while Luvigliano has calcareous soil which is excellent for the red wines. Some existing old vineyards in the land were utilized and also they took steps towards the principles of organic farming. With great respect to the environment, the newly-constructed winery was designed to focus on energy efficiency and sustainability of the building which will allow them to obtain the CasaClima Wine certification. It is completely covered in natural larch wood.
With the consultation of oenologist Andrea Boaretti, around fifteen wine labels are in production, with three kinds of sparkling wine including Serprino or more commonly known as Glera; La Gobbetta, a frizzy wine from Garganega grapes; white wines derived from Manzoni Bianco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Tai, and Garganega; and reds obtained from international grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that give excellent results in Colli Euganei; and of course their celebrated designation, the Fior d’Arancio DOCG produced in sparkling, still and sweet versions.
Vignalta is one of the most important wine estates in the Euganean Hills that was founded by Lucio Gomiero in 1980. What started as just a few hectares for personal wine production by his father has evolved ten-folds to a 40-hectare reality extending from Baone to Rovolon for almost the entire expansion of the Euganean Hills. Vignalta is widely known for the high quality and excellence of its wines which are the result of their expertise, but most especially for the unique mineral-rich soil of volcanic origin and diurnal temperature variation of the area. Vignalta supports the environmental sustainability: it was one of the first wineries in Italy to install a photovoltaic system and it practices integrated pest management. The modern underground winery is completely dug in the rock which allows excellent maturation of the wines in tonneaux, their preferred size of wooden barrel, with the almost constant cool temperature and humidity.
Over the years, the growth of the estate has also augmented the annual production to about 240,000 bottles and the joining of the Guzzo and Salvagnin families as shareholders. Accolades, both in Italy and abroad were received like the: Gemola Colli Euganei DOC which has won Gambero Rosso’s three-glass rating ten times; Alpianæ Fior d’Arancio Passito DOCG which has twice obtained a Gold Medal at Muscats du Monde in France; and the Cabernet Riserva DOC which has won a Gold Medal at the Asia Wine & Spirits Awards.
Address: Via Scalette 23, 35032 Arqua Petrarca (PD), Italy
In the land of wines and spas, Birrificio Birdò braved another route and came out successfully. Stefano Lazzarin and Andrea Bertorello transformed their passion for beer and the desire to create something different into a profession in 2015 when they founded the artisan brewery in Abano Terme. In 2019 they moved to San Biagio di Teolo where they opened to the public with tables and some casual food like burgers, finger food and stuffed focacce to go with their beer. They offer ten different kinds of beer of top-fermentation for easier drinking reaching out to all age-groups. They have also started to produce beer utilizing unused day-old bread of SoBon, a biological bakery in Padova, a joint project focused on reducing food wastes. The two labels of this project are SoBona Chiara for the golden ale and SoBona Rossa for the brown ale.
Frantoio Colli del Poeta
An oil mill born on the slopes of Ventolone and Piccolo mountains between the towns of Valsanzibio di Galzignano Terme and Arquà Petrarca in 2003, Frantoio Colli del Poeta brings forth precious oil extraction from its vast orchard of 1,300 olive trees planted in 110 hectares of land. During that time, there was a wave of interest in the redevelopment of the territory and the enthusiasm of olive growers and producers in Colli Euganei. The old farmhouse used for keeping the farmers’ tools was renovated to become an oil mill. The resulting oil of Colli del Poeta comes from the best olives, mainly of the Rasara cultivar which are harvested manually between October and November then immediately goes through the pressing which is strictly carried out in cold extraction under 27°C. This processing generates low acidity and reduced number of peroxides. The quality of the oil is the outcome of keeping in line with tradition, experience and using the latest generation of machinery capable of keeping the nutritional and organoleptic qualities of the oil intact.
Colli del Poeta has the extra virgin olive oil of the Rasara cultivar which has a delicate and fruity aroma with light bitter notes and hints of artichoke and almond. There are also blends with Leccino and Pendolino which have fruity scents, herbaceous hints and a light spicy aftertaste. In their vast land, vegetable crops are also grown which are preserved in oil and brine while some are made into cream. They also have the Elixir of the Poet, a liqueur obtained from the infusion of olive leaves. Lastly, a part of the extra virgin olive oil production is used for the creation of an exclusive cosmetic line for skin care.
Abbazia di Praglia
The Abbey of Praglia is one of the most important jewels among the religious settlements of the Colli Euganei. It was founded between the 11th and 12th-centuries. It was flourishing until the Napoleonic suppression. Not until 1904 did life resume at the abbey after the first two monks returned to the monastery. It remained functional until this day. The abbey is made up of various rooms, including the four cloisters: botanical, hanging, double and rustic. The most ancient nucleus is constituted by the Romanesque bell tower. The Latin cross church was designed by Tullio Lombardo, an Italian Renaissance sculptor from the 15th century, who, along with his father and brother were famous for their sculptures for different Catholic churches.
The rule of the Benedictine monks, ora et labora, meaning pray and work, continues to be the spine in their community of 44 in the abbey. They produce a lot of products namely teas, infusions, cosmetics, spices, oil, liturgical books, honey, candies, handmade paper and wine. These are all prepared in the premises by the monks with natural products that they grow in the abbey’s fields. The herbal medicine of the monastery is recognized by the state and combines recipes of ancient tradition with modern technology and equipment. Inside the abbey, there is also a very important center for the restoration of antique books wherein over 25.000 works have been restored.
One of the most interesting aspects of the abbey is the production of wine wherein two consultants, an oenologist and an agronomist assist the monks in the viticulture and processes in the cellar. They have 11 hectares of vineyards cultivated with Moscato Giallo, Garganega, Chardonnay, Raboso, Merlot, Glera and Pinot Noir that they use in the production of different kinds of wines from white, rosè, red, sweet and sparkling obtained from the classic method. Among the wines, there are also the Fior d’Arancio DOCG sweet sparkling and dry. Notable wines are the Emeritus Metodo Classico Extra Brut obtained from 100% Raboso sparkling wine vinified in white and ageing on the lees for 30 months; and the Domnus Abbas Extra Brut and Brut Nature, both obtained from equal percentage of Chardonnay, Raboso, and Garganega grapes and aged on the lees for 30 months.
Ristorante La Montanella
It was in 1952 when the Borin family opened La Montanella in a panoramic position in Arquà Petrarca. For the succeeding 70 years, its popularity increased more and more as the family tried to meet the demands of their clients. As always, passion and gastronomic research are the main objectives of the restaurant, utilizing the most characteristic products of the territory produced by trusted local producers. Most of the vegetables come from their own garden as well as the extra virgin olive oil which is obtained from their own olive trees. The kitchen thrives from the rich gastronomy of the territory which the family takes the pleasure of reliving like the Duck with Fruit, a typical recipe from the 17th-century or the Ham Cooked in Wine which was recovered from the 15th-century book of Bartolomeo Scappi, a famous Italian Renaissance chef. Today, the refined ambience accommodates diners looking for well-presented traditional food, an excellent wine selection and professional service. Outdoor dining is remarkable with a large garden and terrace with a great panoramic view.
Fai Villa dei Vescovi
This 16th-century charming villa is located in Luvigliano and is one of the most beautiful and elegant villas of the Renaissance period in the entire area of Padova. It was conceived as a holiday home for the archbishops. Francesco Pisani, bishop of Padova from 1524 to 1564 and from the aristocratic Pisani family ftom Venice, commissioned the work and had it designed by architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto. The frescoes in the interior and portico were done by Lambert Sustris. In the following years, succeeding bishops commissioned additions to the structure. By 1910, Bishop Luigi Pellizzo sold the property which was then in need of refurbishment. During the Second World War, it became a refuge for displaced persons and after the war, a place for spiritual retreats. Then in 1962, the property was sold to Vittorio Olcese who commissioned further restorations in the structure. In 2005, the villa was donated by Vittorio’s widow Maria Teresa Valoti Olcese and son Pierpaolo Olcese to Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) then in 2007, restoration works began which ended only after four years. Finally, in June 2011, the villa was opened to the public.
Enoteca Strada del Vino Colli Euganei
In 2016, the collaboration between Strada del Vino Colli Euganei and Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) led to the creation of this unique place within an important monument, the Villa dei Vescovi. The project involves numerous wineries of the Colli Euganei and some producers of gastronomic products of the area wherein the public can taste and buy the products. The management is handled by a team of young entrepreneurs who promote quality products and taste experiences. You will find Giacomo, the wine shop’s amiable host, to introduce you to the products and to let you taste the wines. The kitchen has some offerings prepared by an award-winning chef Isabella Guariento, the winner of Cuochi d’Italia Under 30 in 2021.
Address: Via dei Vescovi 4, 35038 Torreglia (PD), Italy