When you think of hilltowns, you usually think of Tuscany and Umbria. Places like Todi, Orvieto, Castellina, and San Gimignano. And when you think about the English and American presence in Italy, you immediately think of the Chianti region – now commonly known as “Chiantishire” for the huge number of Brits who have purchased country houses there. Or the the area around Todi, popularly known as the “Beverly Hills”, after the nonagenarian American sculptor Beverly Pepper, who was one of the first to “discover” Todi in the middle of the last century.
But Tuscany and Umbria aren’t the whole story. Hilltowns exist all over Italy, notably in the Veneto. The Brownings loved this area, and both Robert and Elizabeth came frequently to the most delightful hilltown of them all, Asolo, in the heart of the region. Robert even invented a marvelous verb, “asolando”, meaning something like “strolling around Asolo”, or, more generally, gamboling or meandering aimlessly anywhere in the countryside.
This location makes an ideal base for exploring:
- Venice and Padova
- other wonderful hilltowns like Bassano del Grappa, Montebelluna, Cittadella, Asiago, Feltre, and Castelfranco Veneto, all of them far less touristed than their Tuscan equivalents
- Vicenza and all of the Palladian villas in the surrounding countryside, most notably the imposing Villa Barbaro at Maser which is just a few minutes away
- the foothills and higher peaks of the Dolomites
- the delightfully charming Prosecco-producing vineyards around Valdobbiadene, Follina, and Cison di Valmarino
So what about our Villa Leonora? Well, we recently visited it and were blown away. It’s a truly elegant villa of relatively recent construction, done in a tasteful traditional style, but with all modern conveniences, in a panoramic hillside position, a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the center of Asolo. Yes, this is a villa which really does meet one of your most common requests: walking to a “village”, in this case much more than a village. All rooms are spacious, with more or less equal bedrooms and baths. Furnishings are a beautiful mix of traditional taste and modern comfort. Kitchen and baths are just fabulous. It’s an ideal house for two or three couples traveling together. A 3-generation family would also work well here, as long as the children are well-behaved and over 8 years old.