A charming small city in the northern Veneto, Treviso is the ideal destination for a quiet getaway or romantic weekend in a tranquil location - and Venice is just a day trip away
Why go there
Ryanair has put Treviso on the map, but most travellers bypass this wonderful hidden gem, and head straight to overcrowded and often overpriced Venice. To experience the real Veneto, ignore the masses and stay a day or two in this beautiful city, with its meandering canals and tranquil atmosphere.
Treviso exudes typical Italian charm, and retains its character as a market town from medieval times. Magnificent palazzos and historical houses with striking facades line the streets of the old centre and combine with pretty canals to make for an enjoyable and genuine Italian experience. As you wander through its narrow streets, you feel as though you have the entire city to yourself. Engage in people-watching, sip a glass of prosecco in one of the piazzas, or immerse yourself in culture and history.
Hotels in Treviso are a fraction of the price of those in Venice, so get the best of both worlds: stay in Treviso, and make Venice your side trip. You won’t be disappointed.
Morning markets and shopping
To get a feel for the real Treviso, get up early and head over to the delightful daily fish market or pescheria. Mingle with the locals as you take in the sights and smells of this noisy and colourful affair. Stock up on a few essentials, grab a bottle of vino and have a relaxing picnic on the banks of one of the canals, savouring the tranquillity, peace and quiet. Its the perfect setting for romance!
Treviso is also home to designer clothing company Benetton, which has its headquarters here. There is also a large flagship store in the centre of town.
Cappuccino on the piazza
Piazza dei Signori is a good spot for a coffee break. Caffè Beltrame (no 27) offers the best vantage point for people-watching, while Biffi (no 28) is better for snacks. As you sip your coffee, take in the sights of the grand old square: the medieval Palazzo del Podestà, and the majestic old town hall, Palazzo dei Trecento, which dates back to the early 13th century, dominate this space.
Two impressive churches can be found in Piazza San Vito, a little square just behind the palazzo: Santa Lucia and San Vito. The latter houses some interesting frescos from the Byzantine period. They are maybe in need of a little restoration, but impressive nonetheless. Art-lovers should not miss the massive Duomo (Via Canoniche 2, Piazza del Duomo), which dominates the piazza of the same name. Its neoclassical façade is a mix of architectural styles from the 12th, 13th and 18th centuries, while inside the cathedral is a crypt that is a stunning example of 12th-century romanesque architecture. Magnificent.
For serious historians, Museo Bailo (Borgo Cavour 24) holds a remarkable collection of ancient bronze relics and artifacts. Cross the canals to reach the other side of town, where you will come across the church of Santa Caterina, which boasts a fine collection of amazing paintings by Tomaso da Modena, including a Madonna. The surrounding area is interesting and worth exploring, with little antique shops and the market of Piazza Matteotti. Heading back into the town, take a stroll to the huge 14th-century gothic-Romanesque San Nicolò, which houses some equally beautiful frescos and art from the same period. The beautiful ornate vaulted ceiling should not be missed.
Where to eat and drink
Treviso is teeming with eateries, from trattorias and wine bars to upmarket restaurants. Eating, drinking and people-watching are a key part of life here. Fare is of excellent quality and specialities favour abundant amounts of meat; mushrooms also seem to feature quite a bit. Favourite tipple is most definitely sparkling prosecco.
Da Pino (Piazza dei Signori 23) has tables set under the high, wooden arcade of the main square. Great for people-watching over pizza.
The Italian café-style fare at Brek (Corso del Popolo 25) is tantalisingly good and extremely reasonable.
Trattoria Toni del Spin (Via Inferiore 7, www.ristorantetonidelspin.com) is an authentic Italian trattoria that has been serving traditional food to many generations of locals. Specials and an impressive wine list are jotted roughly on blackboards suspended from the ceilings, and the noise from the busy kitchens occasionally spills into the dining room, all adding to the atmosphere. They specialise in simple dishes such as guinea fowl with polenta and fried mushroom pastries. The trattoria gets very busy at lunchtime with workers and corporate types. Average price is a very reasonable €20-€25.
When to go
If you time your visit for early August, Treviso hosts one of the best festivals on mainland Italy. In the week preceding the religious Feast of the Assumption, the city comes as alive as the old town plays host to street theatre and performers, dancing, and traditional music. Restaurants and bars are packed. Exuberant locals spill out onto terraces and fill the narrow streets. Otherwise, any time is a good time to go, as this idyllic city never gets as busy as neighbouring Venice.
If your intention is to see Venice, Treviso is the ideal base. Hop on a train from the main station in the centre - the journey only takes about 30 minutes.
Where to stay
The Hotel Continental is a four-star hotel with an unrivalled location in the heart of the city, just 200 metres from the train station. The main piazza and historical sights are just a couple of minutes' walk away. Appeals to business travellers. Rooms are spacious and well appointed. Rates start at only €99 per night.
The B4 Treviso Maggior Consiglio is a luxurious hotel set on a narrow winding street, just outside the city centre, and only 3kms from the airport. It has an elegant restaurant and bar; there is even a spa to chill out in and a pool to relax in after a busy day’s sightseeing. Rooms are huge by Italian standards, and nicely decorated with king beds. I loved the gorgeous wooden floors. Deluxe rooms are only €115.