Living with an Italian roommate as a study abroad student in Australia cemented ideas of Italy into my mind long before my feet had ever set foot in the country.
At the time Italy was such a distant dream and I was so busting with curiosity that I’d spend many hours with Alessandra walking the streets of Melbourne and peppering her with question after question about her homeland.
While I grew up thinking of Italy as a place with one distinct culture, Alessandra quickly taught me otherwise. The Italian peninsula was a collection of independent states until unification in 1861. Because of this, Italy remains a very regional society today. Travel teaches you not to make generalizations, but I’ll sidestep this lesson here and say that in general Italians have strong opinions about other regions in Italy and they aren’t shy of sharing these opinions.
Hailing from Milan, the posh economic and fashion capital of the North, Alessandra, like most Milanos, tends to think her city is the best in all of Italy and she lightheartedly shares in some of the stereotypes that befall the other cities so well known in Italy; Rome – full of macho men. Napoli – full of thieves. And Venice? Full of tourists.
Indeed, in recent years the city has been hit by mass tourism, and most days there are more tourists than residents filling the city streets and waterways. Apart from the concerns this causes residents, this also means Venice is a difficult place to find authentic experiences.
However, for intrepid tourists looking to soak up local culture while visiting, the nearby community of Portogruaro, offers local flavors and may just be the biggest hidden secret in the region.
An Ideal Location
Located in the province of Venice, Portogruaro is located to the East of the city, near the border with Slovenia. Thanks to efficient railways in Italy, it takes just an hour by train to get from Portogruaro to the main sights of Venice.
Going Local in Portogruaro
Portogruaro is a place that’s so local that when you Google it, most of the results come up in Italian, not English. Using this town as your base instead of Venice means you’ll be able to better immerse yourself in local culture and observe how real Italians live, not just those who work in tourism and cater to the tourist market.
One of my favorite things to do in Italy is spend an afternoon walking down city streets and stopping in at local cafes for an espresso or gelato. This way you get to pretend you are not a tourist but a local as well.
Apart from it’s proximity to the bucket list attractions in Venice, Portogruaro has much to offer visitors on it’s own. The Palazzo dei Cento, or Municiple Palace, Villa Comunale and Molini di Sant’Andrea watermill are examples of the fine architecture that can be found in the city. For history-lovers, the Museo Nazionale Concordiese documents the origin of the Roman Empire. The 18th century cathedral, Duomo di sant’Andrea also offers a glimpse into Italian history and spirituality.
Italy is known for it’s world-class wine, and Portogruaro has an ideal location on the Veneto wine route, where some of the finest North Italian wines are produced. Follow along the Treviso Prosecco wine route for a tasting tour and learn about how the unique geography and soil of the region lead to the finest Prosecco wines. Or tour the nearby towns of Asiago and Asolo for more intimate wine tasting experiences.
If You Go
Located in the center of Portogruaro, Hotel Spessotto is an ideal accommodation choice for a trip to the province of Venice. With a whirlpool and book corner, there’s plenty of common spaces to unwind after a full day of sight-seeing. The onsite restaurant specializes in Venetian cuisine and meals are always paired with the best local wines.
Note: This post was sponsored by Hotel Spessotto, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.