The town of Conegliano in the Province of Treviso, near Venice, is of the most influential of regional cities. The province is named after its largest city, Treviso, with Conegliano not far behind in population and importance. The city sprawls put from a central hill where a 10th century castle surrounded by cypress trees takes centre stage seen from the 'centro' below. Conegliano has become a popular hub for commerce and industry in recent years but somehow a homely, small-town feeling still hangs about its portico-lined streets and piazze. Familiar families nod for un saluto when passing each-other in town, maybe they're here for a coffee or picking up produce at the sprawling, Friday market. They'll easily stop and chat on the street for half an hour, making sure to get all the 'goss' in a good, old catchup. As much as Conegliano still feels like an extended village, the city has become a melting-pot of diversity with value in terms of work opportunities in the many factories and vineyards, its fame extending as far as Africa.
Known as 'Inox Valley', a few globally-esteemed family businesses were founded right here. Zanussi, Electrolux and Zoppas are ingrained in Conegliano's heritage as much as Cima da Conegliano - Renaissance painter and pride of the city.
Conegliano has much to boast about besides wealthy family businesses, vast industry and hard-working entrepreneurs… let's look at what this northern Italian city has to offer and why visiting it brings a bounty of beautiful sights to see and unforgettable experiences to be had.
First and foremost, Conegliano's claims the fame of calling itself the 'Heart of Prosecco Land'. It is here that the only DOC (PDO - geographically protected) Prosecco is made - Prosecco Superiore di Conegliano. The extensive territory is dotted with wine farms amongst vineyards with more planted every year in an attempt to keep up with global demand.
Conegliano is home to the first school of oenology in Italy and the oldest in Europe, founded in 1876 by Cerletti. Local scholars here have the option of finishing Middle School at 13 years to move on to Scuola Superiore at La Scuola Enologica, keeping their family business thriving or pursuing a flourishing career in wine making.
The Glera grape variety has been cultivated in this area for centuries (including in the Oenology School grounds as pictured above) as the highest percentage grape you'll find in any bottle of Prosecco. Follow La Strada del Prosecco - Prosecco Wine Road indeed starting right here to wind through the “Hills of Prosecco di Conegliano and Valdobbiadene” UNESCO World Heritage Site planted to the brim with Glera vines, all the way to Valdobbiadene, sister Prosecco home at the end of the route. Along this suggestive and dramatically beautiful road, find Osteria Senza Oste at the base of the Cartizze Hill - holy grail to the bubbly, regional drink the whole world seems to adore.
You'll always find bottles of 'frizzante' on tables here - it's a standard 'thanks for having us' gift because nobody goes anywhere empty handed in Italy and everyone loves a bit of light-hearted sparkle! By the way, Prosecco does come 'unsparkling' too, it's known as Prosecco Fermo - Still Prosecco.
In and around Conegliano, visit the cantine for wine tasting or step into one of the many characteristically Veneto osterie where you can change glasses of wine at your host's recommendation accompanied by chunks of local cheeses and cured meats like sopressa or coppa with beautifully-baked breads. Order a tagliere if you'd love to sample a selection of local specialities and ask your host for their advice on wines - something they'll passionately ramble on about...
As we mentioned, the Coneglianesi are proud of their resident artist, resident and born here in 1460 - Giovanni Battista Cima. He moved to Venice at 30 years old to open shop and became an instant Renaissance hit, travelling the country but always spending his summers back at home in Casa Museo di Giovanni Battista Cima, his house above Via XX Settembre, now a museum. His famous painting, the "Sacred Conversation", is displayed in prime position on the Duomo altarpiece just down the road from his house, no doubt where he spent many a Sunday morning.
With events taking place throughout the year and a theatre putting on all kinds of performances from contemporary to classic, dance to comedy and music of every genre, it seems there's always something 'on' in Conegliano. Have a look at the Teatro Accademia website to catch a show or browse through the inspirational 'Visit Conegliano' Website, jam-packed with itineraries, walking guides and local ideas of 'what not to miss'.
A highlight of the year is always the Dama Castellana in June. Firstly because of the knights and dames reenactment that takes place in the old part of town but also because of the series of draughts games played on the piazze and in the old osterie of the city in an attempt to establish a yearly champion, but this is not any old draughts game. The draughts are glasses of wine, red vs white, and when one is 'taken' it must be drunk. I was always Francesco's 'right hand lady' - he's pretty good at playing draughts...
Another wonderful, although increasingly popular, summer event is Calici di Stelle every August when small shuttle busses take guests up to the castle for a feast of eating and drinking under the stars. Only the best local wines and foods make this a magical evening, set between cypresses in the oldest and most regal part of town. Don't miss the Grape Festival in September and the Christmas Markets in December too.
Mention must be made of another local hero - Del Piero. Alessandro, Captain of Juventus from 2001 to 2012, was born in the Conegliano Hospital in 1974. He is still considered one of the greatest footballers of his generation, playing forward when Italy became World Champion in 2006, he even has a goal kick named in his honour - 'alla Del Piero'.
When Conegliano fell under the rule of the Venetian Serenissima Republic, any new palazzi built in the area were in Venetian style - you can see their pointed Moorish windows in particular if you look up while walking below the castle on the old streets. The Contrada Grande now forms Via XX Settembre with the sloping Piazza Cima as heart of the old town, once protected within the walls. The three gates can still be seen: Porta del Rujo to the west, Porta del Monticano to the east and Porta S. Polo to the south. Walking through them takes you into ancient, paved streets lined with old shops, affreschi and drinking holes, flashback to a bygone era.
A handful of trendy bars have set up trade on the popular street, some modern, some in the traditional style. Last night, as I walked under the porticoes, I was surprised at how many osterie have popped up recently in these beautiful buildings, restored to their original grandeur - a magnificent sight to be seen.
Conegliano Castle is more of a fort than a fairy-tale. Built in the the year 1000 as defence for the city, it only costs two euro to visit and is worth the incredible views from the roof which stretch across the Pianura Padana to the Dolomites and Treviso Prealp Mountain Ranges. More than the castle itself, the old road up passes through a precariously tight, stone gateway which takes a deep breath and bit of bravery to negotiate by car but once through, you are in the fortified part of town.
The walk up from Piazza Cima is lovely along the old Carrarese Walls and absolutely worth doing. Once at the top, an almost 360 degree view can be enjoyed and to put the cherry on the top, there's a wonderful bar and restaurant with an outside terrace just perfect for Aperitivo Time while the kids play in the manicured garden under the cypress trees.
Via XX Settembre is home to a host of museums and period buildings you can visit where ancient affreschi have been restored to their former glory. The Visit Conegliano website offers a very detailed walking tour you can read up on if affresco's are your thing.
The Duomo must be admired as an example of some of the most prized painted walls not to mention Cima's famous 'Madonna with Child and Angels'. Make sure to step inside the Sala dei Battuti with its stunning ceiling and series of affreschi representing the Creation through to Judgement Day. The hall has served many purposes, used as a prison and soldier shelter, it underwent extensive work in the 1960s in a restoration project
Set nicely between il mare e la montagna, I have been told so many times that Conegliano has the perfect position! One hour to Cortina in the Alps, one hour to the beach, it's also one hour to Venice!
Take advantage of Conegliano's strategic position to explore not only the surrounding vineyards and hills but from here you can venture to Venice by train for the day or drive into the Dolomites to hike, ski or simply breathe some pure, mountain air. Drive, or catch the bus, eastwards and discover the Adriatic beaches of Bibione, Jesolo and Caorle where it's easy to enjoy freshly-caught frutti di mare and a long walk along the beach, there and back in one day! Caorle was under Serenissima rule as a quaint seas-side town full of fish restaurants, artisan shops and art galleries - well worth a visit!!
If you're craving a proper beach day, then get ready for rows of deckchairs where you can rent a spot and an umbrella too.
A short train journey takes you to Vittorio Veneto where you can walk the river path to Serravalle or go shopping for the day and if you do have a car, drive the Prosecco Route and stop at CastelBrando - a medieval castle set above the charming hamlet of Cison di Valmarino. If you're here in June, don't miss the one-of-a-kind Fontane Magiche when water magically turns to wine!
Easy to access by train from Mestre, Venice's sisterly train hub, or by car or bus from Treviso or Venice Airport, Conegliano has many transport options. We'd suggest having your own car to explore the area and branch out of town but busses and trains run to nearby cities, including the Treviso, home of Tiramisù and the beautiful maritime capital Trieste! Have a read here about what makes it unique!
Where to stay
If you plan to base yourselves in the city, pick one of the B&Bs in town or walking distance thereof, there are many accommodation options depending on your budget and travel-tastes. If you do have transport, the hills north-west of Conegliano (behind the castle) are particularly beautiful. Relais Le Betulle is a 4 star hotel and spa with a gourmet restaurant, large swimming pool and stunning views, they're also a 10 minute walk to Conegliano Castle. Venture further forth into wine territory if you please, find a gorgeous farm-stay Agriturismo, if you love rolling hills changing colours in autumn and hearty, home-made foods, you cannot go wrong.
We know and love this area very well, having lived here for many years, so if you're planning a trip and have any queries or doubts, or if you'd like advice organising Prosecco tours, hotels and travel itineraries, feel free to get in touch via our contact page, we'd be happy to help you experience the best Conegliano has to offer.