Trad­ing places

Suzanne Wales sug­gests pass­ing up pop­u­lar Euro­pean cities for their more mod­est neigh­bours

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Head for an aper­i­tivo in the cen­tral Pi­azza dei Sig­nori (or­der a glass of lo­cal prosecco, or sparkling wine) and a meal in one of city’s many splen­did os­te­ria. Then stroll across the stone bridges con­nect­ing the patch­work of canals and ad­mire the fres­coes and rich colours of the city’s town­houses and man­sions, smug in the knowl­edge you have dis­cov­ered a bonafide des­ti­na­tion jewel.

How to get there: Bud­get air­lines fly into Tre­viso in­clud­ing Ryanair and easyJet; www.easyjet.com. There are reg­u­lar trains be­tween Tre­viso and Venice; the jour­ney takes about 40 min­utes.

Where to stay: A short walk from the sta­tion, rooms at La Colonna have been re­cently pret­tied up. Break­fast is served in a sumptuous restau­rant down­stairs over­look­ing a canal. Via Cam­pana 27; www.ris­toran­tela­colonna.it.

Where to eat: There’s no writ­ten menu and wait­ers reel off daily spe­cials, but ev­ery­thing served in the Os­te­ria da Ar­man is top notch so don’t worry too much about or­der­ing. If it’s on of­fer, try the bigoli con oca (pasta with goose). Via Man­zoni 27. SWAP ROME FOR ORVI­ETO Orvi­eto in south­west Um­bria is the real (Ital­ian) deal. Sur­rounded by rolling green hills and val­leys rich with olive groves and or­chards, the city spills over the top of vol­canic mesa, so get­ting around in­volves sen­si­ble shoes and a slow pace.

Pre­pare your­self with a glass of lo­cal wine at the train sta­tion’s bar and then take the fu­nic­u­lar up to the heart of the city and the ma­jes­tic Duomo, the strik­ing mar­ble-in­lay fa­cade of which has re­cently been given a spring-clean.

The Duomo pi­azza is the epi­cen­tre of Orvi­eto: to its left is a com­pact weave of cob­ble­stone, pedes­trian-only streets sell­ing cloth­ing, lo­cal ce­ram­ics and ar­ti­san leather, all sig­nalling ef­fort­less Ital­ian chic.

A legacy of the city’s im­por­tant Etr­uscan his­tory is an in­tri­cate web of caves, stairs, pas­sage­ways and grot­toes chis­elled out of rock un­der­neath Orvi­eto’s foun­da­tions. Th­ese can be toured, and don’t be sur­prised to find an un­der­ground recital or wed­ding cer­e­mony hap­pen­ing along on the way.

Above ground, cul­tural en­tice­ments in­clude the Arche­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum and the Museo Clau­dio Faina, which has a fine col­lec­tion of Etr­uscan art and arte­facts.

But more than such must-see sights, Orvi­eto’s charm lies in a sum of its small parts, such as mac­chi­ato served in an an­cient court­yard by a dash­ing waiter or buy­ing per­fectly trimmed ar­ti­chokes in a farm­ers’ mar­ket. In Orvi­eto, travel rushes such as th­ese are ex­pe­ri­enced at a gen­tle, plod­ding pace.

How to get there: Trains con­nect Orvi­eto and Rome’s Ter­mini sta­tion. The jour­ney takes less than an hour; ser­vices are more fre­quent in the morn­ings and evenings; www.tren­i­talia.it.

Where to stay: Ho­tel Pic­colo­mini is Orvi­eto’s finest, set in a 16th-cen­tury palace. Rooms are brim­ming with Ital­ian de­signer chic and sen­si­bil­ity. Pi­azza Ranieri, 36; www.hotelpic­colo­mini.com.

Where to eat: Chichi cafes and restau­rants bear tes­ta­ment to the in­hab­i­tants’ spending power and, as is the case in most Ital­ian towns, eat­ing and drink­ing is taken very se­ri­ously.

Um­brian wines are cheap (of­ten more so than bot­tled wa­ter) and plen­ti­ful; the crisp white Orvi­eto Clas­sico is the most com­mon and look for wines bear­ing the Cardetto and Le Velette la­bels: they are con­sid­ered the best vigneti in the re­gion. Orvi­eto has been de­clared an of­fi­cial Slow Food city and its restau­rants, pur­vey­ors and pro­duc­ers ad­here to the move­ment’s rig­or­ous ideals. De­lec­ta­ble re­gional spe­cial­ties fea­ture in­gre­di­ents such as wild boar, rab­bit and truf­fles.

With an en­vi­able view of the Duomo from the out­door ter­race and more than 100 lo­cal wines on its list, Trat­to­ria Vi­nosus is a lo­cal favourite. Try the an­tipasti, tagli­olini al tartufo or char-grilled tuna with poppy seeds. Pi­azza del Duomo 15; www.orvi­etoin­tavola.it. SWAP LON­DON FOR BRIGHTON What do Nick Cave, Nor­man Cook (aka Fat­boy Slim) and Jor­dan all have in com­mon? Apart from be­ing pop­cul­ture celebs, they have had the good sense to take up res­i­dence in the breezy town of Brighton, on Eng­land’s south coast. The fa­mous Vic­to­rian-era pavil­ion and pier (seen in the dream se­quence of Tim Bur­ton’s

Re­gency ar­chi­tec­ture and tea shops scream quin­tes­sen­tial English sea­side, but Brighton has a dy­namic arts and mu­sic scene, af­ford­ably stylish ac­com­mo­da­tion and a nightlife that ri­vals Lon­don’s.

Brighton’s most vis­ited at­trac­tions are the Royal Pavil­ion, a Raj-in­spired hol­i­day home built for Ge­orge IV (his physi­cians be­lieved the sea air would cure him of gout) and the Lanes, a war­ren of twist­ing streets and al­leys that form the nu­cleus of the old quar­ter.

Ven­ture to the boho precinct of North Laine, which has dozens of in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers, or North Street, an­other bustling shop­ping-cafe strip with a land­mark clock tower. Al­though Brighton’s beaches have been deemed safe and clean for bathing, the wa­ter’s icy tem­per­a­ture means it’s only fit for the hardy.

The shore­line is the city’s plea­sure ground, with a newish ma­rina, pleas­ant prom­e­nades and piers and dozens of cafes. Ev­ery Septem­ber it plays host to the Big Beach Bou­tique, an open-air con­cert or­gan­ised by the king of clappy happy rave, Fat­boy Slim.

How to get there: Trains run from early morn­ing to mid­night be­tween Brighton and Lon­don Bridge and Black­fri­ars sta­tions and the jour­ney takes just over an hour; www.first­cap­i­tal­con­nect.co.uk.

Where to stay: For some­thing dif­fer­ent, try Ho­tel Pelirocco where each camped-up room is a trib­ute to Bri­tish pop or sub cul­ture, from Diana Dors to dub reg­gae. 10 Re­gency Square; www.hotelpelirocco.co.uk.

Where to eat: Chilli Pickle Bistro af­firms the no­tion that the best restau­rant food in Bri­tain is In­dian. Try its de­li­cious dosas, tamarind-glazed tuna, ox­tail madras, ba­nana bha­jis and duck egg masala. 42 Meet­ing House Lane; www.thechillipick­lebistro.co.uk.

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