Asolo – Venelo, Italy

City of a Thousand Horizons

Robert Browning pronounced this Renaissance town “the most beautiful spot I ever was privileged to see” and spent most of his final years there. Nestled in the gentle green hills of the Veneto, and within breathtaking view of the pink snowcapped Dolomite moun­tains, the English poet’s “delicious Asolo” was a cool, favorite retreat of nearby Venice’s noble and patrician families who came here to escape the suffocating heat and ennui of the city’s summers.

A 15th-century doge bequeathed the jewel-like town to Caterina Comaro, Venetian-born queen of Cyprus— she relinquished her rule of the island in exchange for a golden exile here. Due to her patronage of the arts, Asolo became, and remains today, a hilltop oasis of culture and social life and an enchanting asylum for for­eign writers, artists, and intellectuals lured by a countryside lush with fruit orchards, cypresses, and vineyards.

Over the years, most of them lodged at the Palladian-styled villa purchased by Browning, the home of today’s perfectly faded Villa Cipriani Hotel. One of Europe’s most seductive country hotels, it is particularly known for its top- notch dining and its fragrant garden, filled with roses, pomegranates, and birdsong.

Pampered guests occasionally venture beyond the garden’s walls for the idyllic 4-mile drive to Maser to visit Palladio’s 16th- century masterpiece, the elegant Villa Barbaro, abounding with trompe l’oeil frescoes by Paolo Veronese.

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