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Treviso, in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, is known as ‘Little Venice’ due to its many canals. This magical city, less than an hour by train from Venice, is full of Roman ruins, Renaissance palaces, and Baroque frescoes, as well as a fascinating culture and food scene.
In this episode, we talk to Gabe North-Harney, an Australian woman who decided to grab life with both hands and move to Italy with a dream to explore its 20 regions simply because she knew she just had to! Gabe and her husband Leo moved to the gorgeous northern city of Treviso from Melbourne, Australia to chase their Italian dreams. Over the past year, they’ve visited 10 of Italy’s 20 regions and loved immersing themselves in the local customs and culture of their adopted city Treviso. She shares her insights into this beautiful city in the Northern region of Veneto, not only an utterly enchanting place to visit but also a great base if you want to get around Italy, with its great connections.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- It was during Covid that for Gabe and her husband Leo, like for many of us, the realization hit that life is short. Gabe managed shopping centers in Melbourne, a career spent managing financial, legal and commercial risk, but she realized that she’d failed to manage the biggest risk of all – of spending your life not doing exactly what you want, thinking you get the chance ‘later’ so they decided they would follow up on their dream to go and live in Italy
- Gabe has a postgraduate diploma in Italian High Renaissance and Mannerist Art and had taken trips to the north of Italy on a number of occasions. Florence and Venice are the areas most relevant to this particular era of art, where you can easily to immerse yourself in museums and amongst the beautiful surroundings and is Gabe’s favorite area and where they focused their search for a base in Italy
- The Italian consulate in Melbourne required them to have a signed lease under the terms of their visa before they would rubber-stamp a 12-month stay in Italy, which is what they applied for originally. They initially were looking from Venice and across the north of Italy through to Milan – looking at all sorts of cities and towns in-between
- Treviso was not necessarily the destination they would have chosen and wasn’t really on their radar at first. Gabe and Leo packed their bags a year ago now and came to Italy to scout out a place where they might want to live. They had already gone through a long, incredible, bureaucratic set of hula hoops and finding a property was part of the bureaucratic ticklist
- They finally decided on an apartment in Venice and made a deal on it and were feeling happy that they’d made the decision and were ready to start their adventures. Not that long before they were due to fly home, the deal fell through as the landlord had decided he was going to sell his apartment instead. As they were due to leave soon and didn’t have the paperwork for the consulate, they understandably had a bit of a panic
- They started looking at Venice and areas nearby, and that’s how Treviso popped into focus. They headed off in their little Fiat Cinquecento rental to stay in Treviso for a couple of nights and cold call on some realtors there. As they were having breakfast in a B&B one morning, the lady who was serving us asked what they were up to that day. They told her they were looking for an apartment to live in and she said, “Oh, I’ve got an apartment.” They secretly thought – this will never work but why not find out more. Turns out she had the perfect two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, two doors down from the bed and breakfast and shortly after they signed a a four-year lease! A truly serendipitous find and sealed their fate to begin their adventure based in Treviso
All about Treviso
- Treviso is set in the heart of the Veneto region and is about a 25-35-minute train ride from Venice
- It is a beautiful and unique blend of feeling like a very sophisticated little city and a very big, small town
- It has lots of beautiful architecture with lots of Medieval and Renaissance buildings. There is gorgeous facades, and lots of porticoes, similar to Bologna, with colonnades to walk down, which protects you from the heat in summer and the cold in winter
- It sits on a river and has a number of waterways throughout the city, similar to Venice. It’s a walled city, with Gabe and Leo living within the Centro Historico. There are only about 1,000 or so residents inside the city. But outside the city, there are about 83,000 within the entire region
- The city spreads out to the north toward the Dolomites, sits next to Padua and sits right in the middle of Prosecco country
- It really punches above its weight when it comes to retail – something important to Gabe as a former shopping center manager. There’s a really good variety of bespoke artisanal shops, great cookware shops, as well as a couple of large department stores. La familia, Benetton are also from this region and Treviso has a very large United Colors of Benetton project with many family-sponsored Benetton buildings around the place
- Coming from Australia, where they are used to having an abundant supply of produce all year round, they’ve had to adapt to living more sustainably and shopping in the season
- There is a market on a Tuesday and a Saturday morning, and you can’t in Fall go expecting to see an abundance of basil. When summer is over, that is gone. At the moment the market is full of pumpkins, and are moving into having winter root vegetables. The meats are sourced fairly locally. It is all great thing environmentally in terms of the footprint and the transport of produce but does present challenges when you are not used to it. You have to be a little bit more creative than perhaps they would be at home in Australia -where you can buy coriander or cilantro, at any time of the year. Gabe is still waiting for the season she can get it in Treviso – it hasn’t happened yet
- The market itself is really nice, sitting in the middle of the two waterways
- The whole city is incredibly pretty. Gabe and Leo feel really lucky to be there but beyond the prettiness, it is also great on a practical level. As expats in their late 50s and early 60, it is somewhere that ticked a number of boxes like being close to hospitals in case they we ever needed care or physiotherapists (for older, weary legs). We had to be close to transport as they don’t have a car and their method of getting around Italy is almost exclusively by train or by bus
- Treviso is incredibly convenient and well positioned. Venice Airport is only a 30-minute cab ride away and Treviso also has its own international airport, which is 12 minutes on the bus. From here you can get to places all over Europe – with them having recently been to London and Malta from there
- It is definitely worth considering Treviso airport if you’re flying within Europe and want to get to Northern Italy. You can access Venice in a short train ride and get to the Dolomites from there and have access to the rest of North of Italy easily by train. Smaller, budget airlines fly there from all over Europe so it is a good airport to hop into
- The proximity of Treviso to Venice is a real bonus. Gabe loves being able to look at Leo at 4pm on a Friday afternoon and say, “I feel like a drink, let’s go to Venice”. A 10-minute walk to the station and then the train quickly transports them into their favorite sestieri (districts) of Venice – Cannaregio or Dorsoduro. They can be hitting up a cicchetti bar and having a spritz before they know it!
- The other thing they can do from Treviso is to get up at 5 am to be on a train by say 5.45 am and walk around and enjoy Venice before the majority of tourists have even woken up in the city. It feels like you have the city to yourself which is a lovely and special thing
- A lot of people stay in outer Venice, in Mestre but whilst convenient, it is not a very attractive place to be. Much nicer to stay in beautiful Treviso where you are surrounded by all the Venetian-style things – canals, big Venetian lion on the gates, and stunning architecture. You might have to get up a little bit earlier to get into Venice but it is really worth it and so nice to stay there and spend your evenings there
- When friends and relatives tell visit Gabe, they do say they really don’t want to be pulled around from pillar to post through Northern Italy, they would much prefer to sit and at a cafe with a spritzer or a coffee and watch the world go by. Treviso is the perfect spot for that – a fantastic place to people-watch. You only hear Italians speaking in the streets. It has a constant supply of tiny little toy dogs dressed up in winter with vests and little collars matching their owner’s coats. All perfect people-watching material
- If you want to get a little bit more exercise, the Passeggiata (the traditional evening stroll) is very big here on the weekend in Treviso. Starting from Piazza de Signore you then go down Calmaggiore (the Roman road which is the spine of Central Treviso). It is a ritual that the Trevigiani hold very dear and tend to dress up in their fineries to walk the streets on a Saturday and especially Sunday night
- You don’t see many tourists in Treviso and certainly little English speaking or even German (the largest number of visitors to Italy are German). Most of the town is pretty quiet on a Monday morning because everybody’s been out late on Sunday nights doing the Passeggiata, but on a Monday morning, you usually get a group of Italian tourists come through with a tour guide leading them through the town to look at the city, it’s sights and Roman ruins. There is a very large Roman mosaic that they all tend to congregate around, but on the whole they don’t really see many tourists. Because it is so stunning and full of history, it is one of those places in Italy you wonder ‘Why isn’t there anyone here?’
- One of the main and most interesting sights of Treviso is Le Fontana de la Tette – literally translated to the Fountain of the Tits. The original is now under glass in a museum, but there is a replica that’s still a couple of hundred years old in the original place where the original Fontana de la Tette was. It is a fountain of a woman holding up very proudly her two breasts, spouting forth from which are fountains of water. Back in the day, when a new mayor was elected, one breast would spout red wine and the other would spout white wine for a period of three days. Gabe has drunk from the breast, but it’s only been water unfortunately
Eating and drinking in Treviso
- The food and wine culture in Treviso is incredible. Whilst Gabe loves to cook, she also loves dining out and it is densely populated with eateries that go from the very humble to the super fancy – there is no shortage of choice.
- The Trevigiani are very keen on radicchio, which they claim is their own indigenous vegetable
- Gabe has seen it served there as a first course, a second course, and sometimes even in a dessert. She has even seen radicchio ice cream. Not everyone likes Raddichio because it’s quite bitter, and an acquired taste. Gabe likes to serve it in a salad, sliced very thinly amongst the other salad greens. It provides a bit of brightness to a salad, as well as its very specific taste. Katy especially likes it with a bit of goat’s cheese
- Treviso’s greatest claim to fame is the famous dessert Tiramisu. Treviso has just hosted the annual World Tiramisu Cup. There’s a frenzy of Tiramisu throughout the entire town at the best of times, much less during the World Cup when you will find it in all different manifestations and variations
- Gabe and Leo just got the chance to meet last year’s winner, Chef Serefini who produced his own special dish. His tiramisu had the usual layers of zabaglione biscuit, some coffee, some mascarpone and some cream. But instead of dusting the top with dusted cocoa, he used a caramel cream like Dolce de Leche. It was stunning and when Leo and Gabe had a spoonful they thought we were going to burst into tears in the middle of town!!
- Another great local dish is Porchetta Trevigiana. Porchetta is the well-loved sliced, roast pork found in various parts of Italy -but there they have their own special recipe for herb-infused roast pork, which is completely divine
- A fruit that the region is known for is the Persimmon. This fruit is part of the lotus family and arrived from Japan in Treviso in the 1800s
- The region surrounding Treviso is all about the wine. Not just the Prosecco Hills but there is lots of other lovely wine around. The hospitality in the wineries is amazing and there is so much more to this region beyond Prosecco – though Prosecco is of course amazing and is the cornerstone of any spritz in the region
- When Hemingway was in this part of the world, he made Valpolicella famous, which is a beautiful, rich, red, and fruity wine. Its big and more serious brother wine is Amarone which has the smoothness of a Merlot, but much more infused with spice and warmth, is very fruit-forward and not so tannic. They dry the grapes first, before pressing them – it has more time in the barrel
- With All Saints Day coming, the locals eat a lamb soup dish called Castradina. It generally doesn’t even appear on a menu, you just have to know about it and on All Saints Day in any restaurant, even if you sat down and it wasn’t on the menu, if you asked they will likely provide it
- Gabe’s husband Leo’s favorite time of year is Carnivale in January/February because this is the season for fritelle – these absolutely beautiful, pillowy fried donuts infused with either zabione, pistachio cream or crema pastiera
Surroundings and day trips
- Treviso is really well-positioned with rail and road links to all over the region
- Beautiful Prosecco country is right on your doorstep when you are in Treviso and it is amazing to explore
- Gabe and Leo hire a car about once a month to go exploring. They have just recently hired a car from Treviso Airport, for around €50 for the day (plus petrol) and headed out into the Veneto countryside to Castello San Salvatore, which is a hilltop castle that only opens up three days a year. It’s still privately owned and they have this open house to let people walk in and see beautiful rooms that are still covered in medieval armory and amazing frescoed walls
- Gabe loves heading out to the Palladian villas in the area like Villa Maser. Palladio was a Renaissance architect from Vicenza, working in the 1500s and was influenced by Roman and Greek architecture. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture and there is lots of his buildings in the region
- At Villa Maser there is never anyone there yet it has the frescoes on the wall that are truly incredible
- The city of Padua is only 35 or so minutes away and there is plenty to do there
- You don’t need a car if you’re living in the city and actually, it would be quite a hindrance if you did. The bus and rail networks are so reliable and get you around to see lots of places. It’s only for the country day trips, like up to Monte Grappa, northwest of Treviso, that you’re going to need a car
- Another place, just 2 hours away by train is Trieste. Gabe thinks it is the pearl of the Adriatic, and has a fascinating history with the cross-over of Habsburg, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and the Italian history. There is also lots to do there. That’s a favorite of Gabe’s
- Another favorite is the city of Udine, which is only 1 hour away on the train. It is like a mini Venice. Their central piazza in Udine is was actually a replica of San Marco Square in Venice. The winged lion is proudly on show there on a very similar, astronomical clock to the one that you see in Venice. It has another beautiful promenade, perfect for passeggiata
- Udine has a fantastic Arch Diocese and house that has saved a lot of the religious art from a number of the surrounding parishes which is all now concentrated in one very large complex. The library there is worth seeing, even if you’re not majorly interested in the art side of things. It is a gorgeous town and well worth a visit
- Gabe and Leo have visited 10 out of 20 Italian regions so far and their mission is to get to 20 before they leave Italy in the next year or so
- They recently went to Bologna and as a food lover, Gabe was blown away by the choice of food and beverage options. They will definitely be heading back there
- Milan gets a lot of a bad rap for being too busy and tricky to get around but Gabe and Leo like to go to do Christmas shopping. It’s a direct train ride straight into Milan so by mid-morning, they can be shopping amongst the Christmas trees in the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping center. Seeing Milan at Christmas time is really special
- Gabe and Leo are also great fans of Santa Margherita Ligure in Liguria – a much nicer choice than the Cinque Terre, which gets overrun by tourists these days. It’s a beautiful coastal resort
- One of the most special experiences they’ve had since moving to Italy was a boat ride that they took in Venice. They were picked up at Santa Lucia Station and headed out on a boat to a little island off Venice called Pellestrina. Pellestrina is a little village island in its own self-sufficient world, unaffected by tourists and very Venetian. They enjoyed a delicious dinner sat on a terrace, drinking some lovely wine and watched the sun go down over the Venetian lagoon. It was a pinch-yourself kind of moment and they felt very lucky to be able to experience it
Want to know more about a temporary move to Italy?
If anybody is interested in how Gabe and Leo managed to make the move to Italy without any family connections and without any work permits, Leo has a spreadsheet with an 82-cell flow chart of the processes they had to go through/the hoops they had to jump through. They are happy for people to reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see how we go from there. They offer one-on-one calls at 80 Euros per hour is available to talk you through the process.
You do need more than the ability to fill out a multitude of forms in Italian with Google translate, and you need to know ahead of time how hard it is going to be and you have to accept that, and you’ve got to go through the process with grace and the ability not to be perfectionist and expect things to be done on your schedule. They will be done and they will be completed in a particular sequence, and you just have to have a lot of patience.
It took Gabe and Leo 8-12 months. They had to sell cars and lease out their house. They are not wealthy people and used the rental income on their Australian property to pay for their apartment in Italy.
Overall, though, any pain was worth it and they encourage anybody who has dreams of Italy to not put it off.
About our guests – Gabe North-Harney
Having spent her career as a shopping center manager, it wasn’t hard for Gabe North-Harney to decide to swap out her life managing retail malls to pursue her passion for la dolce vita. The difficult part was making the move for a couple of years without any work connections or Italian relatives. Surviving the onerous visa application process and navigating the quagmire of Italian bureaucracy both in Australia and in Italy at times took persistence, courage and an unflinching focus on the end goal.
Gabe and her husband Leo moved to the city of Treviso in October 2022. They’ve spent the last year immersing themselves in the Veneto, discovering the local culture, taking with them their love of the region and their intrepid curiosity to uncover food, wine and cultural destinations, some of which – until now – have been tightly kept local secrets.
Gabe’s love of Italian culture was borne out of her university studies in Italian Art history. She also studied the Italian language at the Centre of Italian Studies in Carlton, Victoria. She’s a mum of two adult kids who visited Treviso last Christmas. In fact, Gabe and Leo have hosted many visitors over the last twelve months who, having enjoyed la vita Trevigiana, reluctantly depart with a keen commitment to return to this beautiful city.
Places mentioned in the show
- Padua (Padova) – city in Veneto on the river Bacchiglione
- Cannaregio – the northernmost of the six historic sestieri (districts) of Venice
- Dorsoduro – University district in Venice
- Mestre – borough of Venice
- Fontana delle Tette – translates into English as ‘The Fountain of Tits’, this fountain in Treviso was built in the 1550s in Treviso. Under the Venetian Republic, it poured white and red wine during special celebrations
- Castello San Salvatore – a stunning castle in the Veneto region only open to the public a couple of days each year
- Villa di Maser – also known as Villa Barbaro, is a Palladian villa in Veneto, with amazing frescoes and sculptures
- Monte Grappa – mountain in the Veneto region, part of the Venetian Prealps
- Trieste – port city which has belonged, back and forth, to various countries over the centuries
- Udine – a city in the heart of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, between the Adriatic Sea and the Carnic Alps
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – famous shopping center in Milan and Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery
- Santa Margherita Ligure – a little town just outside of Portofino
- Pellestrina – quiet, charming, natural island to visit to get away from the hustle and bustle
Food & Drink
- radicchio – also known as Italian chicory, it is a leafy vegetable with a bitter taste
- Tiramisu World Cup – yearly competition for the best Tiramisu makers
- Porchetta Trevigiana – a porchetta recipe specific to Treviso dating back to 1919
- persimmon – a fruit, part of the lotus family – originating from Asia
- Valpolicella – a beautiful rich red wine
- Amarone – a rich red wine from the Valpolicella area in the Veneto region
- castradina – Venetian mutton dish
- frittelle – or fritole are Venetian doughnuts served only during Carnival
- Stefano Serafini – chef who won World Champion of Tiramisù 2021
- Mannerist art – also known as Late Renaissance, is an art style that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520 lasting until about the end of the 16th century in Italy it became replaced generally by the Baroque style
- portico – an extended colonnade with a roof structure over a walkway
- Benetton – known for the United Colors of Benetton, the Benetton group is a global fashion brand based in Veneto, founded in 1965
- sestieri – the 6 districts of Venice
- la passeggiata – the walk or stroll after dinner that’s a strong part of Italian culture
- House of Habsburg – prominent dynasty throughout European history, taking its name from Habsburg Castle, a fortress built in the 1020s in present-day Switzerland
Resources from Untold Italy
- Discover more on the region in our Veneto guide, and alongside Treviso, other options for day trips from Venice. Discover more about Veneto region’s capital Venice in our district guide for where to stay, our 3 day itinerary for Venice, Hidden Gems in Venice, as well as our guide to the best hotels
- Listen: to our episode on nearby Vicenza Episode 190 – Vicenza – Elegant Renaissance city near Venice, and on our previous episodes on Veneto capital Venice in – Episode #185 Venetian Cicchetti – a food lovers guide, Episode #177 Budget friendly Venice, Episode #132 Why you need to spend at least 3 days in Venice, Episode #111 Carnevale in Venice – Parties, costumes and more, Episode #087 The story of the Venetian gondola, Episode #48 Venice districts – Best places to stay, Episode #35 Venetian Secrets – Uncovering the soul of Venice and Episode #10 Highlights of Venice
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step-by-step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.