The Euganean hills – Sensations from the land

“They rise alone like cliffs from the sea”  
That is how the English geologist John Strange saw the Euganean hills around 1770. On approaching this rising ground the same sensation strikes the traveller to this day.

From whichever direction you come you are struck by this sudden surge upward as from a flat sea that is the Po Valley. The conical shapes betray their volcanic origin, and reveal the essence of this ancient land. Moving on, intrepid, into the heart of the Euganean hills, you discover a world that has nothing to do with the surrounding plain. The contours follow one upon another in irregular relief to form an intricate pattern played out in a thousand shades of green. Wooded slopes give way to broad bright valleys, which themselves shrink shyly back to become narrow inlets into the hills. Steep and rugged cliffs suddenly melt into mild sinuousness where rows of vineyards lie, as if orderly combing the tousled land. Moving from one slope to another you might find your way barred by an uncultivated tract of arid land that explodes into the yellow of juniper, dotted here and there by the fleshy leaves of dwarf Indian fig trees. Just a little further on, the air becomes shady and cool beneath a woodland of chestnut, holm oak and acacia, where the moss softly caresses the land and then, once more, the vine returns to bring order and symmetry as it gently shapes the land.

Climbing to the summit of Monte Gemola, from the terrace of an ancient monastery, our gaze reaches as far as Venice itself. Breaths of wind tell tales of wealthy merchants, returning from their distant travels in the orient to bring precious vines to their holiday homes in the Euganean hills, as gifts of Mediterranean nectars. Descending westwards, quite suddenly, almost as if playing with us, the landscape becomes still and silent once more. We pass through the charming and sunny village of Arquà, which appears to us framed by olive trees. Here Petrarch himself decided to end his days. On again downwards into the volcano black earth there arises a thermal spring that forms a small lake, where the whispers of ancient Venetians hang in the air at that place where once stood a stilted village. The road winds on through vineyards and olive groves, following a distant call to Lispida, where the story is that of a noble family which, around 1870, planted merlot and cabernet for the making of wine..

Continuing our wanderings over the hills we encounter noble villas, castles and gardensand heading north standing isolated on the brow of a hill we see a hermatage where we can rest and inwardly reflect. A little further along, a majestic abbey carries the smell of ancient illuminated books, and tells more stories of wine and the rural life that is still lived on the Euganean hills.

The vine is life for these lands. The history of the Euganean hills is still that of families and of their work in the vineyards and in the wineries. In our times of absolute standardisation, where everything is decided by the bottom line, here they proudly swim against the modern tide, working and caring for the land and making wine with the greatest respect for nature and for humankind.

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