Our Trek up Monte Venda....The Olivetani Monastery
A few kilometers south of Padova rise the Euganean Hills, a group of rounded mountains of volcanic origin, dominated by Monte Venda. Abano Terme, Monelice, Este and Montagnana, mark the boundries of the declivity which, contrasting with the lavic walls, create an extraordinarily rich landscape full of contrasts. Abano, with its 130 hot springs reaching up to 90C is one of the most renowned Spa(s).
The city of healthy waters, as it was named in the old times, was developed especially in the early 1900s, though the virtues of the mineral waters of Montirone, and mud treatments were renowned among the ancient Romans who visited Abano for the same therapeutic reasons tourists visit it today.
I left the above two paragraphs intact from a google translation. I thought you might enjoy the mind tease. You get the idea though. The rest is all mine, I promise you.
Our destination this day was not the mineral waters however, but the towering mound of rock to the south west, called Monte Venda.
We were headed to the hills for lunch, my favourite time of day. I wasn't driving, therefore my attention span was directed more towards fulfilling the promise made to my kids before leaving Canada... to sample every dish that Italy has to offer. This is a promise I hold very sacred, therefore it takes great skill and careful planning to navigate through the menu, without overlapping on the various pasta dishes.
I thought we were headed north, towards the mountains, but in fact we were driving south, at most twenty minutes away from Padova. We made a short stop at Monastry San Daniele, and sat quietly and listened to the nuns singing hymns in the chapel. Such beautiful voices.
We had a quick coffee on the terrace at Cenacolo s. Cuore Bar, which curiously was attached to the monastry, and then continued on our way.
Our restaurant (name forgotten for now) was styled after an Agritourismo, but I don't believe it was, because bottled wine was served, as opposed to carafes. The menu included many pastas, and grilled meats etc. Ma Kettle ordered gnocci, which was fantastic (I sampled), and I ordered Bigoli, which is a regional specialty (thick spaghetti) served with a wonderful duck sauce. The duck is minced, and prepared in a oil based sauce. If you've never had it, find it.
The grilled meat platter consisted of pork chops, chicken, sausages, and thick sliced bacon. Tender, flavourful, and this was a dish for two. (over flowing)
I will update with the name as soon as I find out. This place is definitely worth a visit.
After lunch, we began our approach to the starting point of our 'walk'.
The road from the restaurant to our starting point gradually weaved it's way skyward, so narrow in places that we often had to pull off to the side to allow on coming traffic to pass. Fields of grape vines, still in a dormant state, lay row upon row,
in formed arches, made by tying gnarley branches from one plant to the other. They lined both sides of the roadway, and, mixed with new growth along the fence, gave the countryside a wonderful fresh look.
"Our SHORT walk..."
We parked the car, and everyone changed into hiking boots, except Ma Kettle and myself who had no idea we were going 'mountain climbing'. Ma had running shoes on fortunately, however I was wearing my new Geoxx street shoes. Still, we thought we were going to casually stroll along a path, with an occasional rock to sit on, so no big concern.
The path quickly became a trail, deeply worn by years of cascading run-off down the slopes. The trail ran in a series of switch-backs, winding up, and up, and up....across, and up, up....get the idea? At times, ascent was obtained only by grabbing overhanging branches and pulling yourself ever upwards. If properly dressed, in reasonably good shape, and in the right frame of mind, this would be a 'mildly' difficult trek. There are other levels of difficulty for this climb, but we had chosen this particular path.
I found myself almost parallel with the bank, at times my nose inches from the earth. The majority of the climb was spent with my body at a 45-90 degree angle to the ground, with too infrequent sections of level ground with which to confuse my aching muscles.
To our credit, no other hiking party passed us, except for those coming back down the trail, towards the comfort of their vehicles (wearing such smug looks on their faces) Ma and I never 'once' considered begging any member of those returning parties to carry us back. Too much Canadian Pride.
Ma Kettle and I stopped frequently during our climb, but 'only' to listen to the sounds of nature around us. In the silence of the slopes, we could hear a mysterious huffing and puffing sound, presumably caused by the wind drafts curiously present in the 'very still' air.
We could see the fenced in ruins above, almost within reach, but with another 15 minutes of steady uphill climbing still to go. Baby steps, short leaden, baby steps. It felt like my shoes were covered in clay, however, the trail was very dry and dusty, so I knew it must have been fatigue. We finally achieved level ground, and none to soon.
The ruins of the Olivetani Monastery are located at the very peak of Monte Venda which rises 1890 ft or 601 meters. It was built in the 12th century, 1207 to be exact, by the Benedictine monks from the Basilica of St. Justine in Padova, in order to find peace and solitude. The stone walls stand pretty much intact, missing sections here and there, with no roof of course, but surprisingly solid for its age. No bathrooms, or bottled water, but still impressive.
Wonderful photo ops, with small groups of like minded adventurers willing to snap your picture beside your climbing buddies.