Captivating Castel Brando
Story & photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet
Who chances upon one of the little known treasures of the Veneto in Italy…
MAGICAL castles and brave knights in shining armour always appear in fairy tales. On a recent visit to Italy as a wine judge, I chanced upon a real life castle in the Valdobbiadene region of northeast Italy, a region renowned too for its Prosecco sparkling wine.
Where Eagles dare!
My first sight of Castel Brando left me gasping in wonder. It stood majestically perched high up on a mountain. The only way up was by a steep funicular railway. It was a thrilling ride. I was reminded of that movie “On her Majesty’s Secret Service” starring George Lazenby as 007. Soon I at the top. I was 400m high over the Veneto! I felt like a soaring eagle. Here I found the gift shop and I could not resist going in to see a huge range of souvenirs from durian like flails to magnets, clothing and even Japanese Samurai Katana swords.
After my shopping spree, I went up in a modern lift to the actual medieval castle. The majestic hall was absolutely awesome and as it is also a 5 star hotel, this area is also the reception. Originally the castle was a “Roman Castrum” built to defend the ancient Claudia Augusta Road and through the centuries was a Longobard and Ottoman fortress. The castle is over 2000 years old! The Brandolini family were valiant warriors who ruled from 1436 to 1959 and the castle is named for Conti Brandolini. Castel Brando is one of the largest ancient European castles. History exudes from every stone piece of the massive walls.
I met ravishing Italian Signorina who took me on a tour and showed me the Museum. It was simply fascinating to see the history behind the exhibits like suits of armour and ancient swords and edged weapons. The rooms and suites too are fully equipped to luxurious 21st Century standards.
After the terrific tour I went to have an Espresso in the Cocktail Bar Al Donatello. Here I was welcomed by cheeky, wise-cracking Danilo, the bartender, also known as “Eeyore” from the stuffed donkey that stands on top of his bar. For the uninitiated, Eeyore is the good buddy of Winnie the Pooh. As I sipped my aromatic Espresso and admired the falcon’s eye view, I felt as if I was a part of those medieval times. I could almost imagine myself in a past reincarnation shooting lethal crossbow quills at some invading force far below me.
In need of a good work out after all the feasting on my gastronomic safari, I made my way to the Centro Benessere (Health Club & Spa) on 3 levels. This state of the art fitness center has a fully equipped gym and even 2 swimming pools! I particularly enjoyed the specially designed pool with its gentle massaging jets of water. So therapeutic and invigorating. Better than most spas I have been to in exotic tropical resorts.
Ravishing Ristorante Sansovino
Dinner in the fine dining Ristorante Sansovino is an epicurean experience to be relished. The food, the wine, the service and the incredible ambience of the dining room was a memory to be cherished forever. Do not leave withouit tasting at least one morsel of Filetto di manzo alle ciliegie and Tortino di carote ….The extensive wine list too leaves you spoilt for choice. I can recommend arguably, the best Prosecco in this region of Valdobbiadene. It is “senz altro” Bisol Prosecco since 1542! Crede or Jeio, I love them all! Their energetic effervescence also go especially well with seafood like gambero (prawns) and lobster, oysters, the list goes on and on…
When I stepped out into the cool night air and the breeze ruffled the hair of my charming companion Dacotah, I vowed like the Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Treminator, “I’ll be back.”
Hasta la vista, baby!