Queen of the Castle at Castello Brandolini

Cison di Valmarino Travel Blog

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view from our hotel room
from woelfersheim, germany, the two of us began our more than eight hour journey down through austria, and the italian dolimities, to end up in the northeast part of Italy, and our final destination.

Our two night stay at Castle Brandolini was to be the most exciting and relaxing part of our adventures, as we were safely nestled in the prosecco hills, away from the crowds, in the quiet of this renaissance/baroque palace.

The castle has its origins in ancient roman times, as a fortress to guard trade routes. In the 13th and 14th centuries, it was owned by bishops, then passed on to the condottieri in venice. In the 16th and 17th centuries additions and renovations were made, and it is those which gave it its present venetian renaissance style.
walking into the woods behind castello brando

After a long drive through the Dolimites, through snow capped mountains, rains, and winding roads, we arrived in the little town of cison di valmarino, an ancient town with a population of about 3,000. up the winding road, we arrived at the castle, where we were greeted warmly by the english speaking porter. our car was parked, our luggage delivered - along with ourselves, to our cozy little room. With its renaissance decor, we truly felt as though we had stepped back in time. Our porter offered to make reservations at the castle's restaurant, "Sansovino," and we freshened up for dinner.

What a gorgeous sight greeted us, as I swung back the shutters on our hotel window. below us lay the town of "follina", and beyond the lush green hills of this wine country.
descending the stairs from restaurant "sansovino"
the rain poured incessantly, shrouding the castle and hills in an eerie mist, though making us feel all the more elated to have finally arrived.

Shortly, we were headed to the restaurant. We were the first guests to arrive, and we were welcomed into a beautifully appointed baroque dining room, resplendent in morano chandeliers and 17th/18th century paintings. All attendants were attired in suits and friendly smiles.

I was very grateful for our server, as he not only mastered the pairings of food and wine, but also seemed to be quite capable in more than a couple languages. i had my first taste of cabernet, a 2004 beauty by the name of "collalto', (susegana, italy) which came recommended by our capable steward. The fare on the menu was exceptional, a work of art.
in the town of "cison." over the centuries, the little hamlet has retained its original facades
like most culinary masterpieces, the entrees were small, the sides a la carte- yet so full of flavor and richness that the belly was soon satisfied. I tried something which I suppose will shock some of the readers, but it is quite common in italy and france, and not at all unusual. Curiosity got the best of me, but I can save everybody the anguish by saying that in order to fully enjoy this fare, it has to be nearly rare; so that it stays tender, as the meat is tenacious, as most untamed horses are...

Following our meal, we were eager to sample the local wines. We ventured down below into one of the eight bars in the castle, bar "donatello." there, we were one of two pairs of guests. the lights were dim, the ceilings and walls were of bricks or flagstone, perhaps the originial fortifications of the castle, dating back to the middle ages.
our first day, raining and wet, we appeared to be the only visitors.
i savored "muscato," while Jason sipped tentatively on the local "grappa," which was extremely potent! the bartender equated it to whiskey, though whereas the typical whiskey is made from grains, italy's grappa is grape-based. however, the spirit has a proof of 80-120. it is by accident that grappa attained its popularity, as it is basically the left overs from the wine making process. followed by local beers and prosecco, we were finally ready to retire for the night. it was a romantic, delectable way to end a very long one...

the next morning we were up early, hoping to venture out into the surrounding villages for architectural and cultural sightseeing. it was a chilly and wet morning, so we decided to "test the waters" by taking a stroll on the grounds.
we truly appeared to be the only visitors there, which gave me that feeling of being the long lost princess brandolino. behind the castle were woods, with an inviting walking trail, lined with greek statues. shortly we were ensconced in the lush green, enjoying the fresh air, when the light drizzle that had been refreshing our spirits began to turn into a torrential downpour. even the canopy of trees wasn't thick enough to protect us, and we were wet!

back to the hotel room we ran, where we had to change again, and we were hungry. as we had now missed the buffet breakfast in the castle, and the restaurants do not open until the afternoon, we decided to head into cison to find a place to eat. in the cozy main square, overshadowed by the imposing church, we found two cafes, but no restaurant to speak of.
so, we left the car and decided to explore the town on foot. the town has verily stood still in time, color facades fading and peeling, no signs of modernity or contemporary accents. i loved it!

perhaps a mile later we found a restaurant, and discovered that we had actually walked into the next town. here we had the most delicious lasagna and spaghetti. the tomato sauce, in the "bolognese" style, was so exquisitely creamy and cheesy, that we had to order seconds on the lasagna. we came to find out that this was only the first course, and as a second we had a choice of meats grilled right over the open fire, going in the dining room. regrettably, we were full by then. what i really enjoy is the "digestiv" that is offered to patrons at the italian restaurants.
restaurant sansovino
with most it is a shot of amaretto, though here we were offered "limoncello." from the island of capri, from the lemon trees of sorrento, this is a simple spirit made from lemon peels soaked in vodka, and sweetened with a sugary syrup.

and it began to rain heavily again, and we would have waited in vain for the rains to cease, so we hurried back to our vehicle on foot. we could not resist the urge to have some "gelatto" before our return to the castle, so we stopped at the lonely cafe on the square for some hazelnut ice cream.

back in our room, another change of clothes was in order, and through the open window in the room, we heard the rain come harder and harder. romantic, but discouraging. we knew there would be no sightseeing, no touring of wineries.
view from the entrance of the castle
so, we resigned ourselves to snuggling up on the bed, listening to the rain outside, feeling the wet breezes kiss our skin...and we fell asleep.

many hours later we awoke, made appointments at the spa, and prepared ourselves for more adventures in relaxation. the "beauty farm," was an exceptional treat. with its turkish bath, sauna, finnish bath with hydrotherapy,
roman tepidarium, and a team of great masseurs, we truly felt like the king and queen of the castle. after our warm essential oil body massages, (25 euros for 30 min.) we strolled around in our robes and sampled all the place had to offer.

we ended the night at "la fucina," the pizzeria in the castle. Also a delectable destination for good local fare, we were eager to see what it had to offer.
cison di valmarino, history intact.
we each had our own pizzas, which differ greatly from the style we are used to in the states. very thin crust, small amount of tomato sauce and cheese, and then smothered in your choice of topping. i ordered ham, artichoke, and mushroom, and i could barely see the crust for all the topping. surprisingly, i finished the entire thing. this was most likely due to there not being more crust and cheese than toppings. balanced with a local prosecco, it was a great meal that left us feeling very tired and anxious to return to our quarters and fall asleep in one another's arms.

and what gorgeous sight greeted our eyes, when the bright sun pierced its rays into our room the next morning. as a prelude to the nice weather we would have for the rest of our trip, we were thrilled and ready to head to venice!

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view from our hotel room
view from our hotel room
walking into the woods behind cast…
walking into the woods behind cas…
descending the stairs from restaur…
descending the stairs from restau…
in the town of cison. over the c…
in the town of "cison." over the …
our first day, raining and wet, we…
our first day, raining and wet, w…
restaurant sansovino
restaurant sansovino
view from the entrance of the cast…
view from the entrance of the cas…
cison di valmarino, history intact.
cison di valmarino, history intact.
view of the main lobby entrance to…
view of the main lobby entrance t…
Front facade of the castle
Front facade of the castle
View of Cison from the castle
View of Cison from the castle
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photo by: hannajax