Venetia is perhaps the most culturally and geographically compact Italian region and one of the most popular in Europe for a walking or cycling tour. To the west the shores of Lake Garda, to the north the Dolomites, and eastwards the verdant Euganean hills give way to plains of maize stretching out to the Venetian lagoon. This wealth of contrasts has inspired poets and playwrights since time began. Livy, Petrarch, Corbis, Goethe, Byron and Shelley all sojourned here. Four major Shakespeare plays are set here, and although the Bard never visited, it is easy to imagine passionate embraces and secret plotting taking place in Padua and Veronas narrow streets or Venices maze of alleyways of piazzettas.
Nobles from the Serenissima (Venetian republic) which stretched out beyond the lagoon were more interested in fine living than government and constructed sumptuous country villas where they could escape the citys heat. Palladio was the most famous Renaissance architect and many of his villas such as Villa Malcontenta and Villa Rotonda can be visited discovering the Venetian countryside.