We do not travel any more, someone has said; we only arrive. But on the tree-lined roads of Venezia, here at the core of the old Venetian Empire, travel is inevitable, and every step is an arrival. Especially is this true in the autumn, when the whole of this prosperous countryside rises to the occasion of the grape harvest and the wondrously refined provincial capitals hum to the excitement of fairs and festivals.

Autumn is the best time of year in Venezia, with the climate much like our Indian summer; it is the season when the Venetian aristocracy have always come to relax in lavish mainland villas. The heat is broken; the tourist parade fades away to leave the orange sails serene on Lake Garda, the spectacular Dolomite roads becalmed, and the civilized people of these small, masterfully built Venetian cities in full possession of their beloved cafés in piazza.

Rising from the beaches and lagoons of the Adriatic, through the vine-and-orchard hills above Vicenza to the Alpine meadows and the awesome rock spires of the Dolomites, this Venetian terra firma is like some great sea shell turned cornucopia, where the man-made and the natural wonders of Italy interplay with magnificent effect.

Venice is only the beginning. From it there radiates the highly effective network of roads, bus lines, and railways that lead one, in an hour or two, to the princely towns at the edge of the Alpine foothills, to the Mediterranean mellowness of Garda’s fishing and wine villages, or to the surprising autumn mildness of the many delightful lower Tirol resort villages. (At higher altitudes there is skiing from early October, on some of Europe’s best slopes.) Scattered throughout the region, especially in the heartland area called the Veneto, are the great Venetian villas, as impressive as the châteaux of the Loire and much more numerous. Many of these are open to the public; Vicenza with its active tourist organization makes a good base for excursions.

The hotels everywhere are of a high order, as are the eating places — even the village inns and taverns, where a nameless vino del paese will often hold its own against an expensive bottle. Naïve villages — with decent accommodations — where the traditional Sunday costume is still worn are next door to the golf, tennis, chair lifts, and horse racing of fashionable resorts like Merano and Cortina d’Ampezzo; and both varieties are provided with the marked walking trails, fine climbing sites, rest huts, trout streams, and mountain lakes for which the Dolomites are famous. Chamois and roebuck are hunted on the snow fields of the Brenta; the Valley of the Adige, which is paralleled by the main road connecting Verona, Trento, Bolzano, and Merano, is full of grouse, pheasant, and partridge.

There are several attractive approaches to Venezia: by sea to Venice; by air on the frequent Lufthansa flights to Munich or Vienna and then over the great Alpine passes by road or rail to Bolzano or Udine; from Rome through Florence and Bologna in six hours by rail. Most interesting, for its swift change of worlds, is the flight via the northern Lufthansa route from New York to Frankfurt and Milan, with stopovers at Stuttgart, Munich, and Zurich — from the cool blues and grays of the Teutonic cities to the full impact of what Heine called Venezia’s “tawny splendor.”

Whatever one seeks — paintings, palaces, ruins, food, wine, or the life itself — the immediate impression is of an almost overwhelming abundance. Padua’s magnificent thirteenth-century Palazzo della Ragione and a dozen other ancient, animated market places glow with the opulent peaches of Verona, the cherries of Marostica, the grapes and apples of Merano, the big white asparagus of Bassano, and mushrooms, artichokes, chestnuts, pears, apricots, and plums. Even in out-ofthe-way villages, the traveler finds delicious mountain honey, sturgeon from the Adige, the great hams of San Daniele, the delicate pastry of the Alto Adige.

Best of all is the exotic treasure of the Adriatic, the fish and shellfish of a hundred varieties that make the best sea food in Europe. And the wines! Try the Santa Maddalena from the vineyards around Bolzano that Virgil praised; Bardolino, grown amidst the mild, clear breezes above Lake Garda; and, pre-eminently, Valpolicella, Valpantena, Soave, noble vintages from the slopes above Verona, as good as any in Italy.

Worth seeking out, too, are the fine white wines from the hills above Treviso, especially Prosecco, the glory of Conegliano. This town, along with Soave and other happy Veronese wine villages, and the vineyard country of the strongly traditional Friuli area, is notable for its grape harvest festival, in late September and October. (Specific dates of this and other village celebrations, like the widespread October festivals of the chestnuts and new wine, are best determined through the tourist offices of the nine major towns.)

There is more: At Verona and Aquileia stand the most impressive Roman remains outside of Rome and Pompeii. From Venice to Trieste, along the Adriatic, stretches an almost continuous strand of sunny beach, where fishing villages that have become attractive small resorts were once important Roman seaports. The high points are Chioggia, Lido di Jesolo, Lignano, and Grado. Above all — and this alone would provide a month of urban pleasures there is the remarkable cluster of provincial capitals: Padua, Verona, Vicenza, Treviso, Bolzano, Trento, Udine, Trieste, urban masterpieces that, taken together, in a region about 100 miles square, surpass any comparable area in Europe.

Once key cities of Europe, they remain centers of life, on the human scale. They are not on display; they simply live in their own ways, infused with that intense communal sentiment that has always been the great strength of Italian towns. They seem to have been waiting for that traveler who is more than just a sightseer, who likes to go at random, walking, into the stream of local life, to sip a vermouth on the edge of a market square, to lose himself among streets of Renaissance palaces and fountains, and then to realize that he has grasped the essence and is no longer a stranger. And then he can walk, not ride, through a gateway in the old city wall and out into the green countryside of vineyards and villas.

The life of these towns is simple and good; the apparatus of travel is effective but uncomplicated; the Italian grace and ebullience are here unmarred by poverty. One comes across a minimum of high-pressure luxury restaurants; purely local places predominate, like the Dodici Apostoli and the Tre Corone in Verona, Da Pasquale in Vicenza, Da Cesarino outside of Treviso, the Storione dining room and Isola di Caprera in Padua, the Domenicani in Bolzano — strongholds of the estimable regional cooking, where the clientele as well as the proprietors know a properly aged Valpolicella when they see one and will forgo pretentious frills for the sake of good honest baccala all vicentina, small spitroasted birds with polenta, stuffed doves, or calamaretti fritti. A variety of climates and a nice intermingling of cultures bring surprising elements to the basic Venetian cuisine, from the Tirolean Schlupfkrapfeln, strudel, and beer to the robust goulash and thick soups of Trieste.

Many of the hotels of these provincial capitals offer the same kind of local flavor, close attention to detail, and absence of pretension — and, generally, a very good kitchen. Most are small and pleasantly located inside the life of the town. The best, at about $6 a day for room, bath, and three excellent meals, cost little more than half the price of comparable accommodations in Venice. Padua has the delightfully oldfashioned Storione, with its seemingly inexhaustible menu; Vicenza, one of the reliable new Jolly hotels, the epicurean Roma, and the Artú. Verona has a half-dozen attractive places on its swift river and handsome piazzas, and even the littlevisited places like Treviso and Udine are well supplied.

Each capital has its own special character and tradition; each is an art town in the most authentic sense, but not a museum. They are, in fact, full-blooded market towns, where the peasant driving his oxen to sell and the contessa in from her villa are equally at home. There are marvels of art and architecture here to equal anything in Venice: the massive Medieval Scaligeri castle in Verona, with its paintings by Veronese, and San Zeno, the most important, most moving Romanesque church in northern Italy; the palaces and villas of Vicenza, the city that Palladio recreated in his lifetime; the stupendous Giotto frescoes and the very ancient university in Padua; the fortified walls, arcades, and old canals of Treviso; the charming town square of Trento in its circle of blue hills; the intricate harmony of Udine’s Piazza della Liberià, one of the most beautiful squares in all Italy; the fountains and bridges and palaces and bell towers in dozens of lovely satellite towns that surround each of the capitals—places like Feltre, Bassano del Grappa, and Bressanone, which contain as much of the good things of life among them as other entire countries.

Car hire in this compact region is economical at ten cents a mile, or twelve cents with a driver. Distances are short: almost all of Venezia lies within a sixty-mile radius of Vicenza. It is, following the motorist’s basic itinerary clockwise in a rough circle, 30 miles from Vicenza to Verona, 15 from Verona to Lake Garda, 25 from Torbole at the top of the lake to Trento, 36 from Trento north to Bolzano, 69 from Bolzano to Cortina, 90 from Cortina to Udine, 42 from Udine to Trieste, 98 from Trieste to Venice, and from Venice 14 miles to Treviso, 24 to Padua, and 45 to Vicenza.

At the heart of the Venetian mainland lies the earth-bound warmth and urbanity of Verona. Verona is Romeo and Juliet; it is Roman ruins; it is, as Ruskin said, the master school of the Gothic of Venice. Here people live actively with their past and make it part of the present. In a Roman arena second only to the Colosseum, they stage operas; in a Roman theater cut out of a hill with gardens above the river, they produce Shakespeare; and in the Roman forum, overlooked by the frescoed fronts and flowered balconies of Medieval and Renaissance palaces, they daily hold the gayest market in this part of Europe. They close their busiest street to traffic, for the love of strolling and meeting — a daily ritual. The elegant and the vulgar live comfortably together; the strollers are at home anywhere in the town; there are no strangers here.

In the traditional celebrations of autumn all the vigor, the vivid actuality come to focus. On the days of the horse fair, the roads leading to Verona are alive with the clatter of horses drawing the tight-sprung pony traps driven by farmers in their best corduroy, red bandannas at their necks, black boots, flat black felt hats. They enter the town, perhaps by the Porta San Zeno, go under the walls of the castle and on through a Roman gateway to pass through the main square and around the massive arena, on their way to the campo for a true country fair, full of ardor and the joy of harvest time, with men and beasts from all of Venezia; some, even, in the old costume of the Tirol. The people do not perform for the tourist. They prod and measure and run the fine horses and oxen, meet their friends, haggle at the stalls for new harness, drink and eat in the bursting taverns during five lively days (October 8 to 12), as they have always done. They will not let Verona be a museum.

At the September fairs in Bolzano, Vicenza, and Udine, and especially at Treviso’s thousand-year-old Fiera di San Luca (October 16 to 24), the Verona fair is duplicated with local variations, as it is in the fairs and folklore gatherings of a hundred other villages and towns. At the grape harvests the townspeople will urge you to try the must, the delicious grape juice that has not yet begun to ferment. The classical performances in the superb little Teatro Olimpio in Vicenza, which was one of Palladio’s greatest achievements, are held from September 1 to 15; and Venice, too, is in the midst of some of its most important events in September. Very soon, as the visitor moves from town to town, he feels that a centralized Italy, to say nothing of the great world, does not exist and that he is living in the intense, comprehensible world of the Italian city-states.