(By Kate Carlisle) Treviso, June 26 - Restorations usually take a lot of time, a hefty amount of cash and hold surprises along the way. And in the case of Villa Sandi, a luxurious estate that includes a nearby restaurant opened in 2006 tucked in the heart of Veneto, the discovery was beyond what the owners had in mind. "We knew that there were cellars under the property that dated back at least three centuries, but had no idea how far they stretched and how historic they were," Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, part of the family that owns the estate, told ANSA. "The tunnels stretch beyond the front line with Austrian troops and were used during World War I," Polegato said. That same 1.5-kilometer stretch of tunnels that now attracts 20,000 visitors a year who can go on one of the minimum of three guided tours daily also created the perfect environment for wine aging, thanks to natural humidity and constant temperature. While the historic cellars are now for show, the nearby modern production of the estate's prosecco and wines is also open to visitors for tastings. The Moretti Polegato family bought the 1622 Palladian-style villa some 50 years ago. It has 20 buildings, including a church and two wineries, is graced with typical Italian fountains, lemon trees and is something like paradise on earth. Palladian and Palladian-style villas, historic playthings of wealthy Venetians escaping to the countryside over the centuries, still line the banks of the Brenta river and dot the verdant countryside, but often they are mere historic attractions, beautiful but unused, becoming eye-candy for passersby. "History here never dies. It is continuous and living. We want our estate to be a representative of our region, keeping it alive for all to appreciate," Polegato said. Villa Sandi is in the area near the town of Valdobbiadene, 60 kilometres north of Venice, the traditional home to market-darling prosecco. While the Moretti Polegato family produces a range of fine aged Veneto wines and prosecco, they recently entered the elite club of Cartizze DOCG proseccos, winning awards after the first vintage and continuing to do so to date. "Those of us from the Veneto are stubborn. We generally get what we want because we work hard at it," Polegato said. The Moretti-Polegato family purchased 1.5 hectares of the total 106 hectares of niche glera-grape vineyards on the verdant and steep slopes of the Cartizze hills for the production of 12,000 bottles of Cartizze cru prosecco, that has sometimes been called Italy's champagne. Polegato is quick to correct that notion. "Champagne and prosecco are two completely different products. Of course prosecco's lower cost makes it more accessible, but that isn't the only reason it is popular. The taste is unique and full of aromas from this region. It is beautiful," Polegato says. Some 60 employees are dedicated to keeping up the estate and promoting Villa Sandi's range of wines that includes the exclusive 'Vigna La Rivetta' Cartizze cru. Polegato says that the staff all feel a part of the project and he is proud of the high number of women working in his team. "Almost all of my export managers are women. They know how to communicate the heart and soul of our territory," Polegato said. Though the Treviso-born entrepreneur doesn't put a price on how much the family spent to restore and refurbish the estate in 1970, he does say that it was in the millions of euros. "Villa Sandi is a piece of history that encapsulates the beauty of this terrain...it is the regions history and also my family's," said Polegato.
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