THE CITIES OF ART
Places to visit
Belluno, a city perched where the Ardo stream flows into the Piave, dominates the valley. City life moves around three squares: the Renaissance Piazza dei Martiri, adorned with colonnades and enriched by a central garden, the mediaeval Piazza delle Erbe, accessible through the monumental Porta Dojona, and the evocative Piazza Duomo, with the sixteenth-century Palazzo dei Rettori, in Venetian style, the Cathedral of S. Martino and the Palazzo dei Vescovi with the civic tower. A visit to Belluno cannot be considered complete without the Church of Santo Stefano, with the frescoed Cesa chapel (1485) and works by Brustolon, and the Mubel, the city museum, lodged in the admirably restored Palazzo Fulcis.
The quiet streets of the medieval centre are ideal for a relaxing walk at the discovery of suggestive corners, such as Piazza Santa Maria dei Battuti, with its fountain shaded by lime trees. After passing by the fourteenth-century Ospitale dei Battuti, one soon arrives at Porta Rugo, the southern access to the walled city, for those coming up from the river port of Borgo Piave.
FELTRE, THE PAINTED CITY
Feltre, perched on a hill, is dominated by Alboin’s castle. The historical centre, between Porta Imperiale and Porta Oria, displays an intact architectural homogeneity, due to a tragic event: in 1510 the troops of Maximilian of Habsburg set on fire the city, which will rise again from the ashes assuming the aspect it still has today. Via Mezzaterra, with its frescoed buildings, leads the visitor to the heart of the city – Piazza Maggiore – where, from above, the statues of Panfilo Castaldi and Vittorino da Feltre look down on us. The square is closed to the north by the large Lombard fountain (1488) and by the church of the Saints Rocco and Sebastiano, while Palazzo Guarnieri, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo della Ragione overlook the other sides.
The “Carlo Rizzarda” Modern Art Gallery, the Diocesan Museum, and the l’archaeological area, in Cathedral square are all worth a visit. Do not miss a stroll on the walls through the hill of the Scalette vecchie, which from Porta Pusterla leads to the Piazzetta delle Biade.
MEL, ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES IN ITALY
Orange flag of the Italian Touring Club, the village dominates the Val Belluna from the top of a hill. The historic centre is exquisite, to the point that Mel is part of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” – i.e. the association grouping the most beautiful villages in Italy. Venetian-style buildings overlook the square, with their characteristic column-shaped chimneys: Casa Fulcis (17th century), Palazzo Fulcis (which housed the “Antico Albergo Cappello” of the 18th century), Palazzo Del Zotto (17th century), Casa Francescòn (14th century), Palazzo Karera (Pivetta), built along the ancient feudal walls, which still retain the ancient gateway to the fortified village. The Town Hall (16th century) is adorned with a large columned portico and surmounted by a clock tower. Inside there are frescoes by Giovanni da Mel (1545).
The square is dominated by the eighteenth-century archpriest church, the latter has no bell tower, as this collapsed in a fire in the eighteenth century and was never rebuilt. Not far from the centre stands an interesting archaeological area with an Iron Age necropolis, whose funerary equipment is exhibited in the Palazzo delle Contesse.
THE CHURCHES OF LENTIAI AND BARDIÈS
A stop in Lentiài is mandatory to visit the archpriest church of Santa Maria Assunta, dating back to the 1200s, but completely rebuilt in the second half of the 16th century. Inside the church, there are two works of major importance: the wooden coffered ceiling (1577) with the Stories of Mary painted by Cesare Vecellio, and the polyptych of the Assumption, composed of ten canvases and made (mid-16th century) by Titian’s studio. Precisely, the image of Bishop Titian – bottom left looking at the polyptych – is attributed to Tiziano Vecellio. There are also works by Giovanni da Mel, Cesare Vecellio, Palma Giovane.
Of no lesser beauty is the small fourteenth-century church of Saint Anthony the Great in Bardiès, one of the most interesting and evocative churches in the area, entirely frescoed with the stories of the saint, narrated, in eighteen panels, by Giovanni da Mel and Cesare Vecellio.