Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Ten days in the Veneto (without Venice)

February - March 2017


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Belluno in the mountains

We're based in Treviso for the week and today, 3 March, we're off to see the countryside to the north. We've settled on Belluno, an historic little city of 36,000 nestled in the Dolomiti foothills, and along the way we've just blown by Conegliano and Vittore Veneto, which we learned later were big mistakes.

But anyway, here we are in Belluno.

Up into the town in its clifftop aerie. The earliest town here was evidently a mixture of Celtic and Veneti populations (the name derives from Celtic words for 'very nice hill'), but when the Romans showed up the locals wisely helped out in resisting the Gallic and Carthaginian invasions of the 3rd century BC.

Nice cathedral, but we're looking for a parking place. The Roman Republic, by the 2nd century BC, had incorporated the town into its forward planning as a military bulwark against hostiles coming out of the mountains onto the Venetian plain and as a commercial centre trading in copper, iron, and later lumber, shipped down the Piave river which runs by just below the cliffs.

Well parked in the huge park of the Piazza of the Martyrs, we set off for the Duomo again, through a passageway with something cleverly set up to prevent cars coming through.

With the Duomo just ahead, across the square, we're distracted by the salmon-colored municipal building.

The municipal administration building, the Palazzo Rosso, perched on the clifftop at it turns out. After the usual continuous conflicts with and rule by Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards, Carolingian Franks, the bellicose count-bishops, Treviso, the 13th century Ezzelini, the Scaligeri of Verona, the Da Carrara of Padua, the Visconti of Milan, to name just a few, in 1404 the city fathers voluntarily turned the city over to the Republic of Venice and thereafter -- except for a near-leveling of the city in the War of the League of Cambrai in the early 16th century -- Belluno was under Venetian protection until the 'international community' gave the area to the Austrians in the 19th century. Then it joined the new Kingdom of Italy in 1866. In a nutshell.

The Duomo di Belluno (aka the Basilica cattedrale di San Martino) replaced a first one from 584, according to the plaque on the wall, and another from about 850 which burnt in a fire in 1471. The present structure was designed by Tullio Lombardo, the well-known Venetian sculptor and architect, and built between 1517 and 1624. The Baroque belltower dates from 1732 and is said to have been designed by Juvarra, who created so much of Torino and Madrid.

The nave and two aisles

There are a number of baroque-era paintings, presumably by local artists, and one that is claimed for Jacopo Bassano that we didn't find.

The high altar and choir

That appears to be reliquary with some holy person's body parts in it, but in fact it's just got one of the thorns (spina) from Christ's legendary Crown, which in 1466 the local bishop got off a cardinal who'd rescued it from the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453.

Back out onto the Piazza del Duomo

This, across the piazza, is the Palazzo dei Rettori, or Palace of the Rectors, presently the prefecture, the seat of provincial administration; it was begun in 1491 but with interruptions caused by the War of the League of Cambrai only completed in 1536, serving as the seat of Venetian government in Belluno thereafter. The clock tower was added in the 1540s.

We've just passed through the Dante Gate and popped out into the huge Piazza dei Martiri . . .

The northern side of the Piazza dei Martiri -- this area was a hotbed of military and resistance heroes in the First and Second World Wars, so there's no lack of martyrs for dedicating parks to.

At the eastern end of the Martyrs' Square, we're led on to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuel II, in search of a pharmacy, I'm told, for routine stocking up. The Dolomites loom overhead.

We're in the adjacent Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II waiting for the Civic Museum to reopen, but in the meantime, next to the museum is the pharmacy, with a familar face plastered onto it.

Garibaldi's everywhere, and with good reason.

Strolling along the Via Carrera near the Piazza Santo Stefano

Here's the Church of Santo Stefano, begun by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary (or Servites) in 1468, completed in 1485, in what was then a village of the same name outside the Belluno city walls.

The façade of Santo Stefano

The interesting nave and aisles

A lot of very good frescoes by local artists and at least one by Jacopo da Montagnana, a pupil of Mantegna

The cloisters of the convent adjacent to the church were built in 1462 but suppressed by the French in 1806, and presently house the tax authorities.

Back to the Piazza dei Martiri for reorienting, and having a coffee

Which reminds us, it's nearly lunchtime.

The Santo Stefano belltower

Scenic views from the Piazza Piloni parking lot

The Chiesa di San Rocco in the Piazza dei Martiri, commissioned in 1530 in thanks for deliverance from the plague, and completed in 1562

One of the two anonymous 16th century frescoes on the façade under the portico. Rocco, or St Roch, experienced a burst of veneration in the late 15th and 16th century for his association with plague-healing and is always shown pointing to buboes on his leg ('See? I've got one, too, and I'm feeling fine.'). He's nearly always shown paired with Sebastian, him of the arrows.

A single nave with barrel vaults, pleasing enough

We've both been reading recently about World War One along the river Piave (in my case, Mark Thompson, The white war, 2008, in Kristin's case Andrea Molesini, Not all bastards are from Vienna, 2016) and we've got to go visit right now.

The Piave below us -- Belluno's old town lives on a point of about 60m above the confluence of the Piave and, on the other side of town, the little Torrente Ardo, which today in fact seems to be dry.

The mighty Piave proceeding westward here, but generally southward out of the mountains of the north to the Adriatic east of the Venice Lagoon


The river Piave

Unwilling to let it go, here is a view of the mighty Piave from the summit of Mont Grappa, where two months later we visited the Italian WWI underground fortress and very sad war memorial (the Sacrario del Monte Grappa) to the many thousands of young men who died up here for apparently no sensible reason at all. (No webpages on that are ready yet.)

We're continuing down the stairway towards the river, past the apse of the Duomo. Tullio Lombardo's reconstruction in the 16th century reversed the orientation of the cathedral and placed the apse out here where the façade had been, and then in an earthquake in 1873 that apse fell off. So this is a new one.

The Juvarra campanile

Plodding downhill

The Very Looming Apse

More of Belluno atop the cliffs, and the ample carpark along the riverside

Oh, thank God. Back up we go.

Emerging from the escalator in a more modern part of the Municipal building, next to the Palazzo Rosso, we're back to the Piazza Duomo, with the old Bishop's Palace straight ahead and the civic tower, once one of three . . .

. . . and its bold fountain, the La Fontana di San Gioata, built in 1411, "named in honor of St. John the Baptist". Really.

John the Baptist. So they say.

Street scene on the Via Duomo -- the former Civic Museum in the old Palazzo dei Giuristi or Palace of the Jurists, built in 1664 (now evidently just for the archaeology).

We've come south along the promontory between the two rivers, a neighborhood full of 15th to 17th century family palaces.

The Palazzo Nossadani, built by one of the four ruling families of the medieval city; when the family was exiled by the Venetians in 1420, it became the home of the Captain of the Porta Rugo, the medieval southern city gate.

The Porta Rugo, from the late 13th century, leading up from the suburban Borgo Piave on the river.

Views from the southern end of the promontory

The view to the north, over the dry Torrente Ardo

Back to the Porta Rugo. The adjacent fortifications in their present form date from the early 19th century.

The Palazzo Nossadini from the Porta Rugo -- the top floor was added in the early 20th century.

The former Chiesa di S. Maria dei Battuti, built in the early 14th century, completed in 1444, for the Confraternity of Flagellants (oh good grief! The name seems to mean Mary of the Beaten People). It was famously stuffed full of notable art, but the French took it all off with them when Napoleon closed the churches down in 1806.

The venerable fountain in front of the Flagellants Church

And another

Wandering in the neighborhoods

The Piazza Mercato (aka the Piazza delle Erbe), the medieval market square, is said to be the site of the oldest human settlement in the city. The fountain, with its statue of St Lucas, dates from 1409. The palace on the left, which was completed in 1531, originally housed the Monte di Pietà, the medieval charitable financial institution.

Still in the Piazza Mercato, this is apparently the 15th or 16th century 'Casa Miari', named for a family important in the region since the 12th century.

A fresco in a niche under the porch

The Palazzo Minerva, built in the late 18th century to house the already-existing Anistamici Academy, a kind of mini-university that was later funded by the Venetians specifically to focus on agricultural management. The city's information page says that it has been 'virtually abandoned' since the 1960s.

Continuing a little farther along the Via Rialto, this is the back (inside) of the Porta Dojona (named for a 17th century bishop), one of the three extant gates through the oldest city walls, in early times with a drawbridge and a moat just outside it that was filled in in 1830. The gate was built in 1289 and was part of the Count-Bishops' defensive fortifications of the 'Motta Castle', now long gone.

The exterior of the Porta Dojana, looking out onto the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II adjacent to the Municipal Theatre on the right, was added in 1553 and isn't very pleasant to look at.

Hard working staff have had their long lunch and we're finally into the Museo Civico. Very friendly staff they are, too, but not at all keen even on No-Flash photography.

So we've only got this one, more or less the piéce de resistance. There are a lot of interesting frescoes from old churches in the area, but probably the most notable things to see are six pictures by Venice's Sebastiano Ricci, and especially this one, the Fall of Phaeton (ca. 1704).

We're again on the Piazza dei Martiri, trying to remember where we've left the car

A collection of war memorial sculptures from a region of Italy that has a lot to memorialize from the 20th century


Back in Treviso

We've been moved by our kind hosts to a larger, corner room overlooking the Porta San Tomaso.

An excellent room, in fact

Just below us, the pedestrian gate, the Porta San Tomaso, and across the street the TVBurger, which we patronized frequently, for good reason. And just below the window is the Trattoria San Tomaso, also good and more traditional.

Checking up on the unsettling but very humorous news from the new presidential administration of You-Know-Who, and then off to dinner.

Next up: Treviso in the rain


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 18 June 2017.


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