Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A First Look at Perarolo

It was the afternoon of Saturday the 29th August 1998.  The morning had started by taking the bus to Calalzo station, thence by bicycle to Pieve.  After lunch it was time for Una (my trusty folding bike) and I to head south again, down the Piave.

The route from Calalzo via Pieve to Perarolo
[Tobacco Sheet 16]

Taking the road to Perarolo out of Pieve on that sunny day in Cadore was magical; just freewheeling down the hill, watching the mists drifting through the the mountain peaks.  I reckoned at the time it was worth all the prize money in the UK National Lottery, which had been started four years previously by John Major, a benign politician who did Prime Minister impersonations.

Nowadays the Piave valley to the east of Pieve is flooded by the waters of the Lago di Centro Cadore, part of the complex of dams and connecting tunnels that constitute the hydro-electric power scheme that is everywhere in Cadore.  The place on the valley floor to where Fortin's men lowered the masts for the French navy in the early days of the nineteenth century is now submerged under many metres of water.
Don't try this on a bike - it's a long way down...

There are two ways to enter Perarolo from the north.  By car it is best to take route 51 (marked orange on the map above) over the Cadore Bridge (built in the 1980s).

Leave route 51 before Caralte (a lovely old village well worth a visit) and then follow the road down to the left bank of the Piave, finally entering Perarolo via the two bridges that span the Piave and the Boite.

But for anyone travelling by bike, the old Cavallera road is a much safer option.

The Cavallera (written Cavalera in Cadorino) was built a decade or two after the events described in The Door of Perarolo.  It was built on the orders of Kaiser Franz, an amiable old buffer who collected wax seals and loved gardening.  He had the Cavallera constructed so that he could journey down to Venice with more speed and less discomfort.  The road is the yellow zigzag shown on the map. 

Before the Cavallera was built the coach route into Perarolo was via a road that descended the south flank of Monte di Zucco, high above the left bank of the Boite.  The old route arrived into Perarolo via the San Rocco bridge, which was destroyed in the disastrous floods of 1823.  You can find out much more of these events by reading The Rose of Krumpendorf, the sequel to The Door of Perarolo, currently being prepared for publication in 2015.
The cìdolo at Sacco [Permission Cierre Edizioni]

The Cavallera  arrives into Perarolo via the modern bridge over the Boite.  The last sharp bend on the descent of the Cavallera is above Sacco, the site of the famous cìdolo.  Inside this strange, unique building men called menadàs worked on sorting the logs sent down the Piave.  Each man had an angèr, a long pole with a spike and hook on the 'business end'.

On the right hand side of the road, on the last stage of the descent of the Cavallera, is the little church of San Rocco, visible just to the right of the the telegraph post in centre of this old postcard.  High above the Cavallera rises a lesser peak (767m) of Monte di Zucco (1196m).

San Rocco [© Peter Alexander Gray 2012]
The saint himself  stands in an alcove outside the church.  

This statue of San Rocco was rescued from a much older church (1527) that once stood near the junction of Perarolo's two rivers.  

That church was wrecked by one of the many floods that have occurred in Cadore down the ages.

The scallop shells on San Rocco's shoulders are typical of those worn by pilgrims.  

He was beatified for his work among plague victims, and in his representation here he's pointing to scars on his leg as proof of his own miraculous survival.  

Perarolo is a place most dear to me.  For some years before I headed off to Italy (in 1998) I had researched the culture and history of Cadore,  and had absorbed myself in the rafting tradition associated with Perarolo.  (Please note: I have already posted some material about Perarolo in my post of October 2013 A Glance at Old Perarolo.)

That afternoon in 1998, the building that caught my attention immediately was the St NicolÒ church (to the right in the photo below) with the campanile standing to one side.  

San NicolÒ church and campanile [© Peter Alexander Gray 1998]
The church seemed to be of wooden construction (unlike the other buildings in Perarolo) as though it was being prepared as part of a set for a Hitchcock movie.  I thought it very strange.  I took two photos of the church on that visit.  The one above is from the north, upriver that is, from the place I stood to take the photo reproduced below.

Another view of the San NicolÒ church at Perarolo [© Peter Alexander Gray 1998]
When I went inside the church my opinion changed completely.  A really nice man looking after the church let me take a picture of the altar, illuminated by the light through the beautiful stained glass.

Inside San NicolÒ church [© Peter Alexander Gray 1998]

To understand this very unusual church at Perarolo it is necessary to know something of the history of Perarolo throughout the last three centuries.  I'll explain more in the next post, which is also about Perarolo...

Note: This blog supports readers of The Door of Perarolo, a historical novel set in Cadore, Italy in the early nineteenth century.  You may examine feedback from readers in the UK here and in the US here.  The Door of Perarolo is a Kindle ebook comprising 140 chapters.  It can be downloaded from Amazon sites worldwide.  The launch post of this blog gives further details.  The second post provides links to maps, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment