Sunday, 28 December 2014

Belluno to Feltre

About hotels... In the last post I described the journey from Codissago to Belluno.  In the early twentieth century the only hotel in the area of Codissago was the Albergo alla Posta at Longarone.

The inn at Longarone 

This was the same inn from where Padrig Droug ran the garrison while the French army occupied the region and where Lucia worked.  In 1810 the proprietor was not Bortolo de Zan.  This advertisement is from Alexander Robertson's Through the Dolomites from Venice to Toblach published in 1896.

Two of the places where travellers could stay in 1896
Albergo Cappello e Cadore in the early 1900s
The Hotel and Pension Cappello is now the Albergo Cappello e Cadore - if you follow this link you can view photographs dating from the end of the nineteenth century onwards, such as this one of the entrance to the hotel, which looks much the same today - thought the cars that come and go are much less interesting!

Before leaving Belluno I went to explore the region of the town where the zattieri used to live - Borgo Piave. Borgo Piave is close by the river at the junction of the Piave with the Ardo.  Marked on the map is the Via Uniera dei Zatèr (zatèr is the Bellunese word for the zattieri), and the Via San Nicolò  (the patron saint  of the zattieri).

Central Belluno showing Borgo Piave ['La Mia Guida Turistica' - Provincia Belluno/Dolomiti Turismo]

One of the old houses in Borgo Piave [ ©Peter Alexander Gray 1998]

In 1998 some of the old buildings where the zattieri of  Belluno used to live had still survived redevelopment of the area.  Above the door of this house could be seen a fresco of a bird perched on the branch of a tree.  I'm told that it was common to put something like this above the doorway of each house to identify the folk living there.  The zattieri were poor people with little or no education, and lacked reading and writing skills.  The modern sign '2A' would have been meaningless to them.

I have already included a post about Belluno in this blog entitled The Beautiful One.  If you visit Belluno a trip to the Tourist Office close by the duomo is a must. They can provide you with lots of helpful free things: maps, leaflets and this wonderful guide CD (left) which is in both Italian and English.

It was time for Una (my bicycle) and I to set off for Feltre.  On our way out of Belluno, heading south along the right bank of the Piave, I stopped at a greengrocer's to buy some fruit.  I also asked for, and was given (with some puzzled looks), one of those little wooden boxes in which tomatoes were sold at that time.   This was to support my soft cool bag better on Una's rear carrier.  It was a perfect fit.

We stopped at a garage to beg some air for Una's rear tyre, as she was not only bearing my weight, but also  the weight of the cool bag (holding spare films, water and food for the journey) and the rucksack on my back; the rear tyre was looking very flat.  

The guy at the garage was great.  He put in what he considered the maximum safe amount of air, refused any payment, and when I went to shake hands he offered me the back of his hand rather than the palm, which was black with oil.  A real gentleman!

Belluno - Sedico - Santa Giustina - Feltre [Alte Vie delle Dolomiti - Tourist Information Belluno]

It was a chilly morning when I set off from Belluno but by the time I reached Sedico the day was hotting up.

I was cycling in light trousers with a pair of cycle clips (borrowed from a friend before leaving Scotland!) around the ankles. Who says only the Italians can do fashion?  

A well-dressed British cyclist [The Online Bicycle Museum]

Next month's blog post will feature readers' letters.  Please do send your questions or suggestions about anything at all in this blog.  Here is one further subject you might wish to ponder: 

Roger, the man in the photo above has a problem. His focus is on working out how to free his left foot without falling over and impaling himself on the railings.  The heel of Roger's shoe is jammed in the spokes of the rear wheel while the toe of the shoe is stuck under the parapet of the wall.  Will Roger be free in one bound? Please send suggestions for the New Year Postbag!  

At Sedico I changed into shorts, then cycled on down the busy main road to Santa Giustina to discover there a fine church with an elegant campanile to its right.  Its interior was every bit as impressive as the front elevation.  I took the photo [right] against the reflected glare of the midday sun, as I pressed my back into the hedge of the house opposite - the street is narrow! 

Inside the Chiesa di Santa Giustina [ ©Peter Alexander Gray 1998]
Then I was heading down the road once more to find somewhere to stop for lunch.  

Near Busche I found an inn and sat outside in the shade to share conversation with the innkeeper and my bread and cheese with her dog.  Refreshed by a couple of glasses of Italian ale, it was time to hit the road again.

Leading off from the main road is a small lane, the Via del Piave.  I found that the road took me down to the lake there, the Lago di Busche.  
Lago di Busche [ ©Peter Alexander Gray 1998]
You can find some wonderful photos of the amazing wildlife in the are of the lake here.  Seated at the lakeside I found an old man with a weather-beaten face, he was sporting a big white moustache and holding a fishing road - the picture of contentment.  

But when I mentioned the zattieri his face saddened.  If you look at the aerial photograph of the river here you can see that the Piave has been drained of much of the water by the dams that provide drinking water to the towns and water to agriculture for the irrigation of crops. But when it rains, the river, fed by its many tributaries, can still flood.  

The old man told me that in the making of the RAI TV programme covering the rafting of the Piave by the men piloting the three zattere [shown in the post Zattere], a controlled amount of water was released from the dam at Pieve by the national electricity generating authorities.  Despite all care being taken, two men were lost overboard and subsequently drowned.  Down the centuries the zattieri of Codissago were fine brave people; it was not a profession in which you were expected to reach old age...

But Feltre was calling Una and me up the hill.  And... what a hill!  I was tired by now, and a couple of beers at lunchtime had made me a little reckless!  As I toiled away on the pedals I was overtaken by a tractor pulling a trailer and without a second thought I pedalled furiously and caught hold of the tailboard with one hand.  

The event didn't go unnoticed by the tractor driver who, after turning to give me a hard look, proceeded to go up through the gears at an alarming rate.  Behind me Italian cars were queuing up, hoping for an ear or two as souvenirs.  Faster and faster we went... 

Fortunately, just before we reached Feltre, the tractor slowed to take a side turn and I was able to release my grip on the tailboard and go my  independent way.  My Italian isn't bad, yet I couldn't quite make out what the drivers of the cars were shouting at me as they went past...  

But I didn't care.  I suspect that to this day I hold the world speed record for the ascent of the hill up to Feltre by bicycle!

S E S O N ' S G R E T N G S !

Note: This blog supports readers of The Door of Perarolo, a historical novel set in Cadore, Italy in the early nineteenth century.  You can 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..

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