Sunday, 29 March 2015

Castello di Quero

A little train
My thanks to Le wooden Toy
for permission to use their image.
Una (my folding bicycle) and I took the little train from Feltre down the hill back to the Piave valley.  

I always enjoy travelling on this train.  At the moment the northerly terminus of the line is at Calalzo di Cadore but, as I write this post, there is talk of the line being extended to Auronzo - though this might just be politicians electioneering!

Not all the trains stop at Quero, and I had to alight at Alano and cycle back upriver to find the town. But first I wanted a photo of the little commuter train.

My favourite Italian train speeding away down the line [© P.A.G. 1998]
Lying on your stomach on an Italian railway platform to take such a photo can attract some doubting looks -especially if you are wearing a T shirt purporting to advertise the happiness that the regular consumption of lard can bring...

I had read of a custom house on the river in the Italian texts I had studied before leaving the UK.  But I had little idea where it was, and none of my maps were of help.   So I pedalled up the hill to the town of Quero to find out more.  
Map showing the location of Quero [Available free from the Belluno Tourist Office]
There was no handy passing tractor with a trailer to grab hold of such as I had found on my way up the hill to Feltre the previous day.  There was no option but to stand on the pedals toil my way up the hill.  

I knew full well that Castello di Quero, the place I sought, had to be somewhere on the Piave River itself - so this was in someways an exercise in futility, as every passing minute saw me journeying further away from the riverbank.  
The imposing church at Quero [© P.A.G. 1998]

But Quero is a quaint old town, well worth seeing.

The town has a sad though proud recent history.  

In WWII it was a centre for partisan guerilla  activity, during which 830 out of its 3000 citizens were killed.

The photo to the left shows the huge church.   Una can be seen parked at the bottom centre of the photo.

A few words from a lady passer-by told me the rough location of an inn back down the river where I could get directions to Castello di Quero and also a bite to eat  and a glass of Italian beer - cycling is thirsty work.  I could see by the church clock that midday was approaching.  At the end of the previous day (in Feltre) I had taken the train back to my hotel in Belluno, thence to return by train via Feltre to Alano in the morning.  Breakfast was a distant memory...

Schievenin [Photo courtesy Luigi Boatto]
I am most grateful to Luigi Boatto, who has this month sent me several photos of Quero and nearby villages.  This photo of Schievenin is most poignant as it predates WWII.  As a reprisal for the activities of the Italian partisans in the region, the Nazi forces obliterated the village.   In memory of the event, in 2006 the President of the Republic awarded the Commune di Quero the silver medal for civil valor.

Quero - Panorama [Photo courtesy Luigi Boatto]
The vintage photos above and below show some views of Quero itself.
Piazza Marconi [Photo courtesy Luigi Boatto]
Freewheeling back down the hill to the main road by the river in the fresh midday air was a joy.  As I ate a panino and enjoyed a cool glass of beer I chatted with the landlord about Castello di Quero.  It was, he said, just a short distance down the road.  'Turn right and go through the little tunnel under the railway line, and you're there.'  Then he pointed to a picture on the wall to the right, next to the bar, painted by a local artist.  'That is Castello di Quero,' he said.  
The picture* above is not the same one as in the inn.  The latter one showed a chain stretched across the river.  It was used to provide moorings for the zattere while the customs officers determined the levy on the goods. There is an archway leading through the building.  Luigi's photo below shows the same building from the other side at a later time - the newly-constructed entrance to the railway tunnel is a clue to the period when the photograph was taken.

Castello di Quero  [Photo courtesy Luigi Boatto]

This is a view of the building from the river:
View of Castello di Quero from the river [© P.A.G. 1998]
The stone projection seen is in the right place for the chain depicted in the painting in the inn.  The photo below is of Castello di Quero as it was when I called there in September 1998.
Castello di Quero seen from the south [© P.A.G. 1998] 

This was the view from the other side:

Castello di Quero seen from the north [© P.A.G. 1998] 

Castello di Quero is also known as Castelnuovo, and was built in 1376 as custom house serving the nobility and merchants of Serenissima, the old Venetian RepublicThe building was once linked to another tower on the left bank of the Piave by the chain which regulated the traffic on the river. Over time the use as a customs house began to decline.  It was then used variously as a tavern, a hotel and finally, as an oratory for the Padri Somaschi. In 1998 it was being used as a private dwelling.
The Piave at Castello di Quero - clear and clean [© P.A.G. 1998] 

I found the water of the river there remarkably clean - surprising as there was at that time an effluent discharge on the left bank of the Piave in Belluno, close by the main road bridge. 

My friend Umberto Olivier of Codissago once told me of a saying in the Cadore region, that the river would clean itself 'in three stones'.  

The Piave looking upriver [© P.A.G. 1998] 

To the left of this photograph can be seen the outline of the stonework where the chain was attached.  Upriver are beds of shingle - the Piave here is much more shallow than in times past, due to the drawing off of water for crop irrigation.  However, it should be born in mind that old Italian texts refer to a weir at this point on the river, and if we compare the water level with that revealed in Luigi's photo labelled 'Castelnuovo' this would seem to be the case. Indeed, it is possible to see the line of the weir in the photo.

But by now it was time for me to catch the train back to my hotel in Belluno in order to pack my rucksack.  I would return the next day to Castello di Quero, to set off and cycle the next leg of my journey downriver, and to visit friends at Castelfranco.  But all that is for the April post...

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.  

*This footnote (added 20/04/15) is to acknowledge my gratitude to Padre Maurizio Brioli, General Archivist of the Ordine dei Chierici Regolari Somaschi, the actual owners of the Castelnuovo (Castello di Quero). I am, as is often the case, indebted to my good friend Giancarlo Soravia of Venas di Cadore for making an inquiry on my behalf. In response to our inquiry, Padre Maurizio has clarified the issue of the 'unknown artist'.  The scene depicted is an example of the  beautiful lithography of Marco Moro, who was one of the best of the well-known lithographic artists of the nineteenth century.  Moro was born in Zenson di Piave in 1817.  He died in Venice in 1885.

No comments:

Post a Comment