Belluno: A city found among the peaks of the Dolomites

After visiting the beautiful Treviso, our journey through the Prosecco DOC territories takes us to Belluno, a city located in the heart of the Valbelluna valley, surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Dolomites, which were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.

We begin our visit from the Old City which is characterized by buildings that blend northern and gothic Venetian architecture. On Piazza del Duomo there are beautiful buildings including the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Palazzo di Giustizia, the old Vescovado, and the Palazzo Rosso as well as a baroque cathedral with its characteristic onion-shaped bell tower and the dome topped by an angel attributed to the famous sculptor Andrea Brustolon. Walking along the ancient Roman roads, you would reach the beautiful baroque Church of San Pietro, which houses works by artists like Andrea Schiavone and Sebastiano Ricci, as well as the two famous wood altar pieces sculpted by Andrea Brustolon, the “Death of Saint Francis” and the “Crucifixion”. Finally the Palazzo Crepadona built in the 16th century is worth a visit which today holds numerous and prestigious art exhibitions.

Much More than the Dolomites

Belluno is a pearl to be discovered; it is a province known above all for its natural beauty and for the outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in the Dolomite mountain range. However, it is much more that that, it also has a historical center which is full of buildings that are worth a visit. Among these building you will find the Auditorium, which was once a fortified palace for bishops and counts, it was erected at the end of the twelfth century by the bishop Gerardo de Taccoli.  Next to it stands Belluno’s civic tower which was erected in 1403.

In the main city square is Palazzo Rosso, the Belluno Town Hall; the current building was built in neo-gothic style by the architect Feltrino Giuseppe Segusini (1801-1876) on the site with some architectural elements of the old town hall, demolished due to the impossibility of restoration.

Not too far away, you will find the Palazzo dei Rettori, which was a prefecture that acted as the seat for almost four hundred years of the Venetian rectors who governed Belluno and its territory. This building was completed in the first half of the 1500s with the clock tower. On the facade, you will find coats of arms and busts of Venetian rectors of the XV-XVII centuries. Inside the building’s many rooms, you will find, despite the radical restoration done following the earthquakes of the last two centuries, many architectural features from the original building’s appearance, in particular the central hall on the second floor with its stunning Sansovina-style ceiling.

Particularly noteworthy is the city’s Cathedral, which is an excellent example of 16th century architectural design. Within the cathedral there are altars which date back to the fourteenth century as well as beautiful frescoes painted by Antonio Ermolao Paoletti. In 1471 a fire completely destroyed the cathedral which was rebuilt in 1517, designed by Tullio Lombardo, and was gradually upgraded throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The baroque bell tower was built in 1732, designed by Filippo Juvarra.

One of the most significant squares in the city is Piazza delle Erbe, also known as Piazza Mercato. Among the buildings that surround the square, there is the Pallazzo Monte di Pietà, built in the 16th century which still maintains many elements from its original design including its original door and frescoes painted throughout the interior.

The church of Santo Stefano di Belluno is of great artistic importance in the city, it was built between 1468 and 1491, inside which is the fifteenth-century chapel Cesa, built in 1485, with the large wooden altarpiece by Matteo Cesa (1425-1495) and a collection of frescoes attributed to Jacopo da Montagnana (1440-1499).

Finally, you shouldn’t miss Palazzo Fulcis, one of Belluno’s most culturally significant museums with its three thousand square meters of exhibition space distributed over five floors and divided into 24 rooms. The collection boasts works by Bartolomeo Montagna, Domenico Tintoretto, Matteo Cesa, Andrea Brustolon, Marco and Sebastiano Ricci, Ippolito Caffi, but also precious porcelain pieces as well as a collection of rare Renaissance bronze statues.

The Dolomites

The Dolomites are a mountain range located throughout the Eastern Alps and are part of the 54 Italian sites recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. The UNESCO recognized area to covers 141, 903 hectares in the regions; Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, and five provinces Trento, Bolzano, Belluno, Pordenone and Udine. Throughout the mountain range you will find exactly eighteen peaks which rise above 3000 meters.

Le Corbusier, one of the most famous architects of the 20th century, has called the Dolomites “the most beautiful architectural work in the world”. The mountain range offers a variety of magnificent views, throughout the region you can find majestic rock walls, glaciers, and caves. The also have cultural significance as it represents the mixing of the Italian culture, the Germanic culture and that of the local Ladin community.

The Dolomites are named after the French geologist Dieudonné Dolomieu who discovered a limestone rock rich in dolomite, present in this mountain range. The dolomite gives the mountains a distinctive white colour (a reason for which their nickname is the “Pale Mountains”), however at dawn and especially at sunset, this rock takes on a color that goes from pink to fiery red: it is the phenomenon called enrosadira.

The province of Belluno offers some of the best views of the Dolomite mountains, as it includes major Dolomite mountain ranges, such as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Pelmo, the Marmolada and the Tofane. The territory is characterized by its pure natural beauty, some places to visit included the Belluno Dolomites National Park and the Natural Park of the Dolomiti d’Ampezzo, which during both the summer and winter offers numerous opportunities to enjoy the mountains with activities including: skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing, hiking and paragliding. On top of that there are over 50 museums, churches, castles and thermal spas to discover throughout the Dolomites.