Belluno is a town we planned to visit on our way to Bassano Del Grappa (the home of Grappa) for a look around and the perfect lunch stop. Once there and having missed the turning for the car park followed by a long round trip to get back there we set off to spend a couple of hours exploring the old part of town. The camper aire is in a large car park at the foot of the town below the Cathedral with what felt like the world’s longest and steepest triple level escalator up to the town, which seemed to go on forever. That is not a complaint of course as the other option would be climbing steps!
Like many old towns it sits atop a hill with some or occasionally all of the original wall intact and Belluno is no different, likewise the streets are often narrow and cobbled opening onto wide Piazzas which is always a delight as it is in Belluno. A pretty town with plenty of cafes from which to watch the world go by, Belluno is the capital of Belluno province sitting at the confluence of the rivers Ardo and Piave between the Dolomites to the north and sweeping plains towards Bassono Del Grappa and Vicenza to the south giving it the perfect balance of views and vistas.
Of the town itself the Piazza de Duomo is a smaller but attractive square with the cathedral and the Palazzo Fulcis (home to the museo Civico) as well as the Municipo building all very pretty, walking on through the smaller Piazza Castello you come across Piazza dei Mariti which is without doubt the nicest and worth a visit just to sit in one of the cafes in it’s colonnaded streets and cool shady tree lined green areas. Another feature not to be missed is the Porta Dojona with it’s ancient wooden doors still in place, the town is also home to some old medieval fountains in one instance going back the the 15th century.
The old town is small and pretty and is certainly worth a couple of hours to walk around have some lunch or a coffee and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. For motorhomes the Aire is a good option being free at night and reasonably priced for daytime parking making a nice easy respite with the opportunity of a relaxing night in town.
Our journey onwards later took us through Padua to Cittadella, an intriguing town completely concealed by an elliptical town wall. The restored medieval wall is roughly 2km in length and it is possible to walk its entire perimeter along the parapet walkway , enabling you to admire the whole old town from it’s 15m height giving views both into the town and out into the countryside. At a thickness of over 2m this robust structure was an effective means of defence for the small town nestled protectively inside.
The wall has 4 imposing gates, equally spaced apart at roughly the points of the compass, along with keeps, towers and turrets. Enclosed entirely by a spring water fed moat, with beautifully maintained grassy banks Citadella is a captivating place. It is possible to hire a small boat for a lazy meander around the moat which would probably be an enjoyable to while away an hour. The original wooden drawbridges have since been replaced with substantial stone bridges allowing vehicle and pedestrian access to the town hidden within.
We arrived at the Vicenza Gate, the Western entrance, decorated with a frescoe of the crucifixion, soon locating the Captain’s House (Casa del Capitano) where the Captain of the Guards once resided. The building now displays historical and re-enactment costumes, weapons, armoury and scenes of typical life in the middle ages and is the starting point of the walk. A medieval re-enactment is organised at the end of September every year but unfortunately we were a few weeks too early for that. It seems mass tourism has yet to reach Citadella, as we were virtually alone walking the parapet, once occupied by a garrison of 20 soldiers and 2 commanders, and were able to appreciate a virtually private visit, stopping leisurely to take pleasure in the views both inside the walls and out.
Descending afterwards into the town, it didn’t take long to explore, being small and compact with the most interest being the impressive Duomo facing the Piazza L. Pierobon and the Piazza G. Scalco with it’s little bars and social cafes where locals stand at the counter for their daily espresso. The town has a smattering of shops and was preparing for an event later in the day, preparing food and barbecuing huge trays of meat giving off delicious aromas and sending us on our way with a happy memory of this uniquely preserved town.