I can’t seem to step out my door lately without being led to something new. Which is awesome!
First, what could have been a very average night at a kids Rotary event on Saturday (I really just needed to get out of the house) turned into a night of spritzes, trivial pursuit and an invitation to a prosecco festival the next day with some of the English teachers who work for the school I helped out this term.
After a spectacularly lazy Sunday (picture: in pajamas, sprawled on the couch in the spot just where the sun hits it and kids playing Lego around and on top of me) I trundled off to meet the others for a drive up in to the hills. Santo Stefano is where we were. In the heart of Italy’s prosecco region the winery we stopped at perched on the side of a hill and had views down into the surrounding valleys (lined of course with vines) that slid into the plains that characterise most of the Veneto region.
Whilst making our way through several bottles of the good stuff as well as making sure to line our stomachs with some really delicious cheese and cured meats I was asked what I had left to do in the region before I flew away. I told them I wasn’t sure but was open to suggestions.
Cittadella came up, as did Feltre and mentally I put them in to my diary for the week.
Yesterday I visited Cittadella. I did absolutely no research on it, just put the address into my phone and away I went. It is about 45 minutes south of where I am and when I got there I was surprised to see an amazing walled city rising out of what is a flat and kind of industrial area. I parked just outside the walls and happened to choose the biggest and most impressive gate to enter via. It had 5 different porticos and when it was used for defending the city it would have had 5 different gates. The first thing I bumped in to was the tourist office which led me straight up the walls where you are able to walk around the entire city! There is one section where the wall has been destroyed but an interesting, almost artistic, modern bridge has been built to allow you to continue the full circuit. It was a beautiful walk giving a great birds eye view of the city. I looked into many well tamed back gardens as well as the cities public arena and if it were a bit clearer of a day the backdrop of the dolomites behind the Duomo and walls would have been breathtaking. As it was that scene was just hinted at. The city itself was full of teenagers finishing school when I came down from the walls and the streets were filled with laughing, bike bells and yelling. I grabbed a coffee at a cafe recommended to me by the girls at the tourist information and it was alive as well with business men, families and what seemed like a celebration of some sort on one large table.
Now I am in Feltre. Again a 45 minute drive away, this time North of where I live and the total opposite of Cittadella. The drive here was hard. Hard because the scenery was so beautiful that I had to work to keep my eyes on the road. I was following the path of the river Piave whose crystal clear waters show up in beautiful greens and blues against the white stones of its riverbed. The mountains rose up in jagged rocky cliffs on either side and perched amongst the dark trees were houses looking as though they were birds merely resting for a minute before taking flight from their precarious positions.
Feltre is in a wide valley amongst the mountains and I followed signs to the historic center. In opposition to Cittadella I entered inside the walls which merged in to the side of the hill where the main square (or Piazza Maggiore) is located. It was deadly quite as soon as I got inside the walls.
There were 2 other tourists around but they didn’t stay long and I saw just a few people going about their business the whole time I was inside.
The square was beautiful but modest. What struck me was how run down it was. Town squares are supposed to be the heart and hub of the city and this one was looking under loved. Grass and daisies poked up between paving stones, the fountain wasn’t running and the whole area just looked a little abandoned. Maybe I was there at the wrong time. Who knows.
I walked up behind the square and found what I thought might be the answer to why it looked so abandoned. Behind the hill of the original and ancient Feltre (where I hadn’t been able to see before) was modern day Feltre. It spreads out and oozes over the floor of the valley and from the noise of it, it was busy.
Sirens, cars, kids, I could hear it all going on. There were multi-story buildings that only looked a few years old, an ice skating rink, a baseball park. In short, Feltre has moved on past its history. It no longer fits in to this tiny walled town and it probably has great hang out places down in the new town that have left Piazza Maggiore for dead.
A shame but understandable.
I walked down and passed through a different part of the walls to exit and the change was instant. I am still in an old enough part of town, the streets are cobbled if that is any indication, but the bustle is back and I feel more like I am in an alive town instead of a ghost one.
On the drive home I took a small detour and went full circle back to the area around Santo Stefano where I had been the previous Sunday. Calm lines of vines ran at 90 degree angles from the road making you feel like the center of a sun of green rays. Sometimes my greatest joy comes from just driving though settings like this. Adventure is on the road.