Three days Val Belluna...

Discovering the territory, the culture and the good food while riding a bike. 

Words & Photography by Miriam | Styling by Beatrice

6 July 2021

Valbelluna is a place rich in history and culture, but not only that. Surrounded by the enchanting panorama of the Belluno Dolomites and dotted with villages and castles, you can discover cycle routes, immersed in the silence of nature, that run alongside rivers and woods; ideal tracks to get lost in beauty and re-evaluate your sense of time. This is what we wrote down in our notebooks during our three-day educational trip with journalists and bloggers who immediately shared their common passion for sport, landscape and good food. 

Welcome first and foremost.

Arriving in Feltre in the late afternoon, we are immediately immersed in the fairytale atmosphere of the old town, which embraces the visitors with its squares and palaces. Feltre is a town full of surprises: the guide takes us through the excavations of the archaeological area and then to admire the wrought-iron masterpieces of the Rizzarda Museum, the collection of sacred works and artefacts of the Archbishop’s Palace Museum and tells us the story of Venus, hidden in an ancient living room with one foot sticking out of the water, following Leonardo’s rules of proportion. All of this shows how this small village, apparently lost in the mountains, has been in constant contact with historical, artistic and cultural changes and evolutions. The day can’t but end with a fresh beer at the Pedavena brewery, a place of production excellence, founded in 1897.

Day 1. The stories of the martyrs and the bicycle. 

After a few kilometres in the shade of the Feltre woods, Don Sergio welcomes us between the historic walls of the Abbey of the Sanctuary of Vittore and Corona – originally a castle – from which we enjoy a truly suggestive view of the city and its surroundings. Here, in the small, cool cloister, he tells us the stories of the martyrs and the body of Saint Victor, kept in the chapel where Giotto-influenced frescoes smoothly blend with Arabic architectural details. After leaving this haven of peace and silence, the journey continues across the most picturesque villages and is crowned with a lunch immersed in the countryside. At the Cascina Dolomiti holiday farm we sample local produce – platters of cold meats and cheeses, the typical polenta with pastin and a delicious focaccia with herbs – for a regenerating break surrounded by meadows and mountains. The day ends at the Bicycle Museum in Cesiomaggiore, which traces the history of the two-wheeler through a passionate collection by Sergio Sanvido. From the French ‘celerifero’ of 1791 to the European bicycles of the 19th century, featuring bicycles used for work and the legendary bicycles of champions. In just a few square metres, you can take a real plunge into the past. Fans of vintage culture will enjoy a wealth of memorabilia such as accessories, photos and jerseys. Dinner? A typically local one, of course. At the legendary Osteria del Conte you can relish the flavours of Belluno cuisine and breathe in the charm of old farmhouses, country estates with bunches of ears of corn hanging from the barns, watched over by the summer moon. 

Day 2. From the Middle Ages to the 18th century.

The day begins with a coffee in the square of Lentiai, right next to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, and then heads off in the direction of Zumelle Castle, one of the few medieval structures in Italy to have preserved fully its structures, artefacts and even gastronomic recipes. Within these walls you will find ancient crafts, powders for colours, inkwells for transcriptions, candles and machines for making sheets of paper. A real dive into the past, with the possibility of staying overnight in the rooms of the castle and dining with the flavours of the past inside the suggestive tower.  

We set off again in the direction of Mel – listed as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages – for a short visit, before sitting down for lunch under a centuries-old lime tree on the splendid Casteldardo estate. Accompanied by the breeze, the scent of cut grass and roses and the cheerfulness of Yuki the dog, we eat a selection of delicacies prepared especially for us in an open kitchen. Risotto with bruscandoli – a local wild herb – and large ravioli filled with Castelmagno cheese are still cooking in the pots as we arrive. Even the beer is special: it is in fact a product derived from the recovery of resins from trees felled by the Vaia storm that tragically struck the Belluno Dolomites in October 2018. 

No one wants to leave this enchanted place, where farming tools, hanging on the stone walls, tell stories and depict beauty everywhere. But Belluno is waiting for us and, under a sudden thunderstorm, we visit the town and discover its panoramic views, the enchanting Piazza delle Erbe, and the Palazzo Fulcis Museum with its Rococo stucco decorations and works of art full of allegories that guided the life of the young Pietro Fulcis at the dawn of the 18th century. We then stay in Belluno for a fish dinner that gives us a full sense of the city’s hospitality.

Day. 3 View of the Dolomites. 

At this time of the morning, Lake Santa Croce is still quiet, with the pedalos abandoned on the beach, barely touched by the transparent water. The real destination of the day is Nevegal, in fact the goal is to climb up to the Balcony of the Dolomites, wherefrom a breathtaking view will amaze us. The batteries of the e-bikes are charged, as is the whole group. The wind makes the sky blue and piles up clouds as white as whipped cream that are reflected in the mirror of the lake, which now resembles a turquoise body of water set between the mountains. Here, where the road climbs like a mule track, all the mountain flowers and herbs grow, and the air has the purity of the altitude that is always mixed with the effort of reaching the summit. Up at the refuge, a classic alpine hut aperitif awaits us, simple and with genuine flavours: the right reward for having arrived so high. Lunch with a view over the meadows of Pian Longhi, just below Nevegal, is the last moment of sharing during which we can exchange the emotions of these days. Our short but intense journey of discovery through Valbelluna comes to an end as we all sit at the table together in front of a glass of wine with the early afternoon sun illuminating the mountain slopes.  Once again, the enchantment offset the effort by far.