The city of Feltre has about 20,000 inhabitants and is located in the heart of the Dolomites National Park: it is surrounded by the Vette Feltrine mountains northward and by the massive Mount Tomatico southward. Feltre is located in a wide valley few kilometers far from the Piave river. This area is only 300 meters above sea level, but it’s surrounded by a characteristic mountain landscape and placed in a strategic position to explore the magnificent Dolomites. So why don’t you plan to visit Feltre?
An alternative destination.
The premises are excellent, I would say. Nevertheless, Feltre is not crowded by tourists and it’s pretty rare to meet foreign travelers along its streets. It’s quite hard for me to find an explanation, but this is also a great news for the attentive and curious traveler! It means that today it’s still possible to find places off the beaten tracks and have authentic local experiences.
The present post-pandemic era basically offers us a great opportunity: discovering our territory with new eyes. For this reason, today I will tell you about Feltre, a small town where I lived. A place that deserves to be better known by travelers like me.
I introduce you to Feltre starting from the visit of fortified historic center: it stands on a hill named Colle delle Capre (Hill of Goats) and is visible from afar. In spite of its name, the aggregate of sixteenth-century buildings that crowns the hill is harmonious and elegant, a kind of refined and austere elegance at once.
Two ancient doors are the main entrances to the historic center of Feltre: Porta Imperiale (south-western door) and Port’Oria (eastern door).
A main street connects them and runs all along the hill: it is named via Mezzaterra (western part) and via Luzzo (eastern part). Regardless of the door you choose to enter, prepare yourself to climb.
When you’re on the top of the ascent, look around and take your time to enjoy the magnificent scenery of Piazza Maggiore. If you reach the center of the square, you will feel like on the stage of a great theatre.
Piazza Maggiore is a quiet place for most part of the year. You can take your photos with almost nobody around and admire the church of San Rocco and the magnificent Lombard fountain at its foot. Then continue up to the Castle of Alboino that characterize the skyline of the city with its two severe towers.
Walking around the church of San Rocco you will suddenly find yourself in a wood. We are on the edge of the Bosco Drio le Rive that covers the northern slope of the Hill of Goats. This steep wood was a natural defense in past times. In October 2018 it was damaged by the strong Vaia storm that devastated wide areas of the Dolomites.
Narrow streets and stone stairs branch off among the noble palaces and the ancient houses in Feltre old town. Some of them bring to small hidden corners, such as Salita Villabruna (near Port’Oria) that leads to the remote Church of the Holy Trinity.
Excuse me, which way to Paradise st.?
Walking on the western side of the Hill of Goats, the elegant Via Paradiso runs parallel to via Mezzaterra (please don’t miss it!) and hosts two of the city’s museums. Be curious and follow the stone stairs uphill: you will reach Salita Giovanni da Vidor, with a sequence of private houses that borders the Bosco Drio Le Rive. Here and there between the fencing walls you will find beautiful views of the plain below and the Vette Feltrine.
Feltre old town seems the ideal place to play hide-and-seek or to organize a treasure hunt (will it give you the same impression?). The ancient houses, the peace and silence that reign around the streets make it a place that seems to stay out of time.
Beyond the walls and up the stairs
When you’ll come down the Hill of Goats, take a walk along the southern massive walls. They were built about 500 years ago and are perfectly preserved. Along the walls you will see stone stairways that climb towards the historic center.
The ladders (scalette) are one of the most beautiful features of Feltre old town. Several of them are hidden among the buildings. They are used as shortcuts by people living in the historic center, and by citizens who reach the municipal offices in Piazza Maggiore (today also a comfortable lift is available for this purpose). They’re also frequented by teenagers who meet their friends and sweethearts in these secluded and romantic corners. My favorite stairway? With no doubt, the covered one that goes down from the municipal offices to a breach in the walls named Porta Pusterla.
Not just a Cathedral
If you arrive at this point cross the street and climb down the wide staircase in front of you. You will find on the right one of the most beautiful glimpses in the city center: the Baptistry of the Cathedral with its porch characterized by light architectural lines.
Then walk around the apse of the cathedral and pass through the covered passage: you will come out in the square in front of the Cathedral of San Pietro (16th Century). I invite you to go in and visit it and when you’re done, I ask you for one last little effort.
Under the churchyard of the cathedral an important archaeological area of a thousand square meters has been found. The remains of an urban district from the Roman times have been brought to light. You will notice a small building which is the entrance to the site. The opening hours are limited, so I’d recommend you to check in advance the accessibility.
4 jewels to visit in the historic center
Sometimes we underestimate the importance of the small museums of our cities, yet they often hold important treasures and satisfy even the most demanding visitor. For this reason, I would like to briefly mention four places to visit inside the walls of Feltre old town:
- The Civic Museum is located in via Luzzo, a few steps from Piazza Maggiore, in the sixteenth-century walls of Palazzo Villabruna. It has opened again its doors after the lockdown.
- The Carlo Rizzarda Gallery of Modern Art is located in via Paradiso at Palazzo Bovio-Villabruna Cumano. Founded by the will of the wrought iron artist Carlo Rizzarda, and thanks to his rich heritage, it is one of the most interesting places to visit in Feltre. It is now open.
- Teatro de la Sena: a precious jewel hidden in Piazza Maggiore is this small theater designed by the same builders and artisans of the Teatro La Fenice of Venice. It has been inexplicably closed for decades, then in recent years restored. Today closed again for extension works, the reopening is scheduled for 2021. Keep in mind: this will be a good reason to come again to Feltre!
- The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art is based in via Paradiso, in the palace of the ancient Bishopric. Even if you are not interested in the sacred art, the palace itself worth the visit for its grandeur and its frescoed rooms.
If you’ve followed me all the way here, you’ll make me happy! Now you deserve some relaxation, perhaps enjoying a table outdoor in one of the many small cafes of the city center. Why not making plans for the rest of the day while drinking a glass of wine or an aperitif? We’re Venetian after all, it’s strictly forbidden to have a dry throat!
Peanuts for travellers
- If you reach Feltre by car you will easily find a parking place, then you’ll visit the center on foot.
- The railway station is a few minute walk from the city center and is served by the Padova-Belluno line (with connections to Treviso and Venice along the route). Next to the train station you will also find the coach and bus station.
- You will find here a map of Feltre with the main points of interest.
- On Tuesday and Friday, the characteristic weekly market take place along the walls of the old town. Tuesday’s market is bigger, and many people comes from the neighborhood. Markets have been now restored in compliance with safety rules and social distancing.
- Check the opening hours of the Museums in the links you find in the article, and for any doubt do not hesitate to contact them by phone or email.
- For general information before your visit check this website.
- If you plan to visit Feltre, there are many other interesting things to see around. Keep an eye on our site to check for future articles, and do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions!
- If you are a lover of the Dolomites, you may be interested in reading Gloria Sonda’s articles about her excursions to the Vallon Popera and along the Bonacossa trail.