A few days in the mountains – Part 5

28 Aug

The last day we were tired of ups and down, so we decided to discover the area near our hotel. First stop was the Castle of Andraz.

The fortification, castled on a rocky spur to the border between the Patriarchy of Aquileia and the Diocese of Bressanone, dominated the roads that leaded to the Falzarego, particularly those from south (Belluno and Agordo), from west (Bressanone and Val Badia) and from north (Ampezzano). In tight communication with other small fortresses (Rocca Pietore, Selva in Cadore, Avoscan), it was part of a system that guaranteed therefore the total control on the traffic between Agordino and Val Pusteria. The first historical references are from about the year 1000, but we have to wait for the documentations from 1221 to have some most precise news. In that year, the bishop of Bressanone gave it to the feudal family Schoneck (in italian Colbello). It passed then to other lineages (Avoscano, Stuck), always vassals of the bishops-counts, until, in 1416, it returned under the direct dependences of the latter. Since then it was used as small military garrison under the command of a captain. From this period, it to remember the bishop-philosopher Nicola Cusano who chose the safe castle to spend long stays meditating.

In the XVI century the importance of the fortress grew, due to the apprehension of the bishops towards the expansionistic politics of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice, that then began to turn its attention toward the hinterland. The area here was in fact particularly rich of natural resources, especially of lumber and mineral, partly extracted in the near proximity to the castle. The changes in the  political conditions following the Napoleonic wars, but also the exhaustion of the mining resources, caused the decay of the castle that, abandoned, began to seriously collapse and was damaged during the first world war.

Indeed distinctive is the architectural structure, due to the fact that it actually rises on a rocky spur. To the fortress it was possibile to enter only by a ramp of stone (today partly recovered) that put in communication the various overlapped floors.. For the restocking, they resorted, due to this, to the use of a winch. Around the spur there were surrounding walls, that besides the clear defensive functions, allowed also a space for the stables. On the ruins of the walls, are still  visible the shelves that supported the chemin de ronde. Near the main entry there was a sixteenth-century chapel  (devoted to St. Raffaele), whose precious wooden altar is now kept in the church of the near village of Andraz. The castle was restored many times. The most remarkable intervention was in the years 1484-1488 after a fire. In this occasion, to the detriment of the military functions, less and less useful, those administrative were strengthened, giving particularly attention to the aspects of a residential use. Other interventions were those in1516, after a further fire, and in the 1599.

The Superintendence for the Environmental and Architectural Preservation of the region of Veneto has recently conducted an imposing and avant-garde restoration of the ruins. We enjoyed the final results, and as you can see, when we were there, so it was an artistic exhibition about the First World War (being this year its centennial, there are exhibitions everywhere) by the local painter and sculptor Franco Murer.

I didn’t expect to find these little flowers on the castle stones…we called it “velo da sposa” (bridal veil) but its scientific name is Gypsophila paniculata……

From and to Arabba, we passed several times this little village called Colle di Santa Lucia (here from the opposite side of the valley….isn’it a charming view?)

Finally we stopped and had a walk through it………..

Once called Puchberg o Wersil (and later Fursil) we have documents of Colle di Santa Lucia since 1145 when it was included in the possessions of the Bishop of Bressanone and run by a captain residing in the Castle of Andraz. In 1177 there’s the first evidence of the Fursil mines that with their iron provided for the wealth of the entire region, and in that year the locality was transferred under the power of the Novacella Abbey with the right to collect taxes.  With the Birth of the Austrian Empire, in 1803 the Bishop of Bressanone looses his powers to the Austrian Counts so the area changes master again and it was annexed to the Kingdom of Bavaria and then to the Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) and back to the Counts of Tyrol.

This one below is Cesa de Jan (in ladin language) or Chizzali-Bonfadini Palace, built in 1612 for housing the administration of the Fursil mines by the Chizzaly family and then home of the venetian branch of the family called Bonfadini. A typical example of the Tyrol style is the bay window, in local Language erker, an unusual one is the mullioned window. The gratings are made by the same iron extracted from the Fursil mines.

This is the little white church we often saw from far away, the adjacent cemetery a serene and peaceful resting place….

This region is deeply rooted in its past, beginning with the language all of the population speaks, youngs and elders. Ladin is a language consisting of a group of dialects (which some consider part of a unitary Rhaeto-Romance language) mainly spoken in the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy in South Tyrol, the Trentino and the province of Belluno. It is closely related to the Swiss Romansh and Friulian. The precise extension of the Ladin language area is the subject of scholarly debates. A more narrow perspective includes only the dialects of the valleys around the Sella group, wider definitions comprise the dialects of adjacent valleys in the Province of Belluno and even dialects spoken in the northwestern Trentino. A standard written variety of Ladin (Ladin Dolomitan) has been developed by the Office for Ladin Language Planning as a common communication tool across the whole Ladin-speaking region, but it is not popular among Ladin speakers. Ladin should not be confused with Ladino (also called Judeo-Spanish), which, while also Romance, is more closely tied to Spanish. The name derives from Latin, because Ladin is originally a vulgar Latin language left over from the Romanized Alps. Whether a proto-Romance language ever existed is controversially discussed amongst linguists and historians, a debate known as Questione Ladina. Starting in the 6th century, the Bavarii started moving in from north, while from the south Gallo-Italic languages started pushing in, which further shrank the original extent of the Ladin area. Only in the more remote mountain valleys did Ladin survive among the isolated populations. Starting in the very early Middle Ages, the area was mostly ruled by the County of Tyrol or the Bishopric of Brixen, both belonging to the realms of the Austrian Habsburg rulers. The area of Cadore was under the rule of the Republic of Venice. During the period of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and, after 1804, the Austrian Empire, the Ladins underwent a process of Germanization. After the end of World War I in 1918, Italy annexed the southern part of Tyrol, including the Ladin areas. The Italian nationalist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries regarded Ladin as an “Italian dialect”, a notion rejected by various Ladin exponents and associations, despite their having been counted as Italians by the Austrian authorities as well. The programme of Italianization, professed by fascists such as Ettore Tolomei and Benito Mussolini, added further pressure on the Ladin communities to subordinate their identities to Italian. This included changing Ladin place names into the Italian pronunciation according to Tolomei’s Prontuario dei nomi locali dell’Alto Adige. Following the end of World War II, the Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement of 1946 between Austria and Italy introduced a level of autonomy for Trentino and South Tyrol, but did not include any provisions for the Ladin language. Only in the second autonomy statute for South Tyrol in 1972 was Ladin recognized as a partially official Language.

Below is one of the many museums of ladin traditions in the region, the one we visited.


It was just a few days escape, the weather didn’t cooperate too much, we were forced to leave home our bike, but it was a very nice trip. Stay tuned for more about typical dishes….


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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Uncategorized



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