Feltre Palio is an historical reenactment, commemorating the entrance of Feltre in the Republic of Venice (June 15, 1404).
From that date on, each year the city Council was forced by law to invest 15 golden ducats in the organization of a horse race on the day of St Vitus (June 15).
These celebrations were abolished during the French rule in the 1800s. And then forgotten.
Feltre palio was resumed only in 1979, but its date was changed. Now it takes place during the first weekend of August. The four districts of Feltre (Castello, Duomo, Porto’Oria e Santo Stefano) compete to gain a drape embroidered with 15 golden ducats. The competitions are: relay race, archery, tug of war and horse race.
For the visitors, the true highlight of Feltre palio is the parade, though. Hundreds of citizens, wearing amazing Renaissance dresses, walk along the streets of the beautiful town.
A visit to Feltre
The Palio is a perfect occasion to visit the charming Feltre.
At the foot of the town, outside the walls, you can visit the Duomo of San Pietro Apostolo and the archeological excavations. Near there, along the white wall, you will spot a door. It leads to the lift to reach the main piazza, Piazza Maggiore, which is a marvel.
Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by elegant palaces, some with loggias, the St Mark column, the Santi Rocco and Sebastiano church, the Alboino Castle overlooking the square. It’s a quiet corner of Renaissance, well preserved and full of charm. The two statues portray Vittorino da Feltre, man of Letters, and Panfilo Castaldi, physician and one of the first italian printers, both born in Feltre.
On one of the corners, the Palazzo della Ragione, ancient Justice Hall. A staircase leads to the little cute Teatro della Sena. Once a council hall, it was then transformed into theatre and nicknamed the little Fenice, because it was designed by architect Giannantonio Selva, known for having designed the Great Theater of the Fenice in Venice. Even Carlo Goldoni performed here one of his plays.
About the Castle, I reached it to find it was not visitable. But on a corner of the groundfloor there was a sign Art on Display (Arte in Mostra) and so I got in. An elderly man has a small workshop and a room in which he displays his many works, mostly little sculptures, made by reusing old items and scrap material.
My husband and I then wandered along the town alleys, discovering several surprising corners.
Flowers on the windowsills, painted facades, porches, Renaissance doorways, mountain style houses, picturesque lanes climbing up, stairs, and a gravelly path where my husband and I felt as if we were in the smallest, isolated mountain village. Very romantic.
I also spotter a ceramics shop, and the owner’s name is conveniently Silvia Potter. 🙂 It was a lovely shop by the way.
In the evening Matteo and I had dinner at Bon Tajer, 20 minutes away by car. It was such a cozy and quaint place!
Honestly, I loved Feltre. Even if it’s small, it’s definitely worth a visit. And not only during the Feltre palio. A visit to the centre, a lunch at a trattoria, a passeggiata hand in hand.
Also, 10 minutes away by car, a stop at Latte Busche to buy cheeses, milk or gelato before going away. Near Feltre, you can visit the small village of Mel, Belluno or the Dolomites park.
Where I stayed
I chose the B&B Bus de l’Och, meaning goose den. The room was mountain style with ensuite bathroom. The breakfast was prepared by the landlady at the arranged hour in the small kitchen just outside the door. It is a small communal kitchen with two small tables, to be shared with the other room. It can be used also to prepare dinner or an afternoon tea. I liked it there. Warm welcome, nice room, good breakfast. For Italians: the bathroom had no bidet.
The B&B is 3 minutes away from the main piazza, but has a flaw for those who have problems to walk. It is located on top of the hill. By asking to the landlady, you can park in her lot, but the road to reach it is very narrow and a bit steep. We preferred to leave the car 15 minutes away, outside the city walls. The road by foot is not that steep, except for the final stone steps, that could be challenging for someone. Another thing to consider it that during the days of the Palio, youngsters of the burg stay up until 2, screaming, chatting, celebrating. We couldn’t sleep for hours. It’s not the B&B’s fault. But during the palio is probably better to sleep outside town.
But if you can walk, and intend to stay in town in other periods, it’s a convenient spot. It also has a small terrace with lawn chairs, where to relax for a while, surrounded by the trees and a lovely view. The panorama from our room was fantastic too.