This somewhat unusual mid-altitude loop, suitable for all hikers who can tackle twenty kilometers on easy trails and especially for trail runners who want to run a special half marathon, explores the forest standing north-eastern of the villages of Transacqua and Tonadico. Given the altitude and the relatively easy surface, the itinerary – which can be incredibly interesting in mid-seasons due to the colors and views it can offer – can be tackled during all seasons (excluding the deep winter).
The route starts from the center of the village of Transacqua, initially heading towards the hut of Rifugio Caltena. The first part of the route follows an uphill stretch along the road called Via Caltene; after passing the last hamlet of the village by the location of La Piàna, the route crosses the stream of Rio Carpènze and takes, by the first bend at the crossroads, the path called “Trói de le Càore” (tr. path of the goats). The route continues in the forest on a gentle uphill stretch along the wide path that cuts the slope by the location of Càneva (where, since the late Middle Ages, a large and important mining area existed). The path of “Troi de le Càore” then reaches the paved road that connects the village of Ormanico to the locations of Val Uneda and Cenguéi (Signpost No. 723). The steep climb along the paved road leads first to the shrine called Capitel de Pissabói (975 m asl) and then to the location of Val Unéda. From here, the itinerary proceeds along the gravel road called “Strada Forestale Pretecasa”, shortly reaching the location of Stadèl (1,225 m asl), located just below the meadows of Ritàsa and Stiòzze. From the junction of Stadèl, the route always proceeds along the gravel road of the Signpost No. 723 towards the hut of Malga Fossetta, crossing in order the beautiful meadows of the locations of Ritàsa and Stiòzze – located at the foot of the Cenguéi and Stiòzze mounts -, gradually opening up interesting sights of the Pale di San Martino and the entire Canali Valley from rather unusual angles. After leaving the meadows of Stiòzze behind, you proceed with a couple of hairpin bends on the gravel road and arrive at the location of Pian del Canalìn (1,380 m asl). From here, the trail goes up into the forest and takes another gravel road that goes around – southern side – the hill called Col Spiz and then continues flat, reaching the pasture of Malga Fossetta (1,554 m asl).
After crossing the pasture of Malga Fossetta, you proceed in the very first stretch along the main access road to the hut. Then, shortly after leaving the pasture, you turn downhill on the path of the Signpost No. 729 “Nico Scalet”, which leads directly to the small church of Sant’Antonio and then, with a final stretch of the gravel road of the Signpost No. 801, to Passo Cereda (1,369 m asl).
From Passo Cereda (Cereda Pass) the track descends on the side of the main road (SS 347) towards Fiera di Primiero up to the third hairpin bend (approximately 1,271 m asl), where it takes the path of the Signpost No. 738 “Pietro Agostini” to the right, towards the west, heading to Colzoncài / Lastredòl / Val Canali. The Signpost No. 783 features in the beginning a stretch with ups and downs that leads directly to the bottom of the lower Val Canali; after crossing in succession the meadows of Colzoncài, Dalaibòl and Lastredòl, the Signpost No. 738 proceeds along the gravel road called “Strada Forestale del Conte”. The route follows the gravel road downhill and leaves, at the first crossroads, the Signpost No. 738, in order to go down directly to Villa Welsperg.
From Villa Welsperg (1,030 m asl), the route follows the main road of Val Canali towards Fiera di Primiero until it reaches the lake of Welsperg (1,020 m asl); then it proceeds on a stretch of path which, parallel to the road, leads directly to the remains of the castle called Castel Pietra, passing through the location of Le Cesurétte (978 m asl).
From Castel Pietra, the return follows the wide path that descends steeply towards the shrine of Madonna della Luce (839 m asl), then proceeds on the gravel road on the western bank of the torrent of Canali until it leads to the main road to Passo Cereda (SS 347). The route then proceeds along the main road on a comfortable descent until it reaches the village of Tonadico, for heading then back to Transacqua along the streets of Via Fol and Via Venezia.
- From the village of Transacqua (746 m asl), proceed along the street called Via Caltene towards Rifugio Caltena, until reaching junction with the path called “Trói de le Càore”,
- Proceed along the path of Trói de le Càore until you reach the paved road of the Signpost No. 723 above the village of Ormanico,
- Ascend along the Signpost No. 723 towards Val Unéda, until reaching the location of Stadèl,
- From the crossroads of Stadèl (1,225 m asl), proceed along the Signpost No. 723 towards Malga Fossetta,
- From the hut of Malga Fossetta (1,554 m asl), proceed on the path of the Signpost No. 729 “Nico Scalet” towards Passo Cereda,
- From Passo Cereda (1,369 m asl), descend along the main road towards Fiera di Primiero until the start – by the third hairpin bend – of the path of the Signpost No. 738 “Pietro Agostini”,
- Descend into Val Canali along the Signpost No. 738 “Pietro Agostini” and then follow the gravel road called “Strada Forestale del Conte”, which leads to Villa Welsperg,
- From Villa Welsperg (1.030 m slm), descend along the main road to the lake of Welsperg,
- From the lake (1.020 m slm), descend along the path that leads to the remains of the castle called Castel Pietra, then proceed towards the shrine of the Madonna della Luce,
- From the shrine (839 m asl), follow the gravel road first, then the paved road, which leads to the village of Tonadico, and then back to the one of Transacqua. ✓
- The little church of Cereda was built in name of St. Anthony of Padua. After WWI kicked in, only one year after the building was finished, it was immediately closed with the purpose of being used as a ammunition storage. It remained closed through the whole course of WWI. The church was once again open in June 1920. Inside, it is possible to see an altarpiece representing St. Anthony of Padua, made by the artist Pomo from Trieste.
- Passo Cereda is crossed by one of the most famous Dolomites route, namely the “Alta Via n. 2 delle Dolomiti” (a.k.a. “Altavia delle Leggende”), that connects Bressanone (Alto Adige Südtirol) with Feltre (Province of Belluno)
- Cereda pass hosts the most important cross-country ski track of Primiero Valley. It was also used to have a beginner level downhill ski track that has been recently dismissed.
CASTEL PIETRA: THE ORIGINS
- The origins of Castrum Petrae (tr. castle of the rock), also known as Castel Pietra, are not entirely clear. The castle was presumably built by the bishops of Feltre as the residence of the episcopal representative – with the title of captain – in charge of the administration of justice. The first document mentioning Castel Pietra dates back to 1064. It was mentioned again in 1097, during the first crusade, with Corrado from Primiero (Corrado from the castle) joining the cause, blessed by the Bishop of Feltre. After this date, no mention is found in written sources until the second half of the XIII century.
- The castle stands above the village of Tonadico, erected on the top of a huge erratic boulder (from which its name originates) on the Canali torrent. Its position, from which the castle could control the road connecting Primiero with Agordo, was extremely strategic. There are several representations of the castle, many of them misleading. Certainly, it can be stated that the building was made up of two distinct blocks, connected together. The most reliable representations from the XVI century allow a reconstruction of the building with a quadrangular plan, developed on two floors, with a paved roof, to which smaller volumes were attached. It is also said that the access road was an “impervious staircase carved into the rock”. A feudal investiture dating back to 1519 attests that the castle was composed of 46 distinct rooms.
CASTEL PIETRA: THE HISTORY
- The investiture controversy between Guelphs and Ghibellines had repercussions on the whole territory around the city of Feltre, forcing the bishop of Feltre, pressed by the major Venetian lords, to transfer part of its possessions to the da Camino family, in exchange of protection. In 1235, the da Camino family handed the castle to Ezzelino III da Romano, as requested by the bishop Matteo da Tomo.
- In 1260, the “potestaria et districtus Primei” was handed back to Adalgerio di Villalta, bishop of Feltre, who nominated a governor, Andrea de Curte, with the title of captain. In March 1273, the bishop validated the first statutes of Primiero, which indicated the annual obligations of the inhabitants towards the castle “domus castri Petre”, including the payment of 200 Venetian lire, the delivery of a hundred wagons of wood and the duties for supporting the renovation of the access to the castle “when necessary”.
- During the 14th century Primiero was involved in the clashes between the Della Scala (Scaliger) from Verona, the Venetians, the lords of Carrara and German families who fought for the control of the city of Feltre. It can be read from its memory that, in 1337, Charles of Luxembourg arrived in Primiero from the Rolle Pass on his way to conquer Feltre and Belluno, both threatened by Venetian expansionism. Charles conquered Castel Pietra. On 7th October 1349, Charles of Luxembourg was crowned King of Tyrol (Charles IV); with the ceremony, Primiero was unbounded for the first time from Feltre, becoming a direct shire of Tyrol.
- In 1404 Castel Pietra was handed over to the Welsperg family from the Puster Valley, who maintained its control over the building until the XIX century. As captain Cristoph Ellinger testifies, the Welsperg family expanded the building with rooms for gentlemen and ladies, providing it with fortifications and agricultural outbuildings at the base of the boulder, including the chapel, dedicated to San Leonardo, the smithy, the barn, the sawmill and the mill.
- As the village of Fiera grew, becoming the actual decision-making center for the entire community of Primiero, in 1500, the construction of the Welsperg family palace in Fiera marked the beginning of a progressive decline of the castle, together with the loss of its strategic importance.
- After the ruins caused by partial floods and fires, Castel Pietra was rebuilt in 1565.
- In 1608 the fortress was enlarged again, imposing “hateful taxes” on the merchants, with the consent of Giovanni Althamer, a customs officer in Primiero. For this usurpation, Francesco Caldogno, as “administrator at the borders of Vicenza“, led a group of armed men from the Seven Municipalities to attack the castle.
- Following a fire in 1611, the Welsperg tried to recover their rights to the annual tax called “piòveghi”, who had been dismissed since 1440. They tried to make themselves recognize the tax right as an extraordinary right for the reconstruction of the castle. However, the community of Primiero opposed it by all means. It was probably the captain of the castle, lord Römer, who prevented the Welsperg from proceeding with their requests with the following declaration: “if not for the men of Tonadig – tr. Tonadico -, the castle would have been burnt to the roots”.
- The castle was rebuilt in 1612, sadly reduced from its original structure and losing much of its ancient dignity. The residence now counted only two rooms and it could be used by just one family. The captain of the castle was already settled in Fiera, with all his offices, also to be better able to monitor the most active center of the valley and follow its problems to be solved, including the sad page of the trials against the witches.
- The procedural documents give us a vague idea of the role of the captain in the trials against Barbara Luciana, known as Lorenzona, accused of having disappeared in front of her son “up the chimney”, tortured, and then released. Another trial was conducted against Appolonia, widow of Pietro Bernardin, accused of “nocturnal conferences with the devil”, who under torture confessed and was hanged and burned in Molarén, on December 7, 1647.
- On the 26th of December 1675, while the whole Welsperg family was at the solemn mass at Pieve’s archpriest church, the castle caught fire. The flames destroyed it entirely, reducing it to a pile of ruins.
- Attempts at a partial reconstruction were made decades later, but they faced a final block in 1720 when, due to a tornado, the roof of the structure was completely uncovered. This last event marked the definitive abandonment of Castel Pietra. Furthermore, in 1885 the entire north wing of the castle collapsed and, with it, the only remaining entrance to the building.
CASTEL PIETRA: TODAY
- In the beginning of the 1980s, cleaning and restoration work was carried out on the ruins, allowing the recovery of the wall remains. Further restoration work has been completed over the years. Castel Pietra, still owned by the Thun-Hohenstein-Welsperg family, is today in a ruderal state.
- The ruin cannot be officially visited, given the danger of the suspended metal staircase and the climbing over the wall that visitors must deal with for visiting the building. Inside, the ruins, the visitors can see some remarkable windows and the walls of the rooms.
- In recent decades, the boulder on which the castle stands has been the destination of numerous bouldering enthusiasts, probably also attracted by the singularity of the surrounding environment.