Belluno has a long history of human settlement, despite the fact that the area where the city lies is distinguished by its geographical inaccessibility. There are archaeological findings demonstrating the presence of man at these sites in the stone age, whereas more significant evidence has remained of the presence of Indo-European peoples coming from Anatolia and settling on the Veneto plain and along the course of the River Piave (also referred to as Palaeoveneto settlements). Subsequently Belluno came under Roman rule from the end of the 2nd century BC, following a process of gradual and peaceful conquest based mainly on trading relations. The fortunes of the city went hand in hand with the history of the Empire, up to the time of its collapse and the barbarian invasions. In the Middle Ages the city experienced a long series of changes in rulers, until it associated itself voluntarily with the Venetian Republic in 1404.
The city and its monuments
The most significant monuments in Belluno document the passage from late gothic to renaissance style. The picturesque old town stands on a rocky spur where the River Piave meets its tributary, the Ardo. Here one can stroll through ancient squares such as Piazza dei Martiri and Piazza delle Erbe, making ones way up and down the evocative streets, with the characteristic old pyramid or conical shaped fountains, enjoying the rich artistic heritage. Of the monuments, the Duomo with its bell tower, more than 69 metres high, considered to be one of the best Italian baroque clock towers, is worth mentioning in particular. Finally, the Civic Museum contains works by numerous well-known artists such as Jacopo da Montagna, Bartolomeo Montagna, Andrea Solario, Andrea Brustolon, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci and Fra Galgario.
The geographical area
The province of Belluno is mostly mountainous and there are numerous towns situated at the foot of the Veneto Dolomites which are worthy of attention, Arabba, Cortina dAmpezzo and Alleghe being some of the more important examples. Arabba is one of the major centres of the Ladin language in the Veneto Dolomites. Its position on the border of the Alto Adige region gives it easy access to the Sella Ronda, an incomparable skiing route which crosses four passes: Campolongo, Sella, Gardena and Pordoi. Furthermore, in summer and winter Arabba offers various attractions, festivals and cultural events. Cortina instead represents the pearl of the Dolomites for tourists. The tourist season goes from 1 January to 31 December and every moment of the year offers something different to the tourist. In summer the beauty of the mountains offers an infinite number of excursions, while the opportunities for sporting activities are almost unlimited, going from traditional to extreme sports. In winter the resort offers 110 kilometres of downhill runs and 58 cross-country trails, but for those wishing to do something different there are numerous other sports available, such as skating, tobogganing and excursions with snowshoes or sled dogs. All kinds of entertainment are also available, from the classic stroll in the centre, with shopping in the luxurious shops in Corso Italia, to folklore and international sports events. Finally, we should mention the town of Alleghe, cut off to the east by the imposing Civetta mountain, and situated in the narrow Agordina valley, just a few kilometres south of the Marmolada.