Alpago

In this chapter we discuss the magnificent territory of Alpago, starting from the various towns, to Lake Santa Croce up to the Cansiglio Forest.

Coming out of Valbelluna and passing through the town of Belluno we arrive at Alpago, a natural treasure surrounded by the Belluno Pre-Alps, an intact geographical region, with its thick woods, green hills, small villages and slopes reflecting on Santa Croce Lake.  For the Belluno area, the Alpago area is like a home garden, as it is easy to get to for a quick trip, to relax by the lake and to practice some outdoor sports.

The first settlements date back to the Iron Age, although it is assumed that they had not been stable, but it was certainly inhabited, in the pre-historic period, by the Paleo-Venetians, such as the Illyrians, a group of peoples settled in antiquity on the Balkan peninsula, and the Celts Norici, populations from the historic Roman region corresponding to present-day Austria. In Roman times it was part of the territory of Bellunum, at the time municipium of the Venetia et Histria, but it has always been a place of passage, probably because it was long an inhospitable and wild area.

The real jewel of this area is the Santa Croce Lake, set in a sunny valley between the Belluno mountains, it is the perfect place also to spend a quiet day with the family on the lawn of its northern shore that thanks to the afternoon wind that blows from south to north, brings refreshment on summer days and half ideal for sports lovers or outdoor activities. It is a natural lake in the province of Belluno, although its basin was artificially expanded in the 1930s.
The pretty villages along the banks still preserve the typical architecture of stepped houses, with the classic covering in stone slabs, straw and marsh reeds. On the shores of Santa Croce Lake we find the Oasis of Sbarai, an important naturalistic site of over 30 hectares, which is characterized by different environments, linked to the change in water level. A natural habitat that protects many species of birds, ideal for simple walks or for birdwatching, reachable through a flat path from the town of Alpago.

Between the provinces of Belluno, Treviso and Pordenone we find the Cansiglio Forest, a protected nature reserve whose charm it is impossible to resist. The beauty of its forest is strongly characterized by beeches, which vary in splendid colors with the changing of the seasons and offer refuge to many animal species given that, the area has long been banned for hunting. This is the ancient Forest of the Doges of Venice, which needed to conserve productive and efficient forests, which were used to supply the timber to the Arsenal. The Serenissima kept every tree of its possessions, dedicating special attention to it, investing resources in forestry and improving forest management systems, many of which are still in operation today.

The Cansiglio Forest provided for almost three centuries the beech trunks with which they built the long oars of the galleys, the famous Venetian ships. The need for timber from the Republic of Venice was immense, they served to consolidate the damage caused by storm surges, for the foundations of the city, for the construction of ships, for glassworks fires, for heating and so on. The strategy of the Serenissima was to transport along the Piave river the conifers coming from the Cadore, in the Brenta river the fir trees of the Seven Municipalities Plateau were lowered, the Bacchiglione river brought to Chioggia the timber of the Vicenza plain, and through the Adige river those of Lessinia and the highlands of Verona. In short, a dense network of channels for the development and growth of one of the most extraordinary cities in history.

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