Pieve di Cadore, cultural and administrative centre of the area, is one of those towns where nature’s allure combines with history and art to bring to life the spirit of the place. Titian’s birthplace bears the hallmarks of the great Renaissance master’s presence, from the house where he was born to the place names and the elegant square which frames his statue right in front of the historic palace of Magnifica Comunità di Cadore. Next to the local government building, symbol of civic life, stands the imposing
church of Santa Maria Nascente (11th century) which in its present form dates to the 19th century. The rich decoration inside includes an altar piece by Titian – Madonna with child and saints – paintings by the Vecellio family, Francesco, Marco and Cesare, and the remains of a precious Fluegelaltar.
The main square is flanked by remarkable historic buildings, including Tiziano l’Oratore’s house, dating from the 16th century and seat of Fondazione Tiziano e Cadore, a research centre on Titian’s production (noteworthy is the study with frescoes of grotesques). Right in front of the Town Hall a recent archaeological dig has shed light on the remains of a second century Roman villa, whose mosaic floor is exhibited in the Cadore Archaeological Museum. As you go down Via Arsenale, first you come across the ancient fountain of St John Nepomuceno (1793) with palazzo Sampieri-Vallenzasca-Policardi at the back and then the house where Titian was born. Further down stands palazzo COSMO with the concert hall and Museo dell’Occhiale. The latter, the most important museum of its kind, holds a unique collection of almost four thousand pairs of glasses, showing the history of eyewear from the 14th to the 20th century.
A walk around the town or in the nearby hamlets offers the opportunity to admire fine examples of religious architecture: Christ Church in Valcalda, with its fine crucifix, St Lawrence’s church in Sottocastello, its fabric and woodwork still in their original form, the remains of St Bartholemew’s church, and the churchyard in Nebbiù which used to host a fine polyptych by Antonio Rosso (now at the Museo Jacquemart-André in Paris). St Candido in Tai holds three works by Cesare Vecellio, Titian’s cousin and collaborator, which are set in wonderful altar frames made of painted carved wood. In Pozzale the church of St Thomas the Apostle exhibits a polyptych by Vittore Carpaccio. An excursion to the top of San Dionisio’s hill is worth the effort: on the summit, at over 1,800 metres a.s.l., stands the chapel dedicated to the saint. The original building was constructed in 1508, when the people of Cadore fought for their freedom in the plain at the bottom of the hill.
From here the view is breathtaking: the villages – Tai, Nebbiù, Valle – nestle in the valley with a crown of peaks all around: the Marmarole range, the majestic Antelao, Mount Pelmo, Mount Rite with Cibiana at its foot. A short descent takes you to Rifugio Antelao, built by the writer and Resistance fighter Giovanna Zangrandi. Another pleasant walk from Pieve takes you to parco del Roccolo, with a panoramic terrace on the lake and the opportunity to see Father Christmas’s house. From here you can go up to Forte di Monte Ricco, where the ancient castle used to stand. After the latest restoration work, the site is now a memorial and will be used as a cultural centre in the future.