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Stage 19

Mortegliano > Sappada

A record-breaking bell tower

The Maglia Rosa of Italy's belfries is undoubtedly worn by the 113.20 metre pinnacle in Mortegliano, a town a dozen kilometres outside Udine from where the 19th stage of the Giro will set off. Built between 1955 and 1959 by the Udine architect Pietro Zanini, it was termed as a "finger pointing to God" and is the visual reference point for most of the plain that stretches out below it. The record-breaking belfry is next to the Saints Peter and Paul Duomo: built in a modern Gothic style, it is a monumental brick octagon set in an elevated position and measures 812 square metres in surface area with a height of eighty. Inside, among the other works, there's the splendid and complex altarpiece by Martini, a Friuli wood-carved Renaissance masterpiece (1523 - 1526). Numbers "out of proportion" for a town that has fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, but perhaps for this reason even more resounding. And a source of curiosity.

"Prosciutto" and arts

A relaxed crossing of the province of Udine leads us to San Daniele del Friuli, the cradle of the renowned 'prosciutto crudo' ham. There are more than 30 active ham factories in the city and nearby, all belonging to the San Daniele prosciutto consortium which issues the strict regulations imposed on the production processes. But it's not just about ham, however. San Daniele also boasts extremely notable artistic treasures. The Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot is a splendid example, with the most beautiful cycle of Renaissance frescoes of the Region that has earnt it the name of Sistine Chapel of Friuli. Or the Guarneriana Library founded in the middle of the 15th Century by Guarnerio d'Artegna to protect 173 manuscript codes that he had copied or had made copied. The most significant piece is the so called Byzantine Bible, whose miniatures provide an interesting combination of Western and Middle Eastern elements.

To Sappada

Cycling fans won't fail to stop off at Peonis, in front of the commemorative stone that recalls the fall in June of 1927 that led to the death of the famous champion racer Ottavio Bottecchia, who had already won two Tour de France. From here we soon reach Tolmezzo, the gateway to the Carnia region, and we're getting close to the climbs that mark the end of the stage. Luckily for the racers, this year they only brush past the Zoncolan, so the group can face the last part of the stage with their legs still in acceptable conditions.
The arrival in Sappada allows race followers to discover a mountain village with very ancient origins which has managed to retain its singular architectural and cultural style (a tour among the old village streets is warmly recommended). But this is also a land of great champions: Sappada is the land of Lisa Vittozzi, the winner of the last biathlon Women's World Cup, but also of Silvio Fauner and Pietro Piller Cottrer who in a not so distant past won Olympic and World gold in cross-country skiing. They're unlikely to miss out being at the finish line.

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