— Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Gli angeli di Tòvena

La Via degli Angeli nell’arte (The Road of the Angels in Artform) is a collection of over fifty angels designed and crafted by local artists, and exhibited along the streets of Tòvena. A permanent open-air exhibition with great spiritual significance.
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From Paolo Colombo

Tòvena is a picturesque village near Cison di Valmarino sitting at the foot of the San Boldo Pass. In its central square, Piazza della Vittoria, there’s a monument to the victims of war which features an austere angel resting on a high white stone plinth, gazing down towards the valley with her back to Passo San Boldo. This same square is home to the atelier of local painter Gigliola D’Agostin, who was who born and raised here. Prompted by the constant watchful presence of this angel, Gigliola decided he wanted to do something for his village. It was the middle of the pandemic, and he came up with the idea of creating other angels to keep this one company. Gigliola says: “I’d always had the idea of doing something to add a touch of beauty to the empty houses around the village and also wanted to create some positive energy during the darkest days of the pandemic. Since the image of a guardian angel is one of the most positive one can imagine, I came up with the idea of decorating places and houses around Tòvena with artistic images of angels.”

Gigliola recruited a willing team of 25 artists to help her, and so in October 2020, to mark the celebrations of the Patron Saints of Simon and Judas, La via degli Angeli nell’arte was created with the help and support of the Tòvena Tourist Office. It’s a sort of permanent open-air exhibition with a range of art installations, murals and street art, all using angels as their theme. “The project was a real success – explains Gigliola – Initially this was down to word of mouth and some posts by some travel bloggers. But what really made the difference was a Facebook post written by Luca Zaia, Governor of the Veneto Region. From that moment on, visitor numbers started to grow. However, I believe a lot of the success also stems from the fact that the pandemic prompted many people to rediscover hidden corners of their own local areas.”

The project saw dozens of local painters, sculptors and street artists working in concert to design and decorate old doors, walls, gates and shutters with their angels. In October 2020 Tòvena’s narrow streets and main square began to come alive with angelic figures of all shapes and styles. Today there are over 50 angels along its streets depicted in differing artistic ways. The angels can be visited all year round, but what really makes a visit special is the charm of the village itself with its rural architecture, porticoes leading to traditional stone houses, parish church containing cherished artworks, small museum of sacred art, shrines and capitals, and various ancient rural artefacts.

The highlight of the event this year will take place during the annual village fair of Secolare fiera franca dei Santi Simone and Giuda, to be held from 14 to 31 October. Visitors to the fair can sample delights on stands selling traditional food and wine, including Trippe alla tovenese – the village’s traditional dish – market stalls selling hand-crafted products, and also guided walks, including a newly-opened path called Il sentiero degli angeli which guides tourists on an easy walk round the village to view the angel artworks and which also takes in the Byzantine tower and small church of San Vigilio. It’s nice to think that it’s really the angels themselves which are the binding force that’s made all this happen, providing their protection and revealing the beauty of the village – all under the watchful eye of that old stone angel in the square.

Photo credits: Francisco Marques

[Article originally published in Visit Conegliano Valdobbiadene magazine Fall Winter 2022. The entire magazine is available here]