A fabled mill
A walk around the Molinetto della Croda, one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area and in the province as a whole
Words and photos by Giovanni Carraro
The wooden millwheel kept in motion by the waterfall, the corncobs hanging on the old sandstone walls, the geraniums on the windowsills, the duck pond. All these things might come to mind when we imagine an old watermill from a book of fables, and they are all to be found here. People come to the Molinetto della Croda to take selfies with their partner, with groups of schoolchildren to show them what life used to be like, or just to enjoy a relaxing moment walking in the beautiful Refrontolo hills famous for Marzemino passito wine. The Molinetto della Croda is a place where pictures really do speak louder than words. It needs to be seen to be believed.
The Molinetto della Croda is famous not just as a tourist destination but also as the starting point for some magnificent walks. Among the various paths here there is a circuit that takes about 2 hours to complete. The start is about 2km north of Refrontolo, in the heart of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills. Leaving the Molinetto car park the route heads north along Via San Zuanet to the small village of Piote where you will see Sentiero (footpath) 001 indicated. It’s also referred to as 1050b. Cross the small bridge and walk along a forest road which goes up around hairpin bends until you reach an extraordinary panorama at the point where the Bivacco Marsini – also known as Casinet de Och, an old white stone farmer’s hut – is to be found. To the right there is a slightly more demanding path which begins just after the Da Muner Agriturismo. Continuing on our path, which soon broadens, you reach the Mondaresca Agriturismo, now closed. Now you should proceed following the sign to Croda del Mus – Pecolon staying to the west of Monte Mondaresca. Once you reach an olive grove you should follow the paved road which descends steeply through the vineyards before arriving at Vallotai from where you will rejoin the main road that leads back to the Molinetto.
The Molinetto della Croda was first built in 1630. Over its four centuries it has been changed and rebuilt many times, expanding the original small building next to a rocky outcrop that the locals call the Croda and from which it gets its name. For years the mill was used to grind flour using the energy of the river Lierza which is powerful here as there is a drop of around 12 metres. From 1913 to 1950 the mill was run by the Morgan family but once they left, the mill fell into a state of abandon. In more recent times the mill has been carefully restored to bring it back to its original splendour. Externally it looks like a typical small rural building made of wood and stone while inside several floors may be visited and the grindstone as well as the living quarters of the families who managed the mill can be seen. The Molinetto della Croda is one of the most magical buildings in the Province of Treviso, visited each year by thousands of tourists.
THE ANCIENT COAL MINES
Within the area of the Pedemontana which encompasses Refrontolo there are several veins of lignite, or fossilised coal, which has been there for millions of years. The coal was mined in the 19th and 20th centuries, a period which included the two world wars and during which time there was great need for fuel for military use. The coal extracted from the area known as Croda del Mus, close to the Molinetto della Croda, was carried down to the valley floor on a Decauville train and from there was taken on steam trucks to the factories around Castelfranco Veneto. Once these mines were closed in the mid 20th century the miners were sent to work in local rock quarries or in the Sardinian mines in Sulcis. Others left to live and work abroad. The caves and mines may still be seen today and bear testament to this particular page from the area’s history and the hard work of those who laboured there. The Galleria Rosada Mine is just a few minutes from the Molinetto della Croda and is perfectly preserved.
Start point: Refrontolo, Molinetto della Croda
Coordinates: 45°56’11.13″N 12°11’28.77″E
Time: 2h 15 mins
Height gain: 256 m
Distance: 6.30 km
[This article was originally published in the Visit Conegliano Valdobbiadene magazine, issue Spring Summer 2020. The magazine is available here]