The walled cities of the Veneto
THE 'GREAT WALL' OF THE VENETO
The walled cities of the Veneto play a major part in the history of the area, places where art and tradition shine, surviving and thriving to the present day. Our tour takes us to the most representative and most well-preserved Medieval towns among the hills and plains.
FIRST AND SECOND DAY
SOAVE. We begin our tour in the province of Verona, where the delicate beauty of the landscape suggests the name of this town: Soave is a walled city of great charm, and, in addition to maintaining the aura of the Medieval era with its legends and traditions, boasts a lively present among viticulture, tourism and industry.
It is famed throughout the world for its prestigious white wine. Its gentle rolling hills, the taste of its grapes from which the Soave and Recioto wines are made, the atmosphere thick with romantic mystery, the rhythms of nature and the comportment of the local inhabitants are all priceless jewels of the territory.
We will visit the Scaliger walls, replete with their 24 crenellated towers, and the castle, where we enter and view the hall of the bodyguards and the lords’ apartments.
Continuing to the historic centre along the via Roma and via Camuzzoni we encounter the edifices of greatest artistic and historical interest: San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Scaligero, arriving at Piazza Antenna to admire the Venetian Gothic of the Palazzo Cavalli and the Palazzo dei Giudici of 1375 with its splendid gates and a marble statue of the Virgin dating from the 1400s.
MAROSTICA. This splendid city rises head and shoulders above its neighbours in its characteristic natural setting on the slopes of the Asiago plateau. Where every summer the fertile fields provide all of Italy with the succulent exquisite red cherries for which the area is famous.
The Scaligeri family are responsible for the most imposing fortified aspects of this historic town: the 14th century castle on the Pausolino hills, the lower castle, and the connecting walls which ring the town.
The hub of life remains the piazza, which every other September hosts the celebrated human chess game, with players in period costumes enacting the courtly loves and intrigues of the15th century nobles Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonata competing for the favours of Lionora, the beautiful daughter of the Castellano di Maròstica. More than 300 people compete in the game, dressed as knights, damsels, archers and other roles, and there moves are dictated by real international grand chess masters.
The lower castle which dominates the piazza is today home to the Comune, and contains the Sala delle Armi (Weapons Hall), the Sala del Governatore and Sala del Consiglio, with frescoes and a wooden choir dating from the 1700s.
THIRD AND FOURTH DAY
Castelfranco Veneto, Cittadella
CASTELFRANCO VENETO. We move now to the province of Treviso to admire another monument of the Middle Ages: Castelfranco Veneto.
Its walls were erected at the end of the 12th century at the height of tension between itself and its rival Padua: a high red-brick quadrilateral complete with five towers.
The town is famous for being the birthplace of Giorgione, one of the most important artists of the 16th century, known for his hauntingly enigmatic paintings. Today Castelfranco is home to the world-renowned Pala del Duomo altarpiece portraying the recently restored Virgin and Child with Saints Liberal and Francis, and the intriguing frescoes adorning the Casa Pellizari, which according to tradition was the artist’s birthplace.
Piazza Giorgione, inside the walls, is the real heart of the town.
Here we find the unmissable 18th century Duomo designed by Francesco Maria Preti, and which contains works by Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Bassano, Paolo Piazza and many other artists of the Venetian school whose works are not to be missed.
CITTADELLA. We move north of Padua, to the border of the provinces of Vicenza and Treviso, where we find another perfectly preserved living medieval monument: Cittadella, one of the historic symbols of the Veneto.
Since the recent past it has been possible to walk around the entire city walls, starting from Porta Bassano, first visiting the Casa del Capitano, richly furnished in arms and ornaments from the times. Also on our tour we visit the Palazzo Pretorio to contemplate the Supper at Emmaus by Jacopo da Ponte (Bassano).
Our last visit before sampling the local cuisine leads us to the Torre di Malta, where it is said Ezzelino da Romano installed a horrifying torture chamber for the prisoners.
We also visit the ancient parish church of San Donato, situated just outside the city walls.
MONSELICE. Remaining in the province of Padua, we move southwest, to Monselice.
The atmosphere and setting of Mons Silicis, named after the prized stone quarries which furnished the Empire and later the Venetians, are imbued with the Medieval period, thanks to the imposing fortress which dominates the town physically and by the weight of centuries of history.
Among other legends, we hear of the ghosts of Jacopino da Carrara (city ruler in the 14th century) and his lover Giudita seen in the castle and along the road leading to the Sanctuary.
Our visit to the city starts with the Loggia, the Civic Tower and the museum of Ca’ Marcello (named after the Venetian family who currently own the castle), continuing onto the 13th century Cathedral of Santa Giustina, Villa Duodo, the church of San Giorgio on the devotional route of the “seven churches”, and finally to the Fortress itself, which dominates the hillside.
MONTAGNANA. Our journey through time proceeds to Montagnana, possibly the most well-preserved Medieval city in the whole of the Veneto region. The view from the city walls is awe-inspiring.
Along the 2km perimeter we encounter magnificent edifices, among which of note are:
Porta Legnano (the fortress also known as the Rocca degli Alberi) dating from the 13th century, with its original wooden gates, and the Castello of San Zeno, today home to the Museo Civico.
Moving on to the Duomo we can see the Transfiguration of Veronese and the splendid great altar, attributed with all probability to Sansovino.
Leaving the city walls we reach Palazzo Pisani, an exceptionally fine Palladian structure.
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