The walled cities of Cittadella and Montagnana, the embattled jewels

EN IT DE FR


Among the beauties of the Venetian lands, the walled cities of Cittadella and Montagnana are two crenellated jewels that deserve a visit during a stay in Veneto. Easily accessible by train, they are a perfect day trip from Venice and the main Venetian cities.



The walled city of Cittadella


A splendid walled city of medieval origin founded in 1220, the walls of Cittadella are one of the few examples of a defensive system with a walkway still used and perfectly preserved. It is therefore one of the most beautiful defensive systems in Europe. The walls rise to an average height of 14 meters, but they can also reach 30 meters in the towers placed on the lookouts of the gates. They are elliptical in shape and interspersed with 36 towers of various sizes and have a circumference of 1461 meters with an average thickness of about 2.10 meters.


The history of Cittadella


Cittadella, with its splendid walls, was built in 1220 by will of the municipality of Padua. Since then, the most characteristic elements of the town were precisely the exceptional nature of the wall ring and the strategic position, covered within the Paduan territory. Since the Bronze Age, the presence of man in the area where Cittadella was built has been documented, while it was affected by an important centuriate countryside that had Via Postumia, built in 148 BC as its maximum decuman. Rural lordships were formed from the 11th centurywith a series of tiny villages built around parish churches, like that of St. Donato and abbeys, like St. Lucia di Brenta. In medieval times, immediately after its foundation, Cittadella guaranteed the municipality of Padua a base from which to contrast the power of the local rural lords, such as the aristocracy of the fiefdom of Onara and Fontaniva. It fell into the hands of Ezzelino da Romano for a short period, it took on a strategic role towards the surrounding area in the second half of the thirteenth century, the century in which it experienced a remarkable flowering.


Padua granted the city the right to acquire its own statutes in 1236. Cittadella went under the dominion of Cangrande della Scala in 1318. He then returned to Padua, then lordship of the Da Carrara family. In the fourteenth century the role of Cittadella grew further and the Podesteria expanded. Cittadella spontaneously offered itself to Venice in 1405, obtaining in exchange the faculty to keep its Statutes. It was donated from Venice to Roberto Sanseverino in 1483; its successors kept it until 1499, while for a year, from 1503 to 1504, it was given to Pandolfo Malatesta, following the sworn pacts between Pandolfo and the Venetian Republic. The year 1508 saw the birth of the Cambrai league, against Venice. Malatesta, lord of Cittadella, then passed to the enemy side. For this reason, the town was repeatedly attacked and sacked by imperial troops. Venetian peace was only restored in 1516. After these stormy events, Cittadella experienced three centuries of peace, interrupted in 1797, when the Napoleonic troops took possession of all the territory that belonged to the Republic of Venice. Cittadella then went under the department of Bacchiglione and, for a time, even under the province of Vicenza. Cittadella also experienced the Austrian domination from 1814, ended in 1866, the year in which it was finally annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.


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Montagnana: the city of towers


The two kilometres of medieval walls interrupted by 24 majestic hexagonal towers up to 19 meters high are the flagship of Montagnana, a defensive outpost since ancient times. The ancient Palio di Montagnana is still held here. At Porta Padova, the Castle of St. Zeno is worth a visit, while on the opposite side stands the Rocca degli Alberi. The imposing complex protects as many masterpieces as the Duomo with a canvas by Paolo Veronese, or the church of San Benedetto, where a canvas by Palma il Giovane is kept.


Food and wine delight: Montagnana ham The popularity of the town is also linked to the food and wine for the production of the DOP Veneto Berico ham and for its festival: the Ham Festival.


The history of Montagnana


Located in the heart of the fertile plain between the Adige and the Euganean hills, Montagnana was built in Roman times to defend the river that lapped it before 589 AD, the year in which a route downstream from Verona diverted its course towards the south. Once the Lombard capital, the town passed to the Este family in the 11th century, who turned it into an important fortified village that then fell into the hands of the Ezzelini and then became part of the territories of the Carraresi, lords of Padua, before the final subjugation to the Republic of Venice in 1405. That the city has had important medieval past is evident by looking at the turreted profile of its walls, one of the most beautiful and best preserved in Europe; it draws an irregular rectangle, with a perimeter of almost two kilometres, in which four doors open allowing access to the historic centre, whose building fabric has continued to stratify since the thirteenth century.


The moat used to be all around it and is now filled and covered with a grassy mantle that creates a harmonious green frame around the twenty-four polygonal towers connected by a curtain on which runs a walkway of almost two meters wide runs. Raised, demolished and redesigned several times, the wall of Montagnana took on its definitive shape around 1360 at the behest of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, who added the Rocca degli Alberi, a mighty fortification with three buildings and a keep about 35 meters high, to guard the western gate; instead, to the east was the Castle of San Zeno, the oldest nucleus of the fortified wall, already strengthened by Ezzelino da Romano with a 38-meter keep in 1242.


After passing the military bulwark, you enter the heart of the medieval village, following via Carrarese that overlooks a remarkable fifteenth-sixteenth-century porticoed buildings, until you reach the cathedral, a Gothic-Renaissance remake of a previous Romanesque church. Started in 1431 and completed in 1502, it features a portal attributed to Sansovino that introduces an interior enriched by numerous works of art, with altarpieces and frescoes from the early 16th century - created by the Vicenza painter Giovanni Buonconsiglio - and a Transfiguration by Veronese (1555).


Among the civil buildings there is Villa Pisani, just outside the walls, built in 1553-1555 on a design by Andrea Palladio; the cubic-shaped building has a façade moved by a two-level loggia with half-columns, tympanum and an elegant rusticated frieze that acts as a string course.

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