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Walls of Montagna at night


View from Castello di San Zeno, Montagnana


The interior of the Duomo in Montagnana

Welcome to Montagnana
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population:  9,351 (2004)
Official website:
Montagnana
Wikipedia: Montagnana
Map: MapQuest

Montagnana is one of those well-preserved walled cities of the medieval period that one finds in Italy, and very much worth taking a day (or more) to visit.

The area, like so many other parts of the Veneto, was first settled during the Bronze Age.  During the 8th century it was under the rule of the Gauls, who were conquered by the Romans, whose empire eventually collapsed, giving way to a succession of barbarian incursions from the north.

The medieval period, from the days when the north of Italy was under the control of the Longobards until the end of the Renaissance period, is typical of the region, although the town does not appear to have ever asserted itself as a "free comune"; it was always under the rule of one prince, tyrant or dictator or another, usually the lord of Padua (Padova) or Verona.   Montagana's was folded into the Republic of Venice from 1405 AD until 1797 AD and from then on its history up to the present is ad idem with the history of the rest of the Veneto Region.  During the Venetian period the city built a flourishing trade dealing in hemp - and hemp products like rope - with Venice, a major sea power in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.  The city's fortunes declined from the end of the 17th century, until the end of the 20th century when it began feasting on tourist dollars.

Before entering the city through one of its many portals, you might want to see it from the perspective of the ring road which goes round most of Montagnana's rectangular  circumference and passes through the modern town's "suburbs" and light industrial area.  The old city behind its walls, appears as an almost other-worldly and fantastic set-piece, particularly if you encounter it at night when it is flood lit in a warm golden light.

The original walls encompassed a much smaller area and were built of stone with some timber in the early Middle Ages.  The Castello di San Zeno was built later (13th century), and then later, during the 14th century, the current walls, with a much larger circumference were built.

These magnificent brick walls have 24 polygonal crenellated towers and four gates, two of which are fortified with castle-like battlements.  Just outside the Porta Padova on the east side you will find the Villa Pisani, built in 1560 by Andrea Palladio for a wealthy client.

Passing through the Porta Padova you will first encounter the Castello di San Zeno, the most impressive medieval building in Montagnana built by Ezzelino da Romano who in 1242 put Montagnana to the torch, and then, in recognition of Montagnana's strategic location between Verona and Padova, had the town rebuilt and fortified.

The castle, which was originally set inside a dry moat and built around a center courtyard, is built on a rectangular plan.  The moat, which was crossed by a draw bridge, was filled in during the 19th century.  The highest tower - the mastio or donjon - open to the public since 1997 - affords fabulous views - and photo opportunities - to modern visitors.  The Castle also houses the Municipal Historical Archive, the town Library, the Prototeatro Theatre Company and the Castles Study Centre which is devoted to the study and protection of the castle and walls, but also  books, documents, maps, artifacts, and other items of historical significance.

The Duomo - or Cathedral - which was built in the Gothic style, between 1431 AD and 1502 AD.  The main portal of the church may have been designed by Andrea Sansovino later in the 16th century.  The church, facing the town's main square, the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, has undergone many other restorations and renovations since, and as a result has a number Romanesque and  Renaissance period features.  Inside you will find a painting of the Transfiguration by Paolo Veronese and a fresco of Judith and David, recently attributed to Giorgione.

The Palazzo Pretorio on the town's main piazza, which is still the town's municipal hall - was built in 1532 by Michele Sanmicheli and was subject to restoration during the 17th century.

The Palazzo Magnavin-Fioratti was also a Gothic style building, but various additions and renovations resulted in it taking on some of the architectural characteristics that one finds of buildings typical of Venice in the 16th century - an idiosyncratic Renaissance style.

Seeing the buildings, monuments and museums of Montagnana is but one good reason to visit the town.  But, there is another good reason and that is the gastronomy and cuisine you will find here.  Make time for lunch or dinner so you can enjoy a traditional meal made with a plethora of local ingredients.  The town is renowned, for instance, for its prosciutto, and a tasty risotto made with pumpkin.  Local cheeses and wines, many of them excellent, will add to the pleasure of the table.  Enjoy!

By Vian Andrews, August 18, 2006

Region of Veneto

4514′N 1127′E

 

Distances

Padua -  51 km;
Verona -   56 km;
Ferrara - 70 km
Venice -  86 km;
Treviso -  104 km;
Brescia - 116 km;
Modena - 156 km;
Bologna -  111 km:
Parma -   194 km;
Milan -   220 km

Directory

A great place to stay in Montagnana
Hotel Aldo Moro
 
 

Coat of Arms of Montagnana

Chiesa San Benedetto, Montagnana

Contributions: If you would like to contribute information about Montagnana, we'd love to hear from you. Talk Italy Forums

 

On the first Sunday of September, visit  Montagnana for the "Palio" - a horse race around the streets and piazzas of the city.