Imposing strongholds and beautiful villas surrounded by luxuriant gardens are scattered throughout the Paduan province.
These grand buildings along with their historical gardens witness the age-long strategic importance of this territory and its cultural and economic vitality. A tour in the Paduan province can be a great chance to discover the magic and richness of the artistic, historical and architectural heritage represented by the Venetian villas and medieval castles.
One of the most interesting itineraries among medieval towns and castles develops in the south western part of the province. Three imposing castles rise at a short distance one from the other.
The 14th c. castle of s. Pelagio was converted into private mansion house by the Zaborra family in the 18th c. After one of the greatest fly actions of the past century, i.e. Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s flight to Vienna, took place here in 1918, architect Avesani arranged the interior of the castle into an interesting air museum, which illustrates the history of flight. The castle is surrounded by extensive parkland with hornbeams alley, aeronautic alley, fish pond, secret garden and other attractions.
The Catajo castle in Battaglia Terme is actually a mansion house. It was erected in the 16th c. with the imposing appearance of a castle by Pio Enea I degli Obizzi, who was famous for his military skill and for having invented the howitzer. This huge property –the castle has 350 rooms!- keeps beautiful frescoes and is enhanced by a wide park with architectonical decorations.
The wide halls of the medieval Monselice castle superbly exemplifies the tranformation which defensive buildings underwent during the Renaissance age, when the military function ceased and fortresses were converted into luxury private dwellings. The wide complex includes medieval rooms, which are still in their original state, some beautiful halls with original 14th c. fireplaces, and later parts added or enlarged in the 16th –17th c. In the first half of the 20th c., Count Vittorio Cini transformed the complex into a home-museum acquiring ancient pieces of furniture, art objects and important collection of old arms and armours, which are still on display.
The ancient S. Martino della Vaneza castle in Cervarese S. Croce has a distinct sense of history and a picturesque rural setting along the banks of the Bacchiglione river. Erected in the XI c. for defensive purposes it was enlarged by the Da Carrara family in the 14th c., who reinforced it. It is one of the oldest tower houses of the paduan province and still keeps the characteristic features of the medieval military architecture. It contains a museum dedicated to the river Bacchiglione.
Set in peacefully surroundings at the foot of the Lozzo hill, Valbona Castle is a very well preserved 13th c. building and one of the most interesting examples of medieval military fortification. The castle boasts a reastaurant and a photographic display about the Paduan castles.
Venetian villas are amongst the most precious gems of the Paduan territory. Enhanced by wide gardens or age-old parks, these magnificent dwellings were realised between the 15th and the 18th c. to satisfy the agricultural and recreational needs of their noble owners. Villa Contarini majestically dominates the town of Piazzola sul Brenta. Its scenographic mass comprises a 16th-century central body with the famous Sala della Chitarra Rovesciata (Hall of the upside-down guitar), long monumental 17th c. barchesse (lean-to), wide semicircular arcades, and 50 hectares of parkland with fish ponds, lakes and tree-lined avenues.
Not far away from Villa Contarini, in Piombino Dese, is Villa Cornaro (1551-52), a masterpiece by Andrea Palladio. It is a monumental house with loggias and a central hall adorned with white statues and columns. In the same town you can find another beautiful villa, Villa Marcello, a sixteenth-century building with wide barchesse, historical garden and park and beautiful halls decorated by frescoes, which depict episodes from the life of Charles the Great and of the Olympian Gods.
A great number of villas crowd into the green landscape of the Euganean Hills. Nestled at the top of a gentle hill, the elegant Villa Emo Capodilista represents one of the most original 16th-century villas of the Veneto region. In Luvigliano, one of the preferred destination of wine’s lovers, lies Villa dei Vescovi, a 16th century villa planned by Falconetto. With its open loggias and multicoloured external walls it represents one of the first examples of the characteristic venetian “pictorial” architecture, which started developping in that period. The villa is now a Fai property and offers a variety of events and attractions to visitors.
The house of the great Italian poet Francesco Petrarca (14th c.) in Arquà Petrarca, retains original ceilings and furniture. From the balcony you can still enjoy the superb view on the hills, which enchanted the poet and inspired him some of his verses and letters.
A fairy-tale atmosphere surrounds the beautiful Villa Selvatico lying in enchanting position at the top of St. Elena Hill in Battaglia Terme. Its scenographic park was designed by architect Giuseppe Jappelli. An imposing staircase leads to the villa, the halls of which are decorated by 17th century frescoes.
Many other mansions are scattered throughout the area which includes the medieval walled towns of Monselice, Este, and Montagnana, which was one of the favourite inspiring lands for generations of artists, poets and writers. The whole area can be the ideal destination to discover the places of importance to the many artists, writers and craftsmen who have drawn inspiration from the hills, among them troubadoric poets, Petrarch, Byron, Shelley, Foscolo, Fogazzaro and Bruce Chatwin. Here you can find beautiful villas such as Villa dei Cappuccini-Kunkler in Este, Villa Pisani in Monselice, Villa Miari de Cumani in Sant'Elena, Villa Pisani Scalabrin in Vescovana, etc.
Fine villas adorn the rural landscape of the Saccisica region. In Bagnoli di Sopra Villa Widmann was particularly famous in the 18th century when Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni played in the private theatre of the mansion. Today the noble dwelling, which is surrounded by wide park with numerous statues, houses a famous wine-cellar and the Stradon del Vin Friularo Association. In the same area you can find Villa Garzoni Carraretto in Candiana, Villa Sagredo in Conselve, Villa Roberti in Brugine.
LIST OF THE MAIN CASTLES AND VILLAS OF PADUA AND ITS PROVINCE (ALPHABETICAL ORDER):