Dwight Peck's personal Web site

The Veneto region in May 2017

A restful week around the Euganean Hills


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

A second look at Este, this time with the castle

We were visiting the Veneto region north of Venice earlier this spring, and now we're back to see some more of what we missed farther south.

We visited Este a few days ago, arriving and leaving from the southern side, and found out yesterday that they have such nice city walls all round the northern side. So here we are.

Este is a small city of about 18,000, located on the southwestern edge of the Euganean Hills, or Colli Euganei, about 30km south of Padua, and its patron saint is Thecla, the young lady who followed St Paul all around what is now Turkey in order to learn more about virginity.

There was a Roman colony here in the 2nd century BC, called Ateste, but the town got put on the map by Azzo II, Margrave of Milan and Liguria, who liked the place, built a castle here in 1073, and adopted the name of Este for his family. The Este clan (the Estensi) shifted their capital to Ferrara in about 1240.

The city has been transformed over time, but it still boasts 1km of walls with 12 towers and a tower keep on a hilltop, all mostly disguised as a huge public garden and park.

A church tower across from the southern corner of the fortifications that no one will admit to knowing anything about. (Google Maps labels it was a Chinese restaurant.)

The northern interior of the castle, with a huge play space for concerts and what not, with the keep on the hilltop above on the left. The dreaded Ghibelline warlord Ezzelino III da Romano captured Este in 1238 in his rampages all about the Veneto (having ejected the Guelph leader, Azzo VII d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara, from Este, who then captured Ferrara for the Estensi), and he then had to come and attack the city again in 1249, at which time he simplified any future problems by destroying the existing castle.

The northern gatehouse. After the Emperor Frederick II died in 1250 and his Imperial Vicar Ezzelino followed along in 1259, Este and nearby towns were harried mercilessly by the nearly continuous wars among the della Scala of Verona, the da Carrara of Padua, and the Visconti of Milan, until they gave themselves up to the protection of the Republic of Venice in 1405. And pretty much prospered after that. Until Napoleon. And, post-1815, the Austrians.

In the meantime, Ubertino I da Carrara, Lord of Padua, had built the present fortifications in about 1340, and this northern castle/gatehouse, once the chief way into the fortress, was called the Rocca del Soccorso (roughly, "back-up fortress").

Having exited curiously through the Rocca del Soccorso and encountered a traffic roundabout, we are re-entering.

Another view of the big playspace and the northern gatehouse

Another view of the northern gatehouse

Up a path along the walls towards the keep

Oh, right! Blah blah blah -- in effect, "Go away"!

Downtown Este from the keep on the hilltop: the main north-south street, the Via Giacomo Matteotti, leading to the southern gatehouse and clock tower, the Porta Vecchia over the Canale Bisato, which serves as a moat round the southern half of the centro storico.

The tower of the donjon

Suitable for weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, 60-year reunions, etc.

The keep from farther down in the beautiful gardens -- the park looks empty here, but in fact it was filled with strolling moms with prams, students poring over books on the grass, old men gesticulating to one another on benches, tourists photographing the keep, etc.

This is the 'Palazzetto', a small palace built into the southern castle wall by the 16th century owners, the Venetian aristocrats of the Mocenigo family, now housing the Museo Nazionale Atestino, which we visited a few days ago.

The museum and the southern walls of the castle

Whilst the rest of our party is enjoying a tasty lunch nearby, we're wandering about the centro storico, retracing our steps to the Piazza Maggiore, now without all the emergency vehicles and mobile crime labs ranged all about, and the 14th century Palazzetto degli Scaligeri across the way.

Street scene, the Via Cavour. There is an original fresco of the Madonna and Child in that panel overhead, but in this land of great art it doesn't stand out.

This is the Duomo di Este, or the Cathedral of Santa Tecla (that Turkish lady, who survived numerous serious attempts to execute her for being a friend of St Paul, and who died happily in a cave at the age of 72), which has a fairly eventful history. Obviously, they never troubled themselves to finish the façade but that's not the half of it. Originally there was a pagan temple on the spot, then a 4th century Christian church dedicated to St Tecla. It was expanded progressively and by the 8th century it had five naves.

It was originally oriented canonically with the apse and altar at the eastern end, but for some reason the Archbishop Francanzani decided he'd rather have it the other way around, so in works designed by Scamozzi (whose overstated work we saw in Monselice yesterday), between 1583 and 1592 the cathedral was turned round. Then in 1688 an earthquake knocked the whole thing down, and a new baroque edifice was begun in 1690 and completed in a few decades. There is a Tiepolo over the altar ('St Thecla Liberating the City of Este from the Plague', 1758), but we were denied the unspeakable pleasure of viewing it by short opening hours. Alas.

A fixer-upper

A bit farther along the Via Garibaldi, heading south

The Duomo and belltower

The Canale Bisato curving round the south side of the city, on its long journey from near Vicenza eventually to the Venetian Lagoon

Street scene

The Via Massimo d'Azegli

The Via Massimo d'Azegli along the southern edge of the old city, parallel to the canal on the other side to the right

Towers old and new

The Porta Vecchia and bridge over the Bisato canal

The Via Matteotti main street, looking north to the castle keep on the horizon

The Porta Vecchia

A humorous chimney

Along the Via Matteotii

The castle, from the Piazza Maggiore

Four lions with cannonballs

The Palazzetto degli Scaligeri, with its 50,000 volume library

The Via Principe Umberto near the Piazza Maggiore

Along the Via Negri across from the castle

The forgotten church

In the public gardens

And leaving town again -- the Chiesa della Beata Vergine della Salute in its traffic roundabout

Next: Back to Montagnana for the museum


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 4 August 2017.


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