Dwight Peck's personal website

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.

Monselice and the Ezzelino 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.

Monselice from the south -- a small city of about 20,000 clustered beneath a strategically attractive hilltop, Monselice (originally Mons Silicis probably 'rocky mountain', in Latin) saw Bronze Age inhabitants and a Roman settlement, but it is first documented from the late 6th century AD when it was wrested from the grasp of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna by the Lombards.

An awkward beginning to our sightseeing (the Chiesa di San Stefano, not looking its best today), but we persevere. The altitude of Monselice is only 9m above sea level, but the Rocca or fortress on the top of hill, at the southeastern edge of the Euganean Hills, is at 110m and looms over all.

The Vicolo Ezzelino. Monselice was fortified early by Lombards and Franks and became an important stronghold in the region. Following the 12th century period of republican-style self-government as a city-state, the city (as well as the entire region) was conquered by Ezzelino III da Romana, acting on behalf (more or less) of the Emperor Frederick II, in the years 1235-1250.

First things first -- we've come up the little Vicolo Mandiferro to the Via San Stefano, bound for Monselice's very own castle.

The Castello Cini (aka the Castello di Monselice), the 12th century 'Casteletto' and 11th century 'Casa Romanica' on the right and, behind the tree, the Torre Ezzeliniana, contributed on Ezzolino's orders in the 13th century.

To our horror, we are discovering that the castle's guided tours are closing down for lunch . . . a long lunch.

This is what we're missing in the meantime, Ezzelino's Tower. The Da Carrara rulers of Padua, just 20km to the north, had assumed control of Monselice when Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona, arrived with a large army at this key Padovan stronghold, which was betrayed to his Veronese vanguard in December 1317; he moved on to take Este by assault and sack it, and in February 1318 Jacopo da Carrara ceded Monselice, Este, and Montagnana to Cangrande for life.

The central Piazza Mazzini with the Civic Tower and city walls built by Ezzelino da Romana in the mid-13th century. The clock was added in the 19th century.

At the foot of the castle's street, this is the helpful Tourist Office and communal library in its 15th century building and 16th century loggia . . .

. . . in the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà. The Monte di Pietà was a late 15th and early 16th century church-run charity aimed at providing low-cost, interest-free loans to the urban poor ('pawn shops' in effect), especially all over Italy but elsewhere in Europe as well.

Searching out a nice place for a little lunch

The Piazza San Marco -- whilst the rest of our party is tucking into the local cuisine, we're seizing the opportunity to check out the Duomo, against all advice.

Well, it's very big.

The stained glass lighting is nice, but neon displays might emphasize its pleasant sense of modernity even more.

Very modern indeed -- it would look wonderful on TV.

The Parrocchia del Duomo di Monselice

Across the Canale Bisatto that passes round the west side of the walled town

The Canale Bisatto (aka Bisato), the civic tower, the belltower of the former Chiesa di San Paolo, the Castello Cini, and the mastio or tower keep at the top of the Hill of the Rocca.

The Piazza Mazzini and the San Paolo Monumental Complex. Luckily, Cangrande's life possession of Monselice ended a few years later and the city returned to Carrarese overlordship, until in 1405 or so it surrendered to Venetian administration, and did very well by that until first Napoleon and then, after 1815, the Austrians took over. In 1866 the city and the region joined the Kingdom of Italy.

The Torre Civica and some of Ezzelino's city wall

The Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini and the Rocca on the hilltop, 100m above the town

The Mastio Federiciano, or fortress built by or for (by Ezzelino) the Emperor Frederick II in the early-mid 13th century, to protect (and intimidate) Monselice. Supposedly we can walk up the hill and get a closer view of it.

The former Chiesa di San Paolo a Monselice, now the San Paolo Monumental Complex, a venue for exhibitions, conferences, and concerts, was first built in 750-800, but transformed around 1250 and much altered several times since. The belltower, from the late 18th century, replaced an original onion-dome tower from 1400.

Along the Via 28 Aprile 1945

The Via 28 Aprile 1945 going north around the Colle della Rocca. "No CSS" refers to local resistance to the provincial permission for a big cement corporation, Cementeria, to dispose of its industrial wastes nearby.

We're processing up the Via del Santuario from the town centre and the Castello Cini -- this is the fancy Villa Nani Mocenigo, a 16th century palace built by the powerful Nani family of Venice, later owned by the Mocenigo.

Garden stairway of the Villa Nani. The property is privately owned, so eat your heart out.

Humorous decorations on the Villa Nani ('nani' is the Italian plural for 'dwarf').

"Ready for lift-off!"

Farther up the Via del Santuario, this is the Romanesque Pieve di Santa Giustina, the former Duomo, begun in 1239 and consecrated in 1256.

An interesting single nave with three apses

What's left of frescoes in the central apse

The Santa Giustina from farther up the Via del Santuario

The Santuario delle Sette Chiese, Sanctuary of Seven Churches (aka Via Romana). Pietro Duodo (1554–1610), the Venetian chap who built the palazzo at the top of the road, in 1605 commissioned the architect Vicenzo Scamozzi, who completed a lot of Palladio's projects after 1580, to build this ceremonial promenade -- which (perhaps with money in the right palms) induced Pope Paul V to issue a papal bull in 1606 granting pilgrims visiting here the same holy indulgences granted to pilgrims visiting the seven main churches of Rome. Perhaps they had to march up the walkway on their knees or something.

The paintings in each chapel were done by the Venetian Iacopo Negretti, called 'Palma il Giovane', and don't really recommend themselves.

The Palazzo Duodo

And the stairway that begins the climb up the Colle della Rocca to the 'mastio'. Today's message is "Go Away".

There but for a fairly robust iron gate, go we.

The Villa Duodo of the early 17th century. Nothing that a nice coat of paint wouldn't freshen up. The picture is taken from a stone theatre carved out of the hillside.

The Chapel of St George is on the right, which (we're told) harbors dressed-up relics of early Christian martyrs liberated from the catacombs of Rome, including St Valentine his own good self. Luckily, we were unable to get in during this visit.

How the other half lives

Some details

Back down the Seven Churches promenade

There are actually some interesting-looking scientific-sort-of displays mounted in front of these, angles of the sun etc., but we didn't have time to inspect them.

This is the Via San Martino extending out east of town, beneath the Villa Duodo.

The Chiesa di San Martino began life in about the year 1000 as part of the Benedictine monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua, but it was entirely rebuilt beginning in the late 17th century.

The intersection of the Via Carraresi and the Via San Stefano -- the 'lunch hour' is nearly over, back to the castle.

The oldest parts of the Castello di Monselice, the 12th century 'Casteletto' and 11th century 'Casa Romanica'

Our party is gathering before the Castello Ezzelino-Cini, awaiting the post-lunch reopening.

We're finally in, and awaiting our guide for the tour. The earliest parts of the castle, the Casa Romanica from the 11th century and the 'Castelletto' from the 12th, are off to the right, but Ezzelino III da Romana built the free-standing Torre Ezzeliniana (above) in the 13th . . .

. . . and then, after Venetian assumption of responsibility for Monselice, the aristocratic Marcello family acquired the place and built this so-called Ca' Marcello uniting the two structures. The castle was further gentrified in subsequent centuries, but it fell into disuse and was used by the Italian army for whatever armies do, until in 1935 it was inherited by the Cini family who restored the buildings and many of its characteristic furnishings, and then gave it over to the Veneto Authority to become a regional museum.

One of the tour guides taking an important call

We were solemnly instructed, even upon direct inquiry, 'No Photo' -- so of course we Took No Photos. Until we observed many of our tour group's rustic participants taking pictures with no awkward consequences, so we inquired again and our tour guide said "Oh, okay".

Saints Sebastian and Rocco with the Virgin enthroned


So that's that. Slim and hasty pickings photowise.

A Cangrande sort of dog, but without his Della Scala ladder

We're being ushered toward the door -- our adventure is over.

Serious fortifications

Our guide making last-minute clarifications in the Q&A

Monselice lies on the southeastern edge of the Colli Euganei, or Euganean Hills of remnant volcanic activity, rather like the Chaîne des Puys in the French Massif Central, but generally smaller.

Some of the Euganean Hills from a speeding car

Back to the Ca' Vejo and . . .

. . . one of its free-range peacocks.

Next: Petrarch's retirement village

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 30 July 2017, updated 13 August 2017.

Veneto region
Feb. 2017

Veneto region
May 2017