In the area which spreads south-west of Padua, along the main roads, are the walled towns Monselice, Este, Montagnana and, towards north, Cittadella.
The tour winds through these “embattled” cities, at a short distance the one from the other: a tour that is unique of its kind.
An alternative to the usual tours through the Venetian towns, which includes castles and villages surrounded with high defensive walls, which were built during the Middle Ages. Perfectly preserved vestiges of a glorious past, made of battles, victories, defeats and several dominations.
The medieval era was deeply marked by the Seignories’ fights: the towns defended against the enemy’s assault closing up in their powerful walls. Great historical signs from a period of austerity, at the same time fascinating and mysterious, the Middle Ages.
Monselice and the Fortress Tournament
The Fortress Tournament, on the third Sunday of September, recalls the days when the emperor Frederick II lived in Monselice, involving people in games and festivities which citizens and tourists still enjoy. It’s a period during which the Commune’s districts and hamlets challenge each other in competitions such as: the chess tournament (human chess final competition), the musicians’ tournament (tambourines and clarions), flag-wavers, the grindstones’ competition, the nine contradas’ parade in period costume and the equestrian parade (quintana).
Info: IAT Monselice tel. 0429 783026
In the Middle Ages it was one of the main fortified centres for the control over the territory. The remains of its mighty castle are preserved : it was built between 1338 and 1339 by Ubertino da Carrara and it was surrounded with a 1000m long wall, decorated with 12 towers, which now encloses the public gardens.
Info: IAT Este tel 0429 600462
It is one of the most beautiful Italian walled towns and it preserves its almost perfectly intact medieval walls, which winds along two kilometres and encloses the city centre.
The mighty embattled wall is strengthened with 24 hexagonal towers and powerful castles.
Every year, on the first Sunday of September, the Palio ceremony takes place around the walls, a rite between history and fable: the race is between the ten communities of the ancient Sculdascia – an ancient name for the surroundings of Montagnana – and it is run by ten jockeys, whose ability, strength and intelligence are indispensable to win this exciting and fantastic trial.
During the interval between the races you can assist at the Gonfalons Competition: this race is run by confaloniers from the ten municipalities on the same route used for the horse race. It’s a terrible race, in which the racers make a huge effort to run and hoist their gonfalons like sails for about 700m.
Immediately after the gonfaloniers’ race and a short flag-waving performance, the horses come on stage again for the most awaited and spectacular competition: the Palio race. The best five horses will compete: they’re entrusted with one year hope and intentions.
But the Palio isn’t but a race: the event ends at midnight with the the tower’s firing.
The Rocca degli Alberi is set on fire to recall Ezzelino setting Montagnana on fire in the 13th century: the Palio was created as a consequence of that defeat and of the following rebellion. Nowadays it continues being a lively and exciting festival.
Info: IAT Montagnana tel 0429 81320
The fourth walled town, Cittadella, stands about 30km north of Padua. It’s an extraordinary example of a European walled village on the plain, meant to be of elliptical perimeter since its origin: Cittadella preserves its walls intact. It was for a long time the strategic defensive outpost, built to protect Padua against the attacks from the north.
The walled curtain communicates with the outside through four bridges by the gates (built on the four cardinal points), turned towards the near towns Padua, Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa and Treviso: a city for each cardinal point.
It’s also possible to have a walk on the town wall.
Info: IAT Cittadella tel 049 9404485