the podesterie

What is a podesteria?

It is an administrative unit typical of the Medieval Communes time. Every commune used to have the jurisdiction over other bordering territories. Usually, the person in charge of the law enforcement and of public order was the Podestà, while the control over the military was assigned to the people’s Captain.

lignago

It is the current Legnago, municipality in the province of Verona, an important town on the right shore of the river Adige. In the Middle Ages it was very disputed because it was strategically relevant for the control of the borders of the Scaligeri domination, touched by the big river.

Since the Late Middle Ages, the evidence of the existence of a castrum in Legnago allows to guess how important this center was, especially for the important river traffic in the Adige. Some weapons found in 1931-32 on the right sore of the river, support the hypothesis according to which there were some fortified outposts between the 8th and 9th centuries, which then evolved in the following decades and centuries thanks to their increasing “military” importance. At the beginning of the 13th century, the transfer of the jurisdiction of Legnago and Porto from the episcopate to the municipality of Verona put these two towns in the complicated and ferocious fights for political power in the territory of Verona at the time. From that moment on, the chronicles of the time kept telling about the battles, sieges, destructions that these two important centers witnessed with their continuous changes of power of the following centuries – the Scaligeri, the Visconti, the Carraresi, and then the Venetians. During the Middle Ages, Porto was the most strategically relevant, especially for the rivalry between the peoples from Verona and from Padua, but with the fall of the Scaligeri’s Signoria and especially after the Venetians conquered the dry land, Legnago became gradually the defensive core of the southern borders of the Venetian state.

montagnana

We are talking about a small town in the province of Padua which is still surrounded by its whole walls. Such walls have been widened and completed over the centuries to improve its defense, since it had always been logistically important during the fights.

Founded as a fortified village by the first Venetian populations that arrived in the fertile area where the river Adige once flew, the ancient Motta Aeniana became a Roman town in 89 b.C. After the “rotta della cucca” in 589, a flood that moved the riverbed, Montagnana became the military, jurisdictional and administrative center of the Sculdascia (or Scodosia) under the Lombards – it was an area under the authority of a civil and military official sent directly by the king. It is from that moment on that the strategic importance of the town starts to become clear, since it was on the border. The wooden defense walls, surrounded by a wide moat filled with the water of the river Frassine were first strengthened by the Obertenghi (from which the Estensi will descend), and then by the Carraresi from Padua (11th and 12th centuries). After a first failed attempt in 1239, from which Ezzelino barely saved himself, in 1242 he put the tone under siege during the fight between the emperor and the commune of Padua. In order to conquer the town, the tyrant set its fortifications to fire, to later rebuild them, together with the Mastio of the Castle of San Zeno, only for military purposes. Once the town went back under the control of Padua in 1275, it was set a strong garrison in the Castle, the Castle of San Zeno was widened, and town walls were built around part of the settlements. In the 14th century, Padova went to war with Verona, and during that time the municipality changed rulers many times: from 1319 to 1337, it was under the control of the Scaligeri from Verona, conquered in 1362, Francesco Il Vecchio Da Carrara ordered the building of the Rocca deli Alberi – a fortress facing Bevilacqua and its castle, a few chilometers away, and at the time under the enemy Scaligeri’s domination. With the dramatic end of the Da Carrara dynasty, in 1405 Montagnana became part of the Serenissima, which developed its farming of hemp.

este

Amazing town in the province of Padua, at the bottom of the Euganean Hills. It witnessed the ascent of the popular lords Da Este, the same lords that crossed the Po to rule over Ferrara.

At the bottom of the Euganean Hills, the town of Este can praise itself of very ancient origins, and it was one of the biggest centers of the Veneti civilization. Este was also one of the biggest fortified nuclei to control the territory during the Middle Ages. The imposing Carraresi’s castle reminds of the time when it was an imposing war machine doomed to achieve a central role in the defense of the dominions of the lordship of Padua. It was built over the little hill of the Prince in 1056 under the rule of Henry III, it became a fortified dwelling with Azzo II, who took the name “Da Este”. Later, it was on top of the slope with a fortress and a tower around which the little village started to grow, and it got the input to its growth into a town. After the severe damage it suffered during the conquer of Este by Ezzelino III Da Romano in 1238 and 1249, the castle went through much hardship in the succession of its dominations and disputes between the Carraresi, Scaligeri, and Visconti. The urban center of the town developed in a separate new area, clearly different from the castle. This was caused by the attempts to change the hydrography of the town, that created a rectangular island with embankments and walls, as a consequence of a new artificial branch of the Bacchignone connected with the old course of the Sirone river. Between 1338 and 1339 the new urban fences were rebuilt by Ubertino Da Carrara over the ruins of the previous one, and based on a project by Domenico Da Firenze, who worked at the court of Padua, or on a project by Francesco Schici, who is known as the builder of the Fortress of the Trees in Montagnana, according to other testimonies. When Este fell under the domination of Venice at the beginning of the 15th century, the inside of the urban center became complete, thanks to the strengthening of the villages outside the walls, and the opening of new doors with bridges, like San Francesco and the Girometta.

monte selce

This is nothing more than the current Monselice, big town in the province of Padua, at the bottom of the Euganean Hills. It still has all the characteristics of a fortified town as the last and most southern stronghold to protect Padua and its territory.

According to the tradition, it was founded by Ossicella, a Trojan hero and companion with Anthenor, the founder of Pauda, who was running away from Asia. Its name comes from the mountain that overlooks it, “Mons Silici.” The Romans were in this area at least since the 1st century b.C., when the empire ends, Monselice kept its strategic centrality, thanks to its position at the crossroads between the north-south and east-west trajectories, with a hill next to it which makes both a natural stronghold and an excellent observation point. This is why the Lombards set here one of their “castrum”, a forthcoming military post from which they could control the territory, therefore choosing Monselice as their western stronghold in northern Italy. Thanks to the demographic growth and to its political relevance, in the 12th century Monselice acquired the status of free Commune and can take advantage of its Fortress that comes from the original cast rum. Considered impregnable thanks to its defensive system made up of five orders of walls, fortifications and towers, it was taken many times only due to treason from within, first in favor of Ezzelino Da Romano, then in 1256 to a league against Ezzelino led by Azzo D’Este, and last in 1338 a garrison opened the doors to Ubertino Da Carrara, lord of Padua. In the meantime, Fredrick II, after a visit to his vicar Ezzelino, was impressed by the military structure and ordered to build a fortification up to the top of the hill, on which still nowadays there is the imposing Fredrick’s Mastio.

cologna

Cologna Veneta is a town in the province of Verona with a long historical past. Especially in the Middle Ages it had to deal with all the lordships of the time.

Cologna Veneta (from “Colonia”, a clear reference to the Roman farming colony) was built on the bank of the river Guà (“Flumen Novum”), destroyed by the barbarians since the 4th century, and during the Lombards domination (568-774) It became a “statio.” A legend tells that Rosumnda, who had killed her husband and king Alboino, used to have a castle here, according to someone in the small town of Sabbion. The castle of Cologna Veneta was owned by the Estensi since 1204. In 1239, during the dispute between the papacy and Fredrick II of Swabia, Ezzelino III Da Romano took it and controlled it for two decades. In 1256 the town rebelled against Ezzelino and occupied its castle, but the riot was not successful, and its leader, Jacopo Bonfado was hanged with his son to the town walls. In 1260, Cologna Veneta went under the Scaligeri control until 1387, when the lords of Verona left them to the Visconti who wanted to unify the whole territory that is now called northern Italy and part of the center. In 1401, with the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti the project is over and Cologna is annexed to the Paduan feud of the Carraresi one year later. In 1405, the Venetians won the long war against the Estensi and annexed Cologna to their territories. In April 1406, the doge Michele Steno added the town to the “dogado”, associated it to the district of Dorsoduro and declared its inhabitants Venetians.

castel baldo

Castelbaldo is in the province of Padua, at the border with that of Rovigo. Unfortunately, we have just little evidence to testify the strategic relevance of this town that in the Middle Ages was an important river hub and was therefore fully equipped to prevent any attempt to conquer it by the enemies.

Castelbaldo was founded in 1292, year in which the Paduans (still in the commune time) decided to build a castle as a stronghold and defense of the southern border of their territory with the Scaligeri and the Estensi. Its name comes from that of the Podestà of Padua in those years, Lambertuccio De’ Frescobaldi. During the 13th century, Castelbaldo was the focus of important political and military events. Among the most relevant there is the “Castelbaldo league” (1331) in which Scaligeri, Visconti, Estensi, Gonzaga, Florence and Naples joined armies against the king of Bohemia John I of Bohemia and the Papal State. In 1387, the fierce battle of Castagnaro was fought in this territory. The Carraresi – who had become lords of Padua in 1318 – defeated the Scaligeri with which they were fighting. The Visconti took advantage of the situation, and joining arms with the Carraresi took the crumbling lordships of Verona and Vicenza. In 1338, Gian Galeazzo Visconti allied with Venice against the Carraresi, until in 1404, once the Carraresi lordship fell, Castelbaldo went definitively under the control of Venice. From that moment on, the military-strategic importance of Castelbaldo started to fade, and in 1528 the Venetian Senate established that the fortification had to be destroyed. All the material was moved to Legnago where it was used to build a new stronghold; of the old castle there is now just one tower.

cinto

Cinto Euganeo is the province of Padua, at the core of the amazing Euganean Hills, and it has been conventionally chosen to represent the strategically arduous area which for thousands of years have been a natural barrier to all the people that wanted to settle next to it.

It took the name from a person of the Gens Quentia, which inhabited this area of the Euganean Hills, even if its origins date back to the time of the first settlements of the Euganeans who were escaping the Veneti, a warmongering people coming from east which had disembarked on the Adriatic coast. For its strategic position as a land of passage, it was destroyed several times by barbaric populations, among which Vandals and Lombards, until it was built a fortress on top of the hill that overlooks the town. In the 13th century, after the war that counterposed Este and Padova controlled by Ezzelino Da Romano, the fortress was destroyed. Once it was rebuilt, it suffered a disastruous fire, and then a new and final demolition in 1313 by the people from Verona of Cangrande Della Scala. They had opposed the lords of Padua, and after a siege during which the Paduan troops had resisted against the Scaligeri that had been joined by German mercenary troops: they all died like the three hundred Spartans of Leonida at the Thermopylae. At the beginning of the 15th century, Cinto passed under the control of the Serenissima.

vighizuol

In the Middle Ages, near Vighizzolo d’Este, in the province of Padua, there was a lake made and powered by the continuous floods of the river Adige, which had made the whole area like a big swamp. Nonetheless, a little community could develop around the castle.

The story of the town is definitely connected to the water, the swamps that surrounded it, and that water flow “Canale de Vigiziol” (the Frassine, for this part called Santa Caterina) on which banks there were all the houses of the village. From the old topography of the “Retratto del Gorzon”, an ancient map in which there were little houses or sheds and their little lands were at the side of the river, we can understand that the inhabitants lived with the products of fishing and farming. On that same map of the 16th-17th century, in a meander of the canal it is possible to see clearly the shape of a castle: the Castle of Vighizzolo, which was mentioned in the oldest documents since the time of Ezzelino’s domination and of the princes of Este. The chronicler Rolandino narrated that in 1242 Azzo VII got to know that the fury of Ezzelino was going to impact on Montagnana. Since he couldn’t organize an army that could face the powerful war machine of the “Tyrant”, with a maniple of soldiers from Este and Montagnana he managed to bring to safety a lot of men, women and children at the castle of VIghizzolo. In 1248, Ezzelino set the castle and the little village on fire, but the castle was rebuilt under the Carraresi control. In 1323, Vighizzolo was conquered by Corrado da Vigonza, and in 1334 it went under the control of the marquis Malaspina, supported by the Scaligeri. After a short break of control of the marquis Aldovrandino d’Este, it was given to the Carraresi. In 1405, it became part of the Republic of Venice, during the Renaissance it had lost its importance since the Serenissima had planned a time of peace, and the firearms had made it unnecessary to retain the big troops of the time. The latest news are dated 1483, through Marin Snaudo, who said: “In Vighizuol there is a castle which there was already; the castellan has £ 44 a month, 10 coins. Now, it is just a torn tower.”