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Path of air and water

(Pontemanco – Ronchi del Volo – Ca’ Mura – San Pelagio – Mezzavia – Museum of the Navigation)
This itinerary is dedicated to two elements: the water, of which the territory is rich, so much that on it is founded an important part of the economy of the past, and the air, understood as the flight, the memory of two important pioneers of the skies is preserved  near Due Carrare: the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio and the Baron Leonino da Zara. Their history, in fact, is linked to two seats crossed by the route: the Castle of San Pelagio, from where the planes of  the “Flight over Wien”, took off in August 1918, and Ronchi del Volo in Casalserugo, where in 1909 was built the first civil airport of Italy, just by the will of Baron Da Zara. The airport of Ronchi in those years was frequented by famous people, such as representatives of the ‘Real Casa’, parliamentarians, men and women of show and culture: among the latter also the same Gabriele d’Annunzio who became a friend and companion of Leo Da Zara. The element of water is linked to the sites of Pontemanco, a small village developed in the Middle Ages around production activities, which we could define as a proto – industrial, such as the grinding of grain, and river transport, the mills of Mezzavia, or the Museum of the Navigation of Battaglia Terme that collects the finds and the testimonies of the ‘barcari’, tireless workers who for centuries followed the transports of the cereals and Euganean trachyte by river.

Road map

The route starts from, that small village of Pontemanco, formed in the Middle Ages around a jump of water, just a few meters, the Biancolino canal, but enough to set in motion a series of mills dedicated to the grinding of cereals. From here take via Biancolino that will lead us quickly out of the small town. We will continue to stay on this way even when we cross the course of the Bacchiglione and for a few more kilometers we will continue to move holding the river on the right. From the embankment you can see all the suggestivity of this view of the countryside. Behind us we will have the blue profiles of the Euganean Hills, while all around expands the green flora of the river, rich and lush, during the summer. After the bridge we will continue on the shore of the Bacchiglione, but when we get to this height the way will take the name of Beccara. Still straight for a few kilometers and going down from the top of the embankment we continue until we intersect via Pratiarcati that we will cross on the right. We will proceed straight on this last one, until we cross via Leonina and take it turning right. We will walk all the via Leonina, until the intersection, which we will proceed still straight, where it changes its name in via Ronchi di Casalserugo. Here we will come across Villa Ferri known as the Castle of Ser Ugo. We continue straight on via Ronchi di Casalserugo for several kilometres and near the town of Bertipaglia, on the left, we will meet via Ca’ Murà and we will take it. After just a few kilometers we will reach the town of Cà Mura with Villa Petrobelli and the Church of Saint Stephen. We continue via Cà’ Mura until the new intersection, where we can not proceed further, we will turn right and proceed until we cross via Foscolo that we will take turning left. Also here, always straight until you cross a larger road, it is the SP92, here we turn right and proceed only for a few meters because on the left we will find via Da Rio. Our route continues on this new road that will lead us to the centre of Cornegliana. From here we proceed on via Palazzina, which we will cover for several kilometers until we cross via Da Lisca, which we will follow until we reach via Figaroli and then Via San Pelagio. Also here it will be opportune to make a few kilometers and passed the bridge above the highway A 13 we will cross a new stage of route: San Pelagio seat of the Museum of Flight. From here in August 1918 Gabriele D’Annunzio took off for his famous flight to Vienna. To arrive at the mills of Mezzavia, that is to the next destination, we should go back on our footsteps and take via San Pelagio, in the same direction from which we came, and after passing the bridge above the A13 motorway take via Giuseppe Verdi, which we will find on the right. We will proceed for a few kilometers and then on the right we will find via Saline a small road that will lead us back to the countryside of Due Carrare and its rural past. In fact here, before crossing the SS16, we will find the ancient ‘Mills of Mezzavia’. From here we will turn right onto the SS16, which we will follow until we cross the bridge of Mezzavia that leads us on the other side of the Battaglia canal. Here we will descend on Via Granze Destra, pointing towards Monselice. We will pass in front of the mighty bulk f the Catajo, but our destination is the Museum of River Navigation of Battaglia Terme, where is preserved the close relationship that this land has always maintained with the water. The museum is located in via Ortazzo which can be reached by taking the bridge in front of us, once descended from the embankment, and turning right we will follow a short section of SS16, until the intersection with via Chiodare. After a few meters, on the right we will cross via Ortazzo. Returning from this on via Chiodare and turning, it will be possible in a few minutes to return to the center of Due Carrare and to Pontemanco, where we started this route.

Site sheets of interest touched by the route: 

Pontemanco, the ancient village grew from the power of water
A Due Carrare, along the shores of the Biancolino, rises the small medieval village of Pontemanco, keeper of a mill of the 14th century, mentioned in 1338 in the testament of Marsilio da Carrara, Lord of Padua. Throughout the Middle Ages, in fact, the small village of Pontemanco was a vital centre developed around productive activities, which could define as proto – industrial, related to the energy obtained from a water jump of just three meters of the Biancolino canal. The driving force of the water, in fact, allowed the installation of mills for the grinding of the grain and the canal bed itself allowed an agile river way for transport. These prerogatives remained important also in the following season, characterized by the progressive presence of the Venetian aristocracy in the countryside, so much so that in 1539 there were twelve wheels. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Grimani family obtained the concession to exploit the water of the small canal, with the whole chain connected. And in this period that came to stabilize the town planning system of the small village and Grimani were protagonist, contributing to the realization of the network of structural and service of economic activity, as the completion of the houses of the workers, the manors, the cavalrymen, the boatmen, and expanding the main house of village, which had been the Pasqualingo, in the Villa Grimani. The activity of the mills remained important for the territory until the contemporary age: the last wheel, in fact, stopped only in the seventies of the 20th century.

The Church of San Martino in Ronchi del Volo
The ancient Church of San Martino in Ronchi del Volo, locality of Casalserugo, was built in 874 by the Bishop Rorio and donated to the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua. With the adjoining countryside, territory known then as Maserada. When in 1172 Pope Alexander III took under his protection Santa Giustina and her property, including the small Chapel of Saint Martin of Tours, the two localities of Ronchi (from “Roncho”, which refers to a deforested territory, become in the 14th century “Ronchi di Casalserugo” and at the beginning of the 20th century “ Ronchi del Volo”, to remember the aeronautical enterprises of Leonino da Zada, author here of the first civil flight in Italy) and Maserà stood out definitively. The church probably rebuilt in the 13th century, was consecrated in 1519. Between 1617 and 1766 the Benedictine monks of Santa Giustina (the Chapel had returned to the dependencies of the Paduan monastery) took turns to govern the parish, but from 1766 Ronchi always had diocesan priests as parish priest. In he 20th century (1944) a new parish was built in modern gothic but the smaller church, with its great architectural testimony, is still open thanks to the restoration of 1969.

Villa Ferri, known as the “Castle of Ser Ugo”
Villa Ferri, known as the “Castle of Ser Ugo”, takes its name from the family of Ser Ugo da Casale, who at that time owned a large part of the territory. The dwelling, with its imposing exterior aspect, is the result of the successive increase of a tower – house with a function of living and defensive. Of the original structure retains a trunk of tower embedded in the current building, the windows in Romanesque style open on the north side and the sequence of blind arches in the frame, while the entrance portal and the half balcony door date back to a period between ‘500 and ‘600. Villa Ferri also preserves a splendid cycle of frescoes of astrological subject dating back to the begging of the ‘400 that seem to echo those present in ‘Palazzo della Ragione’ in Padua. It is fabled that this ancient Venetian villa, as it is called in Casalserugo, was connected by a secret tunnel to another dwelling. The garden of Villa Ferri “Castel Ser Ugo” during the summer time hosts events and cultural entertainment and is now the seat of the municipal library.

Ca’ Murà, the ancient village of Benedictines
In the years in which Litolfo Da Carrara financed the Abbey of Santo Stefano, other Benedictine communities engaged in the reclamation of marshy lands settled at the Maserà of Padua. This is testified to by the village of Ca’ Murà which, near the oratory of Santo Stefano and Eurosia, still presents: the building of “casolino” which worked with the barter of eggs, the house of the manor, the blacksmiths and the “sensaro”, the hospitable, the pilgrim’s hotel, the “boarie” and the house of the “gastaldo” called Casa Giuditta. To supervise the activities of the village Villa Petrobelli, the 17th century summer residence of the Counts Petrobelli, nobly equipped with park and ‘barchesse’ bulding services.

Castle of San Pelagio
The Castle of San Pelagio has medieval origins (XIV century) as evidence by the tower built by Da Carrara, Lords of Padua, in the first half of the 14th century. The imposing crenellated tower had a function of first defense in the numerous attacks by the Scaligers, Lords of Verona. In the middle of the 18th century, the property passed to the Counts Zaborra, who greatly enlarged the building, renovated the master wing to adapt it to the residence and built the building services for agricultural use. Since then the family of the Counts Zaborra lives in the Castle, rich in private and historical memories. From here, on August 9, 1918, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio left for the “crowds” Flight over Wien where he accomplished his famous enterprise: the launch of thousands of leaflets celebrating the surrender over the Austro – Hungarian capital.
In the briefing room, as the night before the Flight over Wien, 11 pilots around a table; at the centre their commander, Gabriele D’Annunzio, seems to recall his loyal airmen to the order a few hours before departure. An illusion, as in a journey back in time of 100 years exactly! In the rooms remained as then so that one can relive those moments.
The immersive hall of the “Flight over Wien”, recalls the old hangars of the San Pelagio flight camp in 1915 – 1918. The space, with huge projections more than 7 meters, make the visitor relives the crazy flight over Vienna by Gabriele D’Annunzio on August 9, 1918: the route, the planes, the words of the prophet and the launch of tricolour leaflets celebrating surrender. Vintage films and virtual reality reworking lead the visitor to fly with the Poet and his squadron, “La Serenissima”, from San Pelagio to Wien, and back.
Get lost in the labyrinths in the footsteps of the Poet and walk in the Park, inserted in the network of excellence “Grandi Giardini Italiani” you will enjoy the same beauty and harmony of scents and colours that for over 200 years fascinate the guests of the Castle of San Pelagio; the inimitable place with a unique Flight Museum in Europe.

The mill of Mezzavia
It’s one of the two millers present on the Biancolino canal (the other is the mill of Pontemanco), placed in correspondence of the barrage of the water flow. The present artefact dates back to the 18th century, replacing the wooden artefact already operating in 1200, a very important plant abandoned only in the recent post – war period. The Biancolino canal was built in medieval times as a deviation of the Battaglia canal, an important river route that connects Padua with Monselice and Este. The Mill of Mezzavia, which exploited the difference in level between the canals, was owned by the municipality of Padua, but in 1220 a part of structure passed into the hands of Giordano Forzatè, Prior of the monastery San Benedetto of Padua, until in 1262 it was completely absorbed by the monastery (and divided between that of  Padua and Monselice on Mount Ricco). The facility, which initially consisted of two mills, was expanded over time, of other four wheels and had to be a profitable business because it responded to the need of numerous tenants in the area who cultivated the land of the local landowners. In 1617 a terrible flood hit the area and the only plants to save were those of the half- moon. He tells the story that people in desperation assaulted the implants by tearing the flour from each other. From the above road Battaglia, are still visible the remains of the five ‘calloni’(smalls canals with sides and bottom in wood or stone) of which four with hydraulic wheels (the central one was used for draining water). Going down via Saline you can still see both, the water derivation and part of the bridge with two masonry arches above which ran the old road “postal” Adriatica before the enlargement. Not far away is the masonry building with the wheel rebuilt, which replaced the old, wooden, placed on both sides of the Biancolino canal. The activity ceased in 1919 on the left side and a few years later also on the other side of the canal, which kept the metal hydraulic wheel until the ‘50s.

Museum of River Navigation
The fluvial junction of Battaglia Terme, constituted by the meeting of four watercourse (Bisatto, Rialto, Vigenzone and Canale Battaglia), has represented for centuries the fulcrum of an intense activity of market exchanges, based on the activity of the so-called boatmen, experienced sailors of the fluvial navigation. With their boats they transported the ‘masegni’ (blocks of trachyte) and the grits coming from the euganean area towards the Venetian ports and lagoon. The testimonies of life of these tireless workers and the history of their activity are told through the more than 4000 finds exhibited in the Museum of River Navigation of Battaglia Terme. This is a truly unique museum, created by the initiative of some former boatmen who, since 1979, have collected with great passion and tenacity all the materials and documents, which have been made available to the municipality to preserve the memory of their ancient craft. The visit to the museum is divided into five sections that illustrate the types of boats, the equipment used in boatyard, the waterway system of the territory, the evolution of the means of propulsion and the objects of life on board of the boats.