Path of the war residences
(Castle of Monselice, Castle of Lispida, Pontemanco, Catajo, San Pelagio, Villa Giusti)
Today the municipally of Due Carrare is immersed in the peaceful and lush green of the countryside, a bucolic dimension, a kingdom of peace and tranquility, but it has not always been so. This territory, in fact, preserves the testimonies of a past upset by conflicts and wars that we study today in the history books. Testimonies that have the form of castles, such as those of Monselice or San Pelagio, where the grueling battles that ignited the Middle Ages have been consummated, contrasting the lordship of the Carrara with that of Scaligeri for the supremacy on this part of Veneto, or residences linked to the First World War, for which it is appropriate to mention the Castle of Lispida, which was the Headquarters of King Vittorio Emanuele III, San Pelagio, from where Gabriele D’Annuzio’s flight to Vienna, or Villa Giusti site of the long negotiations that on November 3, 1918 led to the Armistice between Italia and the Austro – Ungaric Empire , therefore, at the end of the First World War. But there is no shortage of the residences of the war lords, true and proper professionals of weapons and who tank to them built great fortunes. And the case of the Obizzi, dynasty of captains of fortune, their army was one of the most famous and requested in Europe of the 16th century and their prestige still echoes in the 350 rooms of the Catajo at Battaglia Terme. To these mighty walls, in reality not built with defensive purposes, but only to remember the lineage of those who lived there, there is bound another episode that perhaps few know: Archdue Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph and heir to the Austrian – Hungarian throne, spent the last days of his life here. Shortly after his return to Vienna from Battaglia Terme, in fact, he left fora n official visit to Sarajevo, where he fell victim to the bomb that started the First World War. But together with the men of war, we should also mention the men of peace, as a brown guerilla who during the Second World War gave hospitality in his home in Pontemanco, to seven Jews rescuing them from Nazi – fascist persecution. That house still exists and is recognizable by the plaque that recalls it and celebrates the bestowal, to its memory, of the medal of “The Justice among the nations”.
This route is meant to be a real time machine, able to lead us from the times of the Middle Ages to the Great War, through the testimonies that the territory still preserves, in the form of castles, mighty walls and museums, of the main war events that have concerned him. This is to move through time, to move in space instead it is appropriate to use the banks of the Bisatto, which, collecting the waters, of the Beric heights, heads very sinuous, from which the name, towards Battaglia where the ‘escavo of the‘ homonymous canal at the end of the twelfth century allows to connect Monselice to Padua. The itinerary, therefore, does not start from the centre of Due Carrare, as being in the exact middle of the itinerary does not offer the possibility of a comfortable, safe and suggestive displacement as the embankment of the two canals. We will reach it, but it is necessary to start our ride from the center of Monselice, dominated by the Rocca Federiciana and the Castle, from here also starts the development over time of this path dedicated to the war. At the foot of the Rocca Hill, in fact we will cross our Bisatto and following the current we will leave the town of Monselice. Once we reach Villa Emo, we will leave the embankment road and take the nearby bridge which, turning left, will take us into SP16. We will walk only a few hundred meters before crossing on the right street November 4, which lead us, in the charm of the hilly landscape, to the Castle of Lispida. To continue our journey and head towards the Catajo, we should go back all the way 4 November and the short section of the SP16, to roll up the same bridge from which we had made our digression and proceed in the direction Due Carrare. After passing the center of Battaglia Terme, and the tangle of canals that characterize it, we should already see the high and powerful walls of the Catajo. The residence that was of the Obizzi, in fact, rises right on the course of the canal that we are walking. After the visit we will cross the bridge and cover a short section of the SS 16 to take immediately right on Mincana street that will lead us into the center of Due Carrare. At the roundabout with the statue of the “Due Carare”, symbol of the municipality, we take Via Roma, and then the SP 9, to reach the small village of Pontemanco, where there is the house of Guerrino Brunazzo. From here we will take Via Pontemanco, pass the roundabout with the Sp 9 and proceed straight on to the intersection with Via Figaroli. Here we turn left and continue straight to the new roundabout from where begin Via San Pelagio. It is a few kilometers, but always following the route , once you pass the bridge above the A13, you will arrive at the Castle, today named the Flight Museum, which takes its name from the historic episode that on August 9, 1918 led Gabrielle D’Annunzio to fly over the sky of Vienna and to free in the air thousands of leaflets celebrating the end of hostilities between the Empire d’ Austria and Italy. That enterprise, historically known as “The flight over Vienna”, started here, from where the planes of the squadron took off, “Serenissima” led by the poet of Pescara. Proceeding always in the same direction we will come to Mezzavia, where, after passing the bridge, we will take again our embankment in order to proceed in the direction of Padua and therefore of Villa Giusti. After the crossing with Via Ponte della Cagna, the road will no longer be paved but we will proceed until we reach Via Mandria. From here we continue a few hundred meters and at the end of this, turning right, after a few meters we will find ourselves in front of Villa Giusti, where was signed the historic armistice that ended the Great War.
The Hill of Rocca of Monselice, Rocca and the Castle (medieval wars)
The Hill of Rocca of Monselice is the most advanced of the group Euganean, reaching forward towards the countryside is its sentry, an extraordinary observation point and an inaccessible place if duly fortified. In fact it was. From the high Middle Ages. The first defensive structures date back to the Lombard – Byzantine wars in the 7th century AD, with a small castle and a circle of walls to protect the summit of the hill, where was the center of the defensive system. Over time, then, it was almost the whole hill became an extraordinary military machine. The Byzantine castle, in fact, and the church Santa Giustina were completely rebuilt in the form of a powerful fortress by Federick II of Swabia around 1240, which still stands out from the summit, and further defended by a new circle of walls. After all, these are years of terrible wars involving the son – in- law of the Emperor Federick Ezzelino III da Romano, in the control of the part of Veneto. The next century was no longer peaceful, the new powers in the field, represented by the Veronese lordship of Dalla Scala and Da Carrara, from Padua, here too they concentrated a lots of battles for the supremacy of the territory. In 1317 Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona, occupied Monselice. The Scaligeri remained until 1338 when the fortress was conquered by the Carraresi of Padua, who with Francesco Da Carrara, in 1351 started a further work of modernization and strengthening of the military structures. In 1405 the Rocca was conquered by the Venetian, announcing, together with the taking of Padua, the end of the Lordship of Carrara. By now Monselice no longer represented an indispensable defensive bulwark, given its position in the heart of Venetian territory. However, the last war that involved her was the strenuous defense that the Venetians opposed the troops of the Cambodian League between 1510 and 1516. at the end of the 16th century the fortress was demilitarized, also because it was unsuitable to withstand modern artillery attacks. The hill was sold to some Venetian aristocratic families who built their villas on its slopes. The Castle’s fortunes were mirrored by the Fortress, which is also an integral part of the Monselice defensive system. It was built in different times, from the 11th to the 16th century, fulfilling various functions: from an aristocratic residence, defensive tower, prison until it became a Venetian Villa. Today is a museum, where it is possible to make a journey in the Middle Ages through the recovery of the original aspect of the structure, realized by the Counts Cini in the first decades of the last century, with the construction of some premises such as: armory, the kitchen, the library. The interior also hosts a beautiful collection of Italian art with furniture, carpets, tapestries, sculptures and paintings.
Castle of Lispida (the First World War)
The place has a long history, which precedes the purchase of the property and the construction of the dwelling desired by the Counts Corinaldi in 1792. The villa, in fact, is born from the transformation of an ancient monastic complex with annexed church dedicated to the Virgin, of which only some walls remain incorporated in the tower adjacent to the main building. Originally the monastery was the site of the community of the monastic order of Saint Augustine, and then in the 13th century passed to the Benedictines who settled there a female community. After a phase of decay, in 1485 came the hermits Gerolimini which enlarged the monastic buildings and reconstructed the church. The suppression of some religious orders operated by the Venetians in 1780 led the complex to alienation and transformation made at the end of the century by the wealthy Corinaldi family. The radical renovation gave shape to the present villa, characterized by imposing volumes and a decoration on the top of the buildings that imitates the Ghibelline battlements. The property was then transformed in an important farm, equipped with imposing wineries for the production of wine. This Villa becomes interesting for our path dedicated to the houses of war because during the last phase of the First World War, between 1918 and 1919, the villa was chosen to host the heart-quarters of King Vittorio Emanuele III, for its proximity with Villa Giusti of Padua, the headquarters of the Italian army.
The Catajo Castle (Renaissance Wars and Great War)
A century after the defeat Carrarese against the Venetians, near the lands of the Lords of Padua, the leader of the Serenissima Pio Enea I of the Obizzi decided to build a palace, halfway between the military castle and the princely villa, which exalted the glory of his family. That was how in 1570 was born the Catajo Castle. The Pio Enea I family, in fact, although not of noble and chivalrous origins, belonged to that group of rich people who gained a status through the services given during the wars. In the Renaissence period, the small Italian states, especially those that could not rely on chosen armies or permanent conscripts, relied on the captains of fortune like the Obizzi. These were real “war lords”, paid professionals who under the command of their own militias, trained and armed, entered and exited the battles, often deciding their fate. And the army of Pius Enea I was one of the most in demand in the whole of Europe, this allowed him to accumulate great wealth which, together with those of the generations of his ancestors who preceded him in the craft of weapons put him among the most influential families of his time. A lineage that today can be refuted by the magnificence of the Catajo, realized on a project of the architect Andrea da Valle, which in time assumed the imposing aspect of a fortress. With its 350 rooms, some embellished by frescoes by Gian Battista Zelotti, disciple of Paolo Veronese, and his “Giardino delle delizie” is one of the most important historical residences in Europe.
Pontemanco ( The Second World War)
The small village of Pontemanco was a vital centre developed during the last centuries of the Middle Ages around the activity of cereal milling and exchange of goods. It is, in fact, that we could define as a “proto-industrial”, centered on the driving force produced by a water jump of three meters of the canal ‘Biancolino’ and on a node of river ways, constituted by Vigenzone, from Canale Battaglia and from the same Biancolino, which guaranteed connections with the nearby Padua or the lagoon of Venice. An activity continued for centuries, just think that the wheel of the last mill stopped only in the 1970s.But Pontemanco is also important for the extraordinary story of which was protagonist Brunazzo Guerilla, during the last years of the Second World War. In Due Carrare besieged, like the rest of this part of Veneto, by the German army, welcomed 7 jewish refugees. They were clandestine and wanted by the reconstructed fascist government of the system of Salò and by the Nazis , destined for the extermination camps. To them he opened the doors of his own house, but he was not the only one. Many in the village knew and some of them helped him to carry forward the courageous and the right action. In particular Mr. Bertin, owner of the mills, supplied food and the pharmacist Dr. Fortini provided medicine and assistance, and the parish priest, Father Gaetano Torresin, was indispensable to keep the persecuted hidden and to preserved the memory of these facts, as found in the very accurate diary he kept of those two years. Feeding and accommodating 7 persons, in time of war, with rationing and scarcity of food, was a gesture of profound humanity, but it should not be forgotten that the life of the same Brunazzo family would have been at risk if that hideout had been discovered. It was a higher risk if we consider that at the time Pontemanco was the object of a raid, because considered a stronghold of the partisans.Today it is easy to locate the house of Guerilla Brunazzo, down towards the mill, among the low houses that characterize the village, there is one with a nameplate which remembers and celebrates the bestowal, to his memory, of the medal of “Right among nations”.
Castle of San Pelagio (Medieval Wars and World War I)
The Castle of San Pelagio is linked to the war in two different periods of its long history.
The high tower that rises on the roofs of the building, in fact, is what remains of the defensive system, that the Da Carrara in the middle of the 14th century prepared to equip the territory with suitable structures to face the threats of the neighboring Lords of Verona, the Scaligeri. The whole century, in fact, was dominated by the rivalry of the two families in contending for the supremacy of the territory. The fortifications of Este, the Castle of Valbona or the Walls of Montagnana date back to these years. In the specific case of San Pelagio, the Carraresi built a fortress structured on several towers, connected to each other by underground passages up to 2 km that joined the residence to Mezzavia, fraction of Due Carrare. At present, floods and obstructions mean that underground passages are not accessible. In the following centuries, when the defensive tasks of the structure were overcome by the reorganization of the territory, finished all under the rule of Venice, the castle was transformed. In the first decades of 1700 the property passed to the Counts Zaborra who greatly expand the building, renovate the master wing to adapt it to noble residence and make the building services for agricultural use. But still in the last century the complex of San Pelagio returned to center of the war events. On August 9, 1918, the planes of the squadron “Serenessima” led by the major Gabriele d’Annunzio on their way to Vienna for the famous Flight. A demonstration and at the same time propaganda action, with which the Poet had intended to exhort the Austrians to surrender and to put an end to the belligerences through the launch of leaflets praising the peace. The Flight would then pass from the chronicle to the legend as an episode among the most emblematic of Great War. Today a section of the Museum of Flight, housed in the Castle of San Pelagio, is entirely dedicated to this adventure: here we will enter the room where D’Annunzio slept, you will see his flight estate, the originals of the leaflets launched over Wien and you can immerse yourself in a path that will accompany you on the road of the great epic Flight, from Leonardo to the space missions.
Villa Giusti stands on the ancient road that connected Padua to Abano Terme. The complex, dating back to the Middle Ages, belonged to the powerful Capodilista family and in the 19th century passed first to the Pisani – Zasio family and later to the ‘Giusti del Giardino’. The buildings have an important historical stratification as shown by the tower that, as an element of the defensive system of medieval Padua, was then used as a dovecote tower and, finally modified according to the nineteenth – century taste. In 1875 they were renovated following the romantic and eclectic style of that period, the appearance of the villa and that of the building housed the service and agricultural services. In the same years, also the large English park was designed. Under the property of senator and mayor of Padua Vettor Giusti del Giardino, the villa was the scene of one of the most important events of our nation. After lengthy negotiations, on November 3, 1918 the representatives of the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro- Hungarian Empire signed the armistice that marked the end of the First World War for Italy.