Last Updated on November 11, 2023 by Laura Teso
The Castle of San Martino is a small castle located on a meander of the river Bacchiglione, about 18 km from Padua. It is very pleasant to stop by and read a book or play a game here under a tree, during the warm season. Although the Museum is not always open, the shady meadow is always accessible.
San Martino Castle History
The first tower (over 20 meters high) was built for defensive purposes before the XI century. At the beginning of the XIV century, the army of the Scaligeri family (dynasty that ruled the city Verona at the time) was advancing. So the defensive line was reinforced. Padua was successfully defended by Nicolò da Carrara (lord of the town and member of the da Carrara or Carraresi, an aristocratic family). The municipality therefore donated him the estate in 1324. The Carraresi implemented the major renovations and it became a real castle.
Literary sources narrate that it was invincible until it fell by treason in 1405, becoming property of the Venetians. They bribed an accomplice, paying him 320 ducats. In that way they took possession of the castle and of the whole city of Padua. Soon after, they turned the castle into a knot of river trading: there were taverns, grocery stores, a little church (demolished in 1600) dedicated to San Martino (hence the name) and a river mill (which worked until the end of 1800).
Since 1979 it belongs to the province of Padua, who restored it and opened in 1995 the Archaeological Museum of the River Bacchiglione. It exhibits finds dating from the late Neolithic to Medieval and Modern era.
Every now and then the castle becomes the perfect location for plays or reenactments. The most important is the Palio dello Sparviero (Palio of the Sparrowhawk). It takes place in June and it recalls the story of Nicolò da Carrara.
My experience at the Castle of San Martino
I went to visit the Castle of San Martino in a cold Saturday afternoon. There was only me and three actors, who were rehearsing for a performance that would take place there the next day. There’s a small parking lot at the right of the castle entrance, so you can easily come here by car. Once you’ve pass the doorway, you will see the bar/ticket-office on your right (4 steps). There was a gentle miss there who sold me the ticket and was keen to explain a few changes related to the artefacts in the museum, and she also clarified some doubts I had on the tour route. I found the bar really nice and cosy (very clean rest-room there). There were also outdoor tables, it must be lovely to sit there in spring admiring the medieval tower and the courtyard.
I must confess, I was not particularly impressed by the Museum. Some of the archaeological finds are interesting, but there’s nothing extraordinary. Inside the Castle there are unfortunately no furniture, decorations or paintings and there’s no historical description of the castle whatsoever. Plus there are no explanations in English. The visit takes less than an hour. Naturally you can stay longer to drink something at the bar or to relax in the little park. Which is very nice.
Plus and Minus
- Beautiful location, especially in the warm season
- Chance to see a medieval defence castle
- Charming if you manage to attend to the Palio in June
- Reachable by bike with a pleasant trip along the river
- Information panels of the Museum only in Italian
- Many stairs to climb and no elevator
- Absolutely not suitable for those with walking problems
Via San Martino, 19 -Cervarese Santa Croce (PD)
Museum Opening hours
Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 am – 6 pm
Closed: 1st and 6 Jan, Easter, 15 August, 1st Nov, 8, 25, 26 and 31 Dec