What to see in Monselice? Monselice is a small village in the province of Padova (from there, 25 minutes by train or car). There are two different legends about its foundation.
- First legend. After the Trojan conquest (due to the famous horse) Ossicella and two companions, Antenor and Ateste, escaped from their motherland and landed on the beaches of Veneto. Antenor founded Padova and the other two continued their journey. On their way they were attacked by the Euganean inhabitants near Abano Terme. Ossicella managed to reach the Monselice hill and began the construction of the walls. Ateste went a little farther and founded Este. Basically, these three folks got very busy here!
- Second legend. According to this legend, there was once a rivalry between the beautiful and graceful Egina and the boorish giant Sarpedone. They couldn’t get along and started a clash. Egina won and could rule upon Monselice. During the excavation works to fix a stretch of the Monselice walls, a Latin writing was found and it said: In this place Egina, lady of this mountain, maimed Sarpedone lord of the nearby mountain.
In any case, the first fortification on the hill, called Rocca (fortress), was built by the Byzantines (V-VI century). Monselice became municipality in the mid 1100. During 1200 became a possession of the tyrant Ezzelino III da Romano, who widened the city walls, restructured the Rocca, built the Civic Tower and the Palace of Ezzelino (now part of the castle).
In 1300 the town is disputed between Verona and Padua, who wins in 1327. With the fall of the lords of Padua, however, Monselice becomes part of the Venice territory. The country loses its role as a hub for commerce and is transformed into a holiday location for the Venetian noble families.
After a short period of French domination, Monselice became part of the Austrian Empire and then, in 1866, of the Kingdom of Italy. Unfortunately during 1800 part of the city walls was demolished, but some long stretches are still visible.
What to see in Monselice
We parked in via Argine Destro on a beautiful Sunday morning. From the parking lot you can admire a part of the walls, standing proudly in front of you. In 5 minutes we arrived at the main square, Piazza Mazzini. There you can see on the right the Civic Tower, and on the left corner the nice Palazzo della Loggia. There you have to enter via Palladio on the left (immediately after you will find the Tourist Information Office on the right). Just around the corner you will spot the Castle. The Castle is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. If you want to learn something more about it, read my post about Monselice Castle.
A stone’s throw from the Castle, going up following the path on the left, you can admire (from outside), the beautiful Villa Nani (its walls are topped with dwarves statues, alluding to the family name “Nani” which means dwarves in Italian). Proceeding you will spot the Santa Giustina Church, the Lions Door, the Belvedere and the Roman Door.
Overstep the door, there’s the the Jubilee Shrine of the Seven Churches, commissioned by the Duodo family. It consist of 7 Churches: 6 in a row and a last one on the right, next to Villa Duodo. The builder was the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi (1605- 15). Each of these little churches has the name of a Roman Basilica and, by permission of Pope Paolo V, has the same privilege of those important Basilicas, i.e. plenary indulgence to the devotees that go there on pilgrimage: Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, San Lorenzo fuori le mura, San Sebastiano and San Paolo fuori le mura. The Church on the right is San Giorgio. Each chapel contains a fresco by Jacopo Palma the Younger. The subjects painted are: the Assumption, St. John the Baptist, St. Helena, St. Lawrence, St. Sebastian and Saints Peter and Paul.
At the end of the street you can admire (only from the outside) Villa Duodo, now branch of the Paduan University. To the left of Villa Duodo you can see an exedra dedicated to St. Francis Xavier (who stayed once in Monselice) and the stone staircase leading to the Rocca (which we didn’t visit).
Monselice is tiny and you can visit it with no hurry. The highlights are the walls, the hill path along the 7 churches and the Castle. So an half day visit can do. Obviously something more if you go visit the Rocca and/or stop for lunch or dinner. For cyclists there’s also a beautiful cycle path that runs along the river and lead you all around the Euganean Hills. Have you ever been in Monselice? What did you think about it?