Cities and Courts in the Po Valley Part 2: From Venice to Milan

 

This is the continuation of itinerary: Cities and Courts in the Po Valley Part 1 from Milan to Venice

The itinerary:

At least two days should be spent in Venice

We still have to visit the islands of Murano, Burano and most of all, Torcello, the most enchanting spot in the Lagoon.

Leaving Venice by the Padua road and passing through Mestre (5 miles), we will not take the Autostrada, but rather the National Highway no. 11, which runs along the banks of the Brenta. Here the great Venetian families built their famous country villas which, taken as a body, constitute the most important example of residential architecture in existence.

Villa Pisani maze – Photo © North Sullivan

Villa Pisani maze – Photo © North Sullivan

We can neither describe nor list them. They follow one another in uninterrupted succession, all more or less celebrated, up to the outskirts of Padua. Most worthy of being seen is the Villa Foscari (known as the Malcontenta), in a romantic and secluded position on the road to Fusina.

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From here we return to the main road for Padua: the astonishing series of villas, built over a span of 300 years, goes on, through the towns of Cringe, Mira, and Dean: at Stra is the celebrated Villa Pisani (1756), now belonging to the State, with its magnificent park, its maze, and its sumptuous interior, where many crowned heads have stayed, including Napoleon.

Particularly noteworthy is the glowing fresco painted by Tiepolo at the age of 66 on the ceiling of the reception-hall. Passing by still other villas, through Noventa Padovana, we reach 17 miles from Mestre the city of Padua, well worth one day of visit.

Leaving Padua, we take the road to Monselice, and 27 miles from Padua we reach the city of ROVIGO.

ROVIGO: Founded in about the 9th century, it was subsequently a possession of the Este family and then of Venice. We enter it by Viale Porta Adige and then, taking Viale Trieste, we come to the late 16th century Rotonda or Church of the Madonna del Soc corso, containing 17th century paintings. We then make for Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, a handsome Venetian square where we will find the Palazzo Roncale (1555), designed by Sammicheli, and the neo-classical palace of the Accademia dei Concordi, with an excellent collection of paintings (works by G. Bellini, Carpioni, Pittoni. Piazzetta, Longhi, Tiepolo, Holbein the Elder, Tintoretto). The Picture Gallery of the Episcopal Seminary is important with fine works esp. of the 18th century.

From Rovigo, after a 23 mile drive over the plain of the Po Delta, we reach the Po, at Pontelagoscuro, and then immediately enter FERRARA, well worth one day visit.

In the afternoon of the twelth day of our trip, we leave Ferrara by the Porta Reno and take the State Highway SS 64 which 30 miles further on brings us to BOLOGNA.

Palazzo Re Enzo - Photo BolognaWelcome

Palazzo Re Enzo – Photo BolognaWelcome

At least half a day should be dedicated to Bologna.

Leaving Bologna by Porta Sam Felice, we follow the Via Emilia for some 23 miles until we reach MODENA.

Half a day should be reserved to visit Modena

Leaving Modena, we head for Nonantola (6 miles from Modena) with its splendid Romanesque Abbey (12th century) attributed to Lanfranco, the architect who designed Modena Cathedral, and from here (15 miles) to CARPI where, facing onto a spacious square, is an imposing medieval Castle, completed in the 16th century by a magnificent courtyard.

Then there is the charming arcade with 15th century buildings and the Cathedral, also 15th century, designed perhaps by Peruzzi.

Another 17 miles bring us to Reggiolo, also with a medieval castle, and then in the direction of the Po we go another 8 miles and reach GUASTALLA, another tiny capital of the Gonzage Direly, with a 15th century Palace and Cathedral and a Romanesque Parish Church where two Councils were held.

We now pass along the banks of the Po, cross the river beyond Boretto, over a modern bridge reach Viadana and 15 miles from Guastalla, SABBIONETA, whose subsequent decline into being no more than a country village has certainly not eliminated the evidence of its aristocratic, classical buildings, begotten of the civilized and poetic dream of a great Renaissance soldier-prince, Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga, who established it as his capital, the little Athens on the Po, as it came to he called. We will see the sumptuous Galleria delle Antichita, plundered over the centuries by irresponsible vandals; and still standing in front of it, a statue of Pallas Athene on a lofty Corinthian column.

Then there is the splendid Church of the Incoronata, with its memorial to Vespasiano Gonzaga, a magnificent bronze by Leone Lenin (end of 16th century), the Ducal Palace, with its splendid ceiling and beautiful wooden statues of the members of the Gonzaga family, and the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Scamozzi.

Leaving Sabbioneta, we head for Casalmaggiore (4 miles), cross the Po and passing by Colorno, the lavish summer Palace of the Parma dukes (1660-1728), reach (15 miles from Casalmaggiore) the city of PARMA, which we will visit in the evening of the penultimate day of our trip and on the following morning.

LLeaving Parma, we head towards FIDENZA with is notable Gothic-Romanesque Cathedral full of Romanesque sculptures. But before reaching Fidenza, we would suggest making a detour to Fontanellato in order to see one of the most beautiful princely castles in Emiha, the Rocca (12th-16th century) of the Sanvitale princes, which contains frescoes showing scenes of a joyously pagan Tranquillity by Parmigianino.From Fidenza, some 22 miles along the Via Emilia, we come to the famous Certosa, the Charterhouse of Parma, about 2,5 mi. from the city center. Leaving Parma, we head towards FIDENZA with is notable Gothic-Romanesque Cathedral full of Romanesque sculptures.

Fontanellato

But before reaching Fidenza, we would suggest making a detour to Fontanellato in order to see one of the most beautiful princely castles in Emilia, the Rocca (12th-16th century) of the Sanvitale princes, which contains frescoes showing scenes of a joyously pagan Tranquility by Parmigianino. From Fidenza, some 22 miles along the Via Emilia, we come to PIACENZA, a city with an extremely ancient history.

We come in by way of Via Roma, where we see the Basilica air San, Savino; its facade was altered in the 18th century, although the interior and the crypt still preserve their Romanesque forms. On the same side of Via Roma, is the handsone 15th century Palazzo dei Tribunali, with its precious doorway, and the Cathedral, a stately Romanesque structure with loggias set into the facade and along the sides, and an impressive interior.

From the Cathedral, we pass on to the Basilica di S. Antonino (11th century) with its magnificent polygonal Tower. Taking Via Verdi and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, we reach Piazza Cavalli, with the fine crenellated Palazzo Comunale (1281) with its three- and four-light windows, the two fine equestrian statues of Farnese princes by Mochi, and the Gothic church of S. Francesco (1278).

Other important monuments include the Romanesque church of S. Giovanni in Canale San Sisto, and the famous Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Campo at the opposite end of the town. We might also visit the Pinacoteca Alberoni Painting Gallery with the Christ at the Pilot by Antonello da Messina, as well as a number of Flemish paintings.

Certosa di Pavia

We continue then to Pavia, where we visit the city.

Before arriving back in Milan by the Ticinese Gate, we come, after a short 5 miles, to one of the most famous monuments in Italy, standing by itself in the open countryside: the CERTOSA DI PAVIA (charterhouse), founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1396) as a fatuity mausoleum and completed during the Renaissance, which here reaches the loftiest expression it was to achieve in all of Lombardy.

A visit to the church, to the charming small cloister, to the large cloister, the Library, the many beautiful statuary groups (among them the tomb of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice Sforza) and the paintings (by Perugino, Borgognone, Luini) will take up part of the morning.

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Itinerary partly courtesy of ENIT