Castelfranco Veneto, the rich – Giorgione’s great painting identifies it in its cultural component; the villas, ancient and modern, dot the territory; the medieval village calls for a stroll, between the civic tower, villa Bolasco, the sinuous course of the Muson and the jewel of the academic theater. (A.Zaltron)
Castelfranco, a Venetian city built at the end of the 12th century, has always been a hinge between Padua, Treviso and Vicenza. A land of passage and flourishing mercantile interests, it is still today, reminiscent of the Roman colonization thanks to the via Aurelia, bridge between Asolo and Padua, and the via Postumia. Roman, the first outpost to stem the incursions of Paduans and Vicentines. Castelfranco Veneto owes its name to the ‘franco’ (exempt) castle from taxes for its first inhabitants-defenders. The Castle, a mighty square of red brick with a square plan surrounded by a large moat, was built between 1195 and 1199 on a pre-existing embankment. The ancient walled city of Castelfranco no longer retains any of its old warrior profile, and the Castle is now his living room, where he welcomes his guests with great cordiality, showing his jewels.
Already in the early decades of the fourteenth century, on the eastern side, the first nucleus of the town (BastiaVecchia) developed, also a defense tool with a hospice for the poor and wayfarers.
Walled city by its very definition, it almost entirely preserves the walls and the six towers that rise at the four corners and in the middle points of the east and south.
City of trade since its origin and home to an ancient grain and cattle market, active until the middle of the last century; it was the center, in the past, of the most varied craft activities and a first-level railway hub from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day.
It was the seat of the Venetian Podesta Office from 1339 to 1797 and home, between the 17th and 18th centuries, of men of science (Jacopo, Giordano and Vincenzo Riccati), architects (FrancescoMaria Preti) and musicians (Agostino Steffani) of great fame. Castelfranco Veneto is universally known above all for being the birthplace of one of the most extraordinary and enigmatic figures in the history of painting: Giorgione (1478-1510), a mysterious genius of light and color.
Inside the castle you can visit the Academic Theater, designed by the architect Preti and built starting in 1754. The theater is not only a jewel of history but also the center of the city, the reference point of the civil life of the castellans. A point of pride of the citizens, it presents an audience first of inclination, therefore a symbol of progress and modernity. Also within the walls, there is another monument of great interest: the Cathedral, also designed by the architect Francesco Maria Preti. It was built starting from 1723 on the site of the ancient church “inside”, dedicated to S. Maria Assunta and San Liberale. Romanesque and dilapidated, it was demolished. The Cathedral was opened to the public only in 1746 and still had no façade which was built in 1893. The Cathedral of Castelfranco houses the famous Pala del Giorgione entitled “Madonna and child”.
In the Castelfranco area, ‘variegated red radicchio’ is produced, another famous variety of this delicious vegetable, similar to a rose with mottled petals, with a sweet flavor. Then you can appreciate the ‘fregolota’, a dry dessert. Castelfranco is home to renowned confectionery industries. At the same time, the restaurants in the area offer other pleasant specialties (in various trattorias you can taste menus based on horse meat, duck and game) which vary with the changing seasons.
THE WALL CINTA
The walls, towers and moat are all that remains of a complex war machine set up, according to tradition, at the end of the XII drain, but subjected to completion and reinforcements throughout the XIII century. The four corner towers were built first, followed by the walls.
The castle was accessed through two doors (“di Treviso”, to the east, and “di Cittadella”, to the west), equipped with shutters and drawbridges (replaced in the 16th century by brick bridges), and by two “rear” ( pedestrian accesses), one to the south, the other to the north.
The walls, about 17 meters high and about 1.70 meters thick, have no foundation. They rest, in fact, on a base made with the dry masonry technique. The patrol walkway (where it is preserved) protrudes for 1.75 m, supported by arches resting on stone shelves.
The Cambrai War (1509 – 1517) reveals the military inadequacy of the castle, unable to withstand the new siege techniques and artillery fire. Some sections of the walls are knocked down or collapsed; the external embankments are reduced to cultivation by private individuals.
In the nineteenth century, the castle, which escaped demolition (designed at the end of the previous century), became the symbol of the city.
Between 1865 and 1869, the bridges of the Salata (in front of the civic tower) and of the Beghi (towards the market) were built, the promenade, named after Dante, and the public gardens on the side towards the north-east tower, called by Giorgione for its location close to the monument to the great painter, erected in 1878.
Entering the castle through the main door, above which stands a Lion of St. Mark from 1499, and continuing inside the walls, you arrive in the Piazza del Duomo.
The church is the first work of the architect Francesco Maria Preti, but also the summary and highest work of his vast design production, in which all his architectural theories are expressed, subsequently resumed in other churches in the area. Preti takes as a reference model the Palladian church of the Redentore in Venice and perhaps also the Venetian church of the Gesuati. Inside the new temple, the architect applies his theories, first of all the proportional harmonic mean, so that the height of the single, luminous nave is the harmonic mean between its length and width.
The construction of the Cathedral not only involved the demolition of a stretch of walls, but also the demolition of the ancient Romanesque church “inside”, a shrine of historical city memories, irremediably lost together with the original Costanzo chapel.
In addition to the Giorgione Altarpiece, the Cathedral preserves numerous works of art. Among others: the altarpiece of the choir, with the Descent of Christ into limbo by Giovanni Battista Ponchini (about 1500 -1570), collaborator of Veronese, and, on the right side, the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by Palma il Giovane (1544- 1628), the altar of the Assumption (apse of the cross) by the sculptor Giuseppe Bernardi known as il Torretto (1694 -1773).
In the beautiful picture gallery of the Sacristy you can admire seven fragments of the frescoes that Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese (1528-1588) painted for the Villa Soranza in Treville, demolished at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Adjacent to the Duomo is the Marta-Pellizzari house, more commonly known as Giorgione’s house, not for a certain belonging to the master but for the presence on the first floor of a fresco attributed to him: the Frieze of the liberal and mechanical arts. The building, whose original nucleus dates back to the fourteenth century (enlarged between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), preserves sixteenth-century decorative friezes and some frescoes with biblical and landscape scenes referable to the Veronesian school of the sixteenth century.
MOUNT OF PIETA ‘
The current Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, designed by the engineer Luigi Benini from Castelfranco, dates back to 1825-1826. In the mid-1800s, rampant poverty in the city and in the area forced the construction of new warehouses to deposit the ever-increasing number of non-precious pawns (household furnishings, clothing, etc.).
Between 1865 and 1869, on a project by architect Michele Fapanni, the wings and the caretaker’s house were built, which closes the internal courtyard to the west.
Restored in three different phases, the building has housed the Municipal Library since 1965, full of over 100,000 volumes, including numerous rare and valuable works. The Municipal Historical Archive is annexed to the Library (about 7,000 volumes, registers and envelopes, dating back to the period between the 15th century and 1950).
At the center of the castle, the Town Hall, built between 1879 and 1880, stands on the site of the fifteenth-century residence of the Venetian podestà. Under the portico of the Town Hall there is the Oratory of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie.
The ACADEMIC THEATER
In via Garibaldi we find the Academic Theater, designed around 1746 by Francesco Maria Preti to host meetings of the Academic Society, and built between 1754 and 1780, considered one of the most beautiful theaters in Italy. During the nineteenth century it was the seat of the Accademia dei Filogolotti and in the middle of the century it was renovated.
The originality of the building consists in its dual function of daytime theater (for Academic meetings) and nighttime (for theatrical performances) and in its optimal acoustics achieved through the application of the proportional harmonic average rule.
The entire interior, in the original Pretian project, responds to mathematical canons: the square of the stalls, the semicircle of the boxes, the cube of the hall, the equal rectangles of the loggias and the proscenium.
During the nineteenth-century restructuring (promoter Count Francesco Revedin), the original rustic ashlar plinth was eliminated, the sinusoidal line of the three superimposed rows of boxes was rectified and the ceiling was rebuilt, frescoed by the painter Sebastiano Santi with the allegory depicting Immortality seated between Virtue and Glory that dispenses wreaths of laurel and writers, scientists and artists born in Castelfranco. On 9 October 1858, the room, renovated in its current form, was solemnly inaugurated by the Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi.
VISITING HOURS: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 08.30-12.30. Saturday and Sunday: only for events. Info: Tel. +39 0423.494500.
Via Garibaldi leads to Vicolo Paradiso, where the “Agostino Steffani” Conservatory is located, which is located in the Casa Barbarella, then Angaran (16th century).
The market square, now Piazza Giorgione, once used for the gathering of cattle, was equipped with three wells. The arcades were placed in front of the houses. Its size was singular for a city of medieval origin.
Today, on Tuesday and Friday mornings, characteristic markets take place there. Together with the Corso, the square is the heart of the city.
At its western end stands Villa Andretta, in front of which, in the past, the trading of pigs took place. Fruit and vegetables were instead sold along the perimeter of the Bastia up to the Ponte della salata (in front of the Civic Tower).
The dominical houses of the noble Gradenigo, Piacentini, and Barisan families were once built in the square. The eastern side is limited by the waters of the Musonello, the public gardens and the walls of the Castle. Palazzo Piacentini, which became the Hosteria della Spada, became famous as a meeting place for foreigners and merchants. Its facade is decorated with frescoes dating back to the sixteenth century. The market was subjected to the control of the Venetian Republic. In 1420 a loggia was built for covering and bargaining the fodder, called Paveion, whose public use, mentioned in a series of ancient inscriptions, continues today.
Corso XXIX Aprile, the main street of the city, is bordered to the east by the buildings of the Bastia Nuova, a barrier of houses built in the 13th century to increase the defense of Porta Franca (in front), the fulcrum of the fortress.
Starting from the 15th century, the wooden houses gave way to masonry buildings with arcades. Noteworthy is the Palazzo Pulcheri, now Bordignon Favero (18th century). Palazzo Soranzo Novello, from the same period, has an elegant architectural structure and is enriched by refined stucco decorations: in its rooms there are paintings by S. Ricci (18th century) and by L. Carlevarjis (18th century).
On the facade of Palazzo Spinelli Guidozzi the events of Diana and Atteone and the Rape of Europe are represented in a rich decorative complex attributed to the Veronese school. The building is located in the center of the city in front of the Civic Tower.
The façade of Palazzo Bovolini Soranzo is frescoed with The Labors of Hercules, dated to the late 15th century painter of the Mantegnesque school.
The gardens, the eastern walls, the moat and the Dante Pass, surrounded by statues, give the place a touch of refined beauty.
VILLA REVEDIN BOLASCO
Count F. Revedin erected his residence on the remains of two pre-existing decadent buildings, between 1852 and 1865, entrusting the project to the architect G.B. Meduna.
The noble courtyard of the rectangular villa forms the link between the dominical part, the two wings and the stable. In April 1865 the halls of the palace, frescoed by G. Casa, were opened to sumptuous parties. The painter who set up the great ballroom frescoed a glimpse of the sky on the ceilings where he depicted The triumph of music and the dance of the hours.
Meduna created an elegant staircase, in the form of a ribbon, which is connected, through a loggia, to the half-circumference of the ceiling, fan-stitched. Revedin ordered the horses to have twelve stalls with individual hay baskets and marble tubs, creating with fierce obstinacy a stable of rare beauty. The garden was created in the English way, creating canals, lakes and hills. Numerous varieties of plant species, most of them exotic, enriched the more than 80,000 square meters of the Park. The Rinaldis, who took over the property from the Revedins, entrusted the architect Antonio Caregaro Negrin with the task of continuing the arrangement of the Park. He erected the precious arched Moorish-style greenhouse on an islet in the lake, in an oblique position to the facade of the villa, and in 1878 he created the octagonal loggia with a pagoda roof, slender at the top by a very sharp stem. The statues of O. Marinali (17th century), coming from the ancient Corner garden, were collected in an amphitheater built for the horsewoman. Only the park is now open to the public.
Park OPENING HOURS:
from 21/03 to 31/05:
Tuesday / Thursday 10.00 / 12.30 – 15.00 / 17.30
Sat / Sun 10.00 / 13.00 – 14.30 / 17.30
from 01/06 to 20/09:
Tuesday / Thursday 10.00 / 12.30 – 15.00 / 19.30
Sat / Sun 10.00 / 13.00 – 15.30 / 19.30
Free admission: Saturday and Sunday.
Info: Cell. +39 337.805304 – Fax +39 0423.496902.
Download the Map of Castelfranco Veneto
Castelfranco Veneto and surroundings
VILLA EMO – Fanzolo di Vedelago (TV)
In Fanzolo di Vedelago there is another masterpiece by Andrea Palladio: Villa Emo.
In 1536 the Venetian patrician Leonardo Emo obtained a ducal concession to be able to exploit the running waters of a Brentella canal to irrigate his fields in Fanzolo and convert the cultivation of red sorghum into that of corn. Palladio was entrusted with the design of a villa that had a dual function: farm and representative building.
The Villa, which develops horizontally, includes two large barchesse that flank the central body, which is accessed via a stone staircase. The frescoes on the main floor are well preserved, by Zelotti, collaborator and follower of Veronese. The pictorial cycle is inspired by mythological, historical and allegorical themes, with references to the four elements and the four seasons, clear allusions to the agricultural soul of the house.
(April / October) Every day 15.00 / 18.30.
Sundays and holidays 10.00 / 12.30 – 15.00 – 18.30.
(November / March) Monday to Friday 2.00pm / 4.00pm.
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 2.00pm / 5.30pm.
Closed from 18 to 25 December, 31 December and 01 January.
For groups of at least 15 people:
possibility of visits after hours and other days by appointment.
Info: Tel. +39 0423.476334 – Fax +39 0423.487043