Solitary rise the peaks of the Euganean Hills as hermitages in search of spirituality and prayer. Among these slopes and peaks for centuries monastic communities and hermits have settled. Not too far from Abano Terme, Praglia Abbey, dating from the eleventh century, has found a peaceful haven, among the green hills, where to practice St. Benedict’s rule “Ora, lege et labora”. Here the Benedictine community, totally independent and self-sufficient , lives separate from the influence of the outside world, still today as in past centuries. Their livelihood comes from the craftsmanship works carried out inside the monastery, and cultivation of the surrounding land, same as we have been doing at Vignaroda for years cultivating our vineyards. And more with the order of the Camaldolensian hermits on Mount Rua, who live isolated from the outside world praying and meditating in their cells. Not to forget is the Olivetan Monastery, another testimony of spiritual quest, testified, today, only by a few abandoned buildings.
Montagnana, a walled town among the most beautiful in Europe, a medieval artifact that we can still admire in its total integrity. His defensive structures, with boundary walls and hexagonal towers, stand out among the monotony of the plain. You can figure how powerful this would appear to those who tried to conquer it. Today, as then, it enchants with its majesty those who walk through the two original doors of the Castrum of the Estensi. The tyranny of Ezzelino Romano did not spare the city, he put it on fire as he took power. Later, in 1242, he built the Castle of San Zeno, to protect the Eastern Gate. When Ezzelino died the people from Montagnana rejoiced at the news organizing parties and dances. Nowadays, the local people, still remember those days of festivities with the so called “ Palio of the 10 Municipalities”, a challenge between horses and jockeys to win the precious Pallium.
“I flee the city as life imprisonment, and choose to live in a solitary small village, in a nice little house, surrounded by olive trees and a vineyard, where I spend my days in complete tranquility, away from the tumult, noise and chores, reading constantly and writing “. Time seems to have stood still when Francesco Petrarca chose this ancient village to spend the last years of his life and to be buried here. This is how the great poet described the sights of Arquà: “Vast forests of chestnut, walnut, beech, ash, oak covered the slopes at Arquà, but more than anything else it was vines, olives and almond trees that made the charming and typical landscape of Arquà “. Here visitors are surrounded by a landscape of intact gentleness, the town develops around its square and churchyard, were Petrarca grave is located, adorned with a bust dating from the fifteenth century. The village, where there is also a notable Lombard castle, has grown until the sixteenth century, under Venice, to be then abandoned in the following centuries. Being abandoned made it possible to maintain the original urban plan, giving today’s visitor a unique example of a medieval village.
Since ancient times Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) were known to local people who prayed there and cured themselves at the hot springs. To this purposes they built sanctuaries and areas of worship. Votive offerings found near the thermal basins bear witness to the worship of Aponos, guardian of the waters, who was later Romanized. Though the real good fortune of this thermal area started under the Romans as they turned it into wellness and meeting centers. The Romans, in fact, were able to enhance the healing properties of the waters, building baths and gyms in the areas known today as Abano and Montegrotto.
After a temporary neglect period caused by invasions and destructions, Terme Euganee started to prosper again under the Venetian Republic, when aristocratic people from Venice and Padua built luxurious mansions in the area. At the end of the eighteenth century, archaeological excavations unearthed remains and artifacts of thermal baths dating back to the first century. At the time the local population had already learned and appreciated the benefits and healing effects of the particular chemical composition of the water from Colli Euganei that here emerges after a journey of a hundred kilometers from Verona Alpine foothills. This same water is still used in scientifically recognized therapeutic applications.