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History and Art
In the capital of the Polesine
The area, inhabited by Venetians, Etruscans and Romans, was a flourishing commercial hub and a point of reference for the Greeks.
Ruled by the Dukes of Este for three centuries and then by the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
The “must-see” museums and monuments
by Dario C. Nicoli
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Rovigo. Torre Donà and Torre Mozza,
the remains of the Castle.
Photo by Dario C. Nicoli

      Rovigo, “la terra il cui produr di rose le dié piacevol nome in greche voci” (the land whose rose production gave it its pleasant name in Greek). Maybe it’s just poetic licence, but this image that Ariosto calls up in Orlando furioso appeals to the inhabitants of Rovigo who love to believe that the antique name of their over-a-thousand-year-old town derives from the rose. Rovigo is the main town of the Polesine, a strip of land about 160 kilometers long, flanked by the Adige and the Po, which, at its narrowest point, are separated by a mere 11 kilometers of land. It is not strikingly beautiful, but it has monumental and historic dignity, starting with the remains of the Castle built around the year 1000 for the Bishop of Adria so that he could take refuge from the Hungarian invasions and that boasts a keep, called Torre Donà, which is 66 meters tall, and is considered one of the tallest defensive towers in Europe. The territory, inhabited by Venetians, Etyruscans and Romans, was a flourishing commercial hub and a point of reference for the Greeks. The National Etruscan Museum of Adria, at 20 kilometers from the town going east, offers a wealthy legacy of precious items and Attic ceramic vases which, on their own, would merit a half-day visit. Equally deserving of a visit is the National Museum of Fratta (12 kilometers further south), where the products made by local craftsmen crossed paths with the amber coming from the North of Europe. The goods reached the ports of Adria first, and then Spina, by river.

      Another plunge into history to talk about Rovigo under the ducal family of Este for three centuries, then the dominion of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. Rovigo was host, in 1468, to Frederick III who was on his way to Rome to be crowned Emperor, and so was received with great pomp and circumstance and the town, on 16th July 1866, also welcomed Vittorio Emanuele II, king of an Italy which had overthrown the Austrian rule just a week before.

      The symbols of this history provide the landmarks for the visitor, who, on coming into town from the west, first encounters the remains of the Castle, then goes down the newly-restored Corso del Popolo, which covers the former bed of the Adigetto, the river that used to split the town in two. On the right the Cathedral of St. Stephen, an unfinished joint cathedral; on the left the 16th century Palazzo Roverella, that nowadays is the home of the Pinacoteca dei Concordi and a prestigious annual art exhibition. In Piazza Grande you can see the monument to Vittorio Emanuele and that dedicated to Garibaldi, which had been intended for Rome, the ancient church of St. Francis and finally, on the left, the temple dedicated to Our Lady of Succour. It’s a remarkable construction on an octagonal plan erected in the 16th century and designed by Francesco Zamberlan from Bassano, and is flanked by a bell tower by Longhena. The interior walls of the church are completely covered in paintings by the most famous Venetian painters, depicting the Venetian authorities who ruled the city until 1660. Last but not least, the Museo dei Grandi Fiumi, set up in what used to be the ancient Monastero Olivetano di San Bortolo, south of the town, is worthy of note. It is full of exhibits that tell the story of this province and how it was tormented by invasions and floods, but that is now rid of them. And is now, thanks to the efficiency of its infrastructure, only an hour’s drive from the airports of Verona, Bologna and Venezia, and a stone’s throw from Padova, where the visitor must not miss a trip to the Cappella di Giotto, and from Ferrara, a city that Unesco has declared a world heritage site.

      The local cooking offers simple but tasty dishes: from bean soup to stockfish (which in the area around Venice is called baccalà unlike the rest of Italy), homemade pastry, beans in sauce (in potacìn), stewed donkey (somarino in umido) and diverse species of cold cuts. “The God of gastronomy has not been through Polesine”, is the caustic comment of gourmet Edoardo Raspelli, but it must be said that even in this province there are one or two places that the “Confraternita del bavarolo” (The Brothers of the Bib) is trying to bring up to scratch. Both in Alto Polesine, on the borders with the provinces of Verona and Mantova, and in the Medio, between the provinces of Padova and Ferrara, and in the Basso, where the Po Delta is a must to see, like a little Camargue that presents you with glimpses of striking natural beauty spots in all seasons of the year.

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