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The Veneto casoni. The Saccisica is a magical area in which history, countryside and natural landscapes perfectly blend together. The Veneto casoni (large houses) had very particular architectural plans, most of which, unfortunately, have not been preserved intact over time. The casoni were commonly used until the 1950s by the farmers of the area, and were built with materials supplied by nature: clay for their bricks, reeds and straw for their roofs and wood for their door- and window-frames. They had rectangular or square plans, typical steeply slanting roofs and very small rooms. In the 1940s, Piove di Sacco alone counted 320 casoni. Today, there are only 3 casoni left in the entire Saccisica, all of which are open to the public. In Piove di Sacco, there is the Casone Rosso, which owes its name to the colour of its exterior walls. After a fire in 1993, the Casone Rosso was restored to its original plan. There is also the Casone of Via Ramei constructed

between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, which is furbished with original objects donated by the locals. Built in the countryside, both structures link the past to the present, representing the values of times gone by and the collective memory of the local people.

3 In Arzergrande, the Casone Azzurro, which dates back to the 1800s and was lived in until 2006, has recently been restored.



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Saccisica: view of the countryside. Brugine: Villa Roberti. Piove di Sacco: Casone Via Ramei. Arzergrande: Casone Azzurro. Piove di Sacco: Casone Rosso.

Tourist Information Office IAT Piove di Sacco Bacino Turistico della Saccisica Piazza Matteotti, 4 - 35028 Piove di Sacco (PD) Call or fax +39 049 9709331 e-mail : TREVISO AIRPORT

















Piazza Antenore, 3 35137 Padova Tel. +39 049 8767911 Fax +39 049 650794

Regione del Veneto

© Photographs: Photographic archives of the Saccisica towns, Luciano Schiavon, Simone Sartori, Fotoclub Chiaroscuro.

December 2011 >> Stampa ad alta risoluzione >>130 linee >> Grafiche Quaggio - pd

TOURING ITINERARIES IN THE SACCISICA • The Casoni • Waterways • The Saccisica dining experience • The Routes of Salt and Sugar For further information, please contact the tourist office of the Saccisica Basin.



The Saccisica: a land of waterways to savour.

Saccisica, a land of waterways. The Saccisica is a flat, low-lying area between the city of Padua and the Lagoon of Venice. Beloved by aristocratic Venetians, who had their country homes built here, the Saccisica was one of the Paduan counties that also provided an inexhaustible source of wheat. The Saccisica derives its name from the administrative centre of Piove di Sacco, which served as an important outpost of the Carraresi family in their contention against the Serenissima Republic of Venice for the control of the area between Padua and Venice.

The Roman period. Although insufficient systematic archaeological excavations have so far prevented experts from drawing up a clear description of the Saccisica territory in Roman times, several archaeological finds like tombstones, altars and funerary stelae reveal that the area was a highly developed Roman settlement. The archaeological finds date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, when the territory of Padua - as part of the X Roman Region of Venetia et Histria flourished both economically and politically. The Romans built an extensive network of roads that connected the Paduan territory with important routes of the Roman Empire which, at the time, was expanding eastwards. Improved roadways favoured further settlements and the development of centuriations - the orthogonal grid-like plans intended for land distribution to settlers - a process

1 during which this marshy, frequently flooded area was reclaimed and turned into fertile land. The Saccisica therefore became an important Roman settlement divided into three centuriations - one of which had Piove di Sacco as its administrative centre - with several small towns and villages along the main roads. Archaeological finds in Arzergrande, Sant'Angelo, Vigorovea, Brugine, Campagnola and Vallonga reveal the complexity of these Roman settlements: examples are the ruins of villae, i.e., the luxurious mansions with annexed buildings for agricultural production that anticipated the future Veneto villas, and Roman tombs found in the areas of Arzergrande, Sant'Angelo and Vigorovea. In Arzergrande, ruins of pillars and large sections of walls reveal the presence of Roman banks to prevent flooding of the river Brenta. Some of these interesting Roman finds are now in the exhibiting hall “Portus Aedro� in the building that hosts the City of Arzergrande. An altar dedicated to Neptune and dating back to the late 1st century AD was found in Ardoneghe di Brugine, and a votive altar of the second half of the 1st century AD and dedicated to the Roman god Sylvanus was unearthed at S. Anna di Piove di Sacco. Several archaeological finds were also discovered in the area of today's territory of Saonara which, in Roman times, developed along the important Via Annia and was part of the rural colony of Piove di Sacco.


Rivers, casoni and the wetlands of the Lagoon of Venice. Water is certainly an unmistakable feature of the Saccisica area, as it forms a complex mesh of entwined streams, rivulets, outlets and channels that continually disappear underground and suddenly emerge in the countryside. Along the eastern margins, the land suddenly dips seawards into the tranquil, peaceful lagoon basin - a unique landscape that strikes visitors with its unexpected, mysterious beauty.


The Millecampi valley - a lagoon wetland of 1600 hectares - the Morosina valley, the Casone delle Sacche and the Casone Millecampi are typical locations of this extraordinary area of Padua, where land, sky and sea blend to unveil a landscape of serene beauty. Many of these canals, tiny bodies of water and shoals were reclaimed by the people of the Saccisica and turned into precious cultivated land. In this expanse of lagoon wetland, small fishing areas alternate with extensive cultivated fields, and the entire region is dotted with the 100 boundary stones that the Serenissima Republic placed in the 17th century to demarcate the Lagoon of Venice. The local fauna and flora are as exceptional as the environment hosting them, because the great salinity of the soil enables only a few specially adapted species to survive, such as cane, sea lavender, aster and heather. Typical fish of the area are the eel and the mullet, and among the most characteristic birds there are black-winged stilts, ducks and herons. In the 19th century, the patient work of land reclamation which began with the Romans and was continued by Benedictine monks first and Venetian noblemen later, was finally completed thanks to technical innovations in agriculture and the efforts of the senator Leone Romanin Jacur. Drainage systems are therefore typical features of this landscape, and the areas of Codevigo and Correzzola are very important for the hydrogeological monitoring of the Saccisica area and part of the Paduan province.

The first mechanical land drainage with steampowered pumps was carried out in 1854 at Civè di Correzzola. An extraordinary example is the drainage pump of Santa Margherita, the largest in Europe at the time of its construction in 1890. The pump still works, and its oldest sections can be visited thanks to the Museo della Bonifica (Museum of Land Reclamation). These large, old buildings of the drainage plant are now considered precious specimens of industrial archaeology that require proper management and conservation.

2 The town of Bovolenta was built between two watercourses, the Cagnola and the Bacchiglione, which join at a location called “La Ponta” - one of the most picturesque areas in the village. In the past known as the “Bacchiglion Vecchio” (the Old Bacchiglione), the stream continues its flow in a straight line from Bovolenta towards the valley. Here, the landscape is dominated by farmland, the main crops being maize, wheat, barley and beetroot in open fields that are seldom bounded by tree hedges. The vineyards are protected by 19th-century barriers. The river Bacchiglione continues its course across Pontelongo. In the Renaissance, when Italy was divided into city-states and northern Italy was ruled by the Carraresi family, Pontelongo was in a strategic position along the main road connecting the lagoon to inland areas, and was often the scene of battles between Paduans, Ezzelino seigneurs, Scaligeri lords and Venetians, who fought for the control of the Pontelongo bridge and nearby fortifications. The Bacchiglione then proceeds its flow towards Correzzola, which hosts the refined Corte Benedettina.


Villas, churches and palazzi. The lush, fertile countryside of the Saccisica, with its colours, landscapes, buildings and large and small villages, is not only made up of soil, but also of sand and sediments transported by watercourses over the centuries. This is because the area was reclaimed from water with the strenuous work of the local people who lived in farmhouses and masserie which are still standing today. As agriculture developed in the 1700s, the territory of the Saccisica outlined itself in better detail: villas became key features of the landscape, surrounded by rural houses, casoni and barchesse (arched buildings used as storage rooms, kitchens and lodgings for the staff) which, together with the riverbanks, mark a landscape that has remained unchanged until today. In Bovolenta, visitors walking along the river Bacchiglione may still admire the imposing villas of the noble Buzzacarini, Erizzo and Foscarini families, which had chosen this village to build their holiday homes.


Bovolenta hosts Villa Roberti, a sumptuous country house that still preserves its original architectural structure designed by Andrea Da Valle between 1543 and 1553. Inside, the villa is decorated by a precious cycle of frescoes by G.B. Zelotti and other painters of the Verona school. In the 1500s, Alvise Cornaro, an Italian patron of arts, spent many years of his life in Codevigo, as he owned 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Codevigo: Casone delle Sacche. Codevigo: The drainage pump of Santa Margherita. Bovolenta: Porto alla Ponta. Brugine: Villa Roberti. Piove di Sacco: Palazzo Gradenigo. Piove di Sacco: the Duomo of San Martino. Piove di Sacco: Barchessa Polani. Pontelongo: Villa Foscarini Erizzo. Pontelongo: the river Bacchiglione.


most of the cultivated fields of the area. The countryside proved to be an ideal environment for him to write the Discorsi intorno alla vita sobria (1558), a eulogy of moderation and leisure. Cornaro was a committed patron of the playwright Angelo Beolco known as Ruzante, whom he entrusted with the management of his landed property, and the architect G.M. Falconetto, who restored the façade of the church of S. Zaccaria.


Piove di Sacco, a free Comune under the protection of a podesta of the Carraresi family, in 1405 became part of the Serenissima Republic and the residence of many aristocratic Venetian families. It was in that period that the Venetian-style palazzi of the historical centre were built, like the Neo-Gothic palazzo Valeri, now property of the Comune and awaiting restoration, Palazzo Bertani Doardo, and Palazzo Priuli, which still preserves its chapel and lateral barchesse. The best-known is Palazzo Gradenigo, owned by the podesta Francesco Gradenigo, who had lived in Piove since 1434. In Piove di Sacco there is also the Duomo di San Martino, a Neo-Romanic version of the ancient Pieve built in 975 thanks to a donation made by the Paduan bishop Gauslino and the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie. According to popular tradition, the construction of this building is associated with a miraculous event that is depicted in a 17th-century painting found inside the sanctuary, which also contains a portrait of the Virgin (1478) attributed to Giovanni Bellini. Other important buildings in Piove are the Church of San Nicolò, which was built by the fishermen and boatsmen of the city, and is decorated with magnificent 13th-century frescoes, the “Scrolla” of the SS. Crocefisso (Church of St Francis), which was built between 1565 and 1575 and is the only surviving portion of a much larger compound of an earlier period, and several palazzi in the historical centre, many of which are arched and mark the main streets. The buildings of Piove di Sacco bear the signs of their historical past, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and up to the 19th century, with the linear marble structure of the Palazzo Comunale designed by the


architect Giuseppe Jappelli. In Pontelongo, on the left bank of the river Bacchiglione, Villa Foscarini-Erizzo, which today hosts the town hall, is certainly worth visiting. Built in 1570 by Nicolò Foscarini, the villa was used as a holiday home, a farm and a factory for the working of coral. The building is particularly interesting for its Pompeii-style frescoes and refined decorations. Designed by the architect Quirino De Giorgio, the Casa del Fascio was built in 1938, and is a perfectly preserved example of Futurist architecture. The Antico Mulino (ancient watermill) on the river Bacchiglione is an industrial plant dating back to 1875, and is well known for the many types of flour it produces. The sugar factory locally known as “El Beljoâ€?, because it was built by Belgians in 1908-1910, has turned beetroots into sugar for one century now, and is currently the only working sugar factory in the Veneto region. Guided tours of the premises take place on the first Sunday in December, for the Festa della Dolcezza (the Sweetness Festival). Along the river Bacchiglione, the Barchessa Contarini (late 1500s) is a large compound that includes a mansion house, a barchessa and other buildings which now host receptions and events. At Sant'Angelo, the 17th-century Villa Caprari, known as Casa Maritan, has recently undergone restoration work and is a precious example of past residential architecture. The farm-stud in Via Savonarola offers a rural atmosphere of times gone by. The 18th-century Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Michele Arcangelo contains precious ligneous works, a painting attributed to the Veronese school, some statues of the Bonazza school, and the San Michele altarpiece signed and dated by Gianbattista Canal in 1798. The Church of San Giacomo in Vigorovea conserves an 18th-century altarpiece in Carrara marble by Alvise Tagliapietra. Proceeding north towards Padua is the village of Saonara. The Strada dei Vivai (Road of Plant Nurseries) crosses this Comune, which is particularly popular for its landscape



gardening and plant nursery tradition. Here, Villa Cittadella-Vigodarzere-Valmarana is surrounded by extensive romantic gardens designed by Giuseppe Jappelli in 1816. The ingenious architect created a particular scenery by constructing a grotto, a pond and a hillock on an otherwise flat terrain. The artistic landscape was then completed with richly decorated buildings in different styles, like the Neo-Gothic Templars' Grotto, the interiors of which recreate a wild, mysterious cave containing the androgynous statue of Baphomet, a pagan deity.

Benedictine settlements. In the rural area of the Saccisica, large farmhouse compounds known as corti benedettine (Benedictine courts) were a common sight. This was due to the role played by the Benedictine monks of the church of Santa Giustina (Padua), whose growing power under the rule of the Serenissima Republic in the 1500s turned them into wealthy landowners. Imposing and practical, these farmhouse compounds were divided into various sections, each of which had its special function: the home, the storage rooms, the barn, the cellar (caneva), the cowshed and the stables with a threshing floor. Thanks to the work of the Benedictine monks, the compounds of the Corti Benedettine were not only used for farming activities, but were also cultural centres of craftsmanship. The monks greatly contributed to the reclamation of unhealthy marshland and the introduction of new cultivation systems. Today, the beautiful Corte of Correzzola, probably designed by Andrea Moroni, an architect who enjoyed the trust of the monks, hosts the library of the Comune, a small museum of handcrafted items and a hotel. The influence of the monks is also evident in Legnaro, where the ancient Corte Benedettina now hosts the



Comune library and an important conference hall. A frequently drained area due to the river Bacchiglione that flows across it, Correzzola hosts the farmhouse known as Grande Vanezza (1570), a typical example of rural Benedictine compound, with its courtyards and demesnes. In Piove di Sacco, there is the 16th-century barchessa of Villa Bragato, which today is a restaurant and, of the same period, the barchessa Polani ad Arzerello - the only standing portion of a larger farmhouse now destroyed.

Local cuisine. The Saccisica area is not only rich in artistic and natural treasures, it also offers delicious local dishes. The excellent produce of this area includes true gastronomic specialities now well known even beyond the territorial boundaries of the area, like the asparagus from Conche, which is about to obtain the DOP certification (guaranteeing that the product and all phases of its production were carried out in a strictly defined geographical area), and the radicchio rosso (red radicchio) of Chioggia. Among the many types of meat, the most typical are the Polverara hen, which is used in many tasty recipes, and horse meat, a

13 12 Religious traditions. Christianity and the religious traditions associated with it are deeply rooted in the Saccisica. Among the many festivals and events, two are particularly important: the Festa del “Voto” (Festival of Intercession) in Pontelongo (1st Sunday in May) and the Festa del “Voto” of Piove di Sacco (6 May). They celebrate the mercy of the Virgin in sparing the lives of the women of Piove di Sacco and Pontelongo from the outbreaks of plague that affected Europe in the 17th century. The procession of Pontelongo, the only one in the area in which participants wear traditional clothes and walk barefoot, ends with the crossing of the Bacchiglione on a boatbridge, which is set up specifically for this celebration. Another interesting event takes place in Santa Margherita (Codevigo) on the first Sunday in October: the locals carry a statue of the Virgin, known as the Green-Mantled Virgin, from the Millecampi valley to the church of Santa Margherita. According to tradition, the Virgin emerged from the sea.


speciality of the areas of Saonara, Legnaro and Sant'Angelo di Piove. Local first courses include risotto, in particular with frogs, which are captured along the canals. Very few cooks know how to make this dish according to the traditional recipe, which is handed down from mother to daughter. Other types of risotto contain chicken giblets, spring herbs, and squash. These recipes reflect the humble, everyday lives of the local people, and are all made with the natural produce available to farmers. Among the many festivals celebrating the livelihoods of this area and its country life, there are the Livestock Fairs of Piove di Sacco and Sant'Angelo di Piove, the Asparagus and Radicchio Rosso Festivals of Conche di Codevigo, the Bird Fair of Sant'Angelo, the Squash Festival of Piove di Sacco and the Festa della Dolcezza (Sweetness Festival) of Pontelongo. 10 Piove di Sacco: altarpiece by Bellini (Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie). 11 Sant'Angelo di Piove: church of S.M. Arcangelo. 12 Pontelongo: Festa del “Voto” (Festival of Intercession). 13 Piove di sacco: Squash Festival. 14 Piove di Sacco: Madonna del Carmelo, altarpiece by Giovan Battista Tiepolo (Duomo).

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