Asolo, the refined one
Queen of hearts, perched on the gentle hillside.
Natural habitat of travelers, artists, scientists, writers, musicians and crowned heads,
collects a treasure chest of jewels and suggestions in the historic center.
Each step is a backward track.
The favorable position and the happiness of the climate made Asolo an inhabited center since the Neolithic era. Acelum, the current Asolo, was the seat of the Venetians and became an important Roman municipality in the first century BC; mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia e Tolomeo.
Christian center, Asolo was a bishopric until 969, then it was assigned to the Diocese of Treviso, with the diploma of Ottone I.
It suffered the invasion of the Hungarians in the 10th century, then later belonged to the bishops of Treviso, the Ezzelini, the Caminesi, the Carraresi and the Scaligeri, until the final conquest by the Republic of Venice during the 14th century.
Granted in dominion in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, queen of Cyprus, in exchange for the transfer of the island to the Venetian Republic, it became the center of a small court, frequented by illustrious writers of the time, including Il Bembo, who wrote the Asolani there.
Italian and foreign writers, poets and artists, brought by historical events or attracted by the beauty of the place, visited and loved this city: from Pietro Bembo who during the domination of Cornaro wrote “Gli Asolani” to the English romantic poet Robert Browning who in the nineteenth century settled there and dedicated it “Asolando”, by Giosuè Carducci who called it “the city of a hundred horizons” to Ada Negri; from Lorenzo Lotto and Giorgione in whose works the grace of the Asolo landscape lives, to Palladio, Massari, Canova, up to Benson, Marius Pictor, De Pisis; from Gustavo Modena to Duse, who had a home in Asolo and wanted to be buried, from Igor Strawinsky to Gian Francesco Malipiero.
Asolo retains a suggestive medieval appearance, gathered within the ancient walls and dominated by the Rocca, a gigantic medieval building on the top of the hill, guarding the town.
Very characteristic are the streets flanked by the gothic arched arcades of the ancient palaces and houses, on whose facades, covered with frescoes, there are quick mullioned windows and triple mullioned windows and harmonious balconies.
THE WALL CINTA
The fortification project of the city was carried out during the fourteenth century with the rearrangement of the Ezzelinian structures and the construction of the first defensive masonry works. The systematic construction of the walls was initiated by the short dominion of the da Carrara family between 1381 and 1388, which was however completed when the Venetians returned in 1393, when the Senate ordered the complete fortification of the city by equipping it with towers, creating the appropriate gates. and extending the circuit up to the Rocca which thus became a physical part of the town. The walls measured 1360 meters and was equipped with 24 towers and doors in correspondence with the access and exit routes of the city: the door of Castelfranco, probably opened after the middle of the 15th century, the Dieda door demolished in 1812 for construction of the Foresto Nuovo, the door of S. Martino, now walled up, of the Colmarion, the door of Santa Caterina and the door of Sottocastello. The perimeter of the walls, although incorporated or canceled by subsequent urban developments, is still briefly identifiable.
La ROCCA and MONTE RICCO
The Fortress of Asolo, which stands on the top of Monte Ricco and dominates the entire village from above, is the symbol of the city. It rises about a hundred meters from the city center at a height of 316 meters above sea level, dominating, in addition to the town, the entire surrounding landscape. Although attributed in the past to Roman or even pre-Roman times, the fortress was built in the Middle Ages between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century. on the site of a previous settlement. In the possession of the fortress, in a short period of time, the Da Romano family, the Municipality of Treviso, the Venetians, the Carraresi and in 1388 definitively the Serenissima followed one another.
Source: Historical Atlas of Italian Cities (edited by Guido Rosada), Casalecchio di Reno 1993, Grafis Edizioni.
The visit to the historic center of Asolo starts from the south, through Porta Loreggia, the arrival point of the ancient Roman Via Aurelia, coming from Padua. On the left is the famous Zen Fountain and on the right Villa Stark, residence of the great English traveler and explorer Freya Stark (1893-1993), buried in the cemetery of S. Anna. The remains of the Forum and the Roman Theater are preserved in the garden of the villa.
After walking through the arcades of via Browning, you arrive in Piazza Garibaldi, more ancient Piazza Maggiore, the heart of the city. In front of the Fontana Maggiore, dominated by the Lion of San Marco, stands the profile of the Duomo, dedicated to S. Maria Assunta.
The building took on the title of cathedral since ancient times when it became a bishopric. It was suppressed in 969 AD. with an edict of Emperor Otto I and was placed under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Treviso, who was also the emperor’s feudal lord.
The walls are adorned with numerous representations of the Virgin of the Assumption, to whom the Cathedral is consecrated. Among these we remember the most famous, that of Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556): The Assumption between Sant ‘Antonio Abate and Ludovico di Tolosa. the baptismal font was commissioned by Queen Cornaro in 1491 and is believed to be the work of the architect-artist Francesco Graziolo, also author of the Longobard house. The angels on the sides of the altar are the work of Giuseppe Bernardi (1694-1773), grandson of Giuseppe Torretti.On Piazza Garibaldi there is the Loggia della Ragione, a Renaissance-style palace, on whose walls there are frescoes with war scenes and walled tombstones .
On Piazza Garibaldi overlooks the Loggia della Ragione, a Renaissance-style palace, on whose walls there are frescoes with war scenes and walled tombstones.
THE CIVIC MUSEUM
The Museum was established in the 1880s. It was born as Fondazione Scomazzetto from the name of the most important of the Asolan scholars, the archaeologist Pacifico Scomazzetto, who between 1874 and 1885 managed to bring to light the Roman remains of the Baths and the Theater and collected all the material that makes up a large part of the heritage of the Archaeological section. The Civic Museum now includes: an archaeological section with evidence ranging from the most distant prehistoric times, to the Paleoveneti and the Romans; an art section including the Pinacoteca, among whose paintings stand out the Views by Bernardo Bellotto and the San Girolamo by Luca Giordano – it also includes the Canovian room, with Canovian and Manerian paintings and objects; historical relics of Caterina Cornaro; Eleonora Duse’s objects and costumes; a section dedicated to Freya Stark with personal items and photos; memories of Robert Browning; relics of the Risorgimento; weapons from various eras.
A particular section is reserved for sacred objects and vestments that are part of the Treasury of the ancient Cathedral of Asolo.
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 -12.00 / 15.00 -19.00
Info: Culture Office (Tel. +39 0423.524637).
The CASTLE of QUEEN CORNARO
From Piazza Maggiore, continuing along via Cornaro, you arrive at the Praetorian Castle, known as the Queen Cornaro Castle. Caterina Cornaro, born in Venice in 1454, married James II, illegitimate son of John, king of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia, by proxy in 1468. In this way he paid off the debts contracted with Caterina’s uncle, Andrea Corner. After four years Catherine moved to Cyprus and after a year she was left a widow. She reigned on the island of Cyprus for sixteen years, until she was induced to abdicate; she in exchange she obtained the Lordship of Asolo from Venice. Power over the city remained firmly in the Venetian Republic, but Catherine’s regency went down in history for the refinement of her court, visited by illustrious artists of the time. The Castle now houses the famous Theater dedicated to Eleonora Duse.
Leaving the Castle behind, continuing north, you reach via Canova, where the ancient wood-burning oven that has been producing bread for 600 years overlooks, and further on, under the arcades, the prestigious School of Embroidery and the exhibition room of the famous Tessoria Asolana. On the left the red building that hosted Eleonora Duse. Just beyond the Porta S. Caterina is the 14th century church of the same name. A few hundred meters further on, on the right, there is a singular building called Casa Longobarba, whose name derives from the Lombard origins of the architect Francesco Graziolo, who built it in the early 1500s. On the nearby Messano hill the harmonious lines of the building called Fresco, the summer residence of Villa Contarini, which stands on the other side of the hill.
Asolo and surroundings
The SARCOPHAGUS of CAJO VETTONIO – S. Eulalia (TV)
The discovery took place in the early decades of the 1600s among the ruins of the ancient church consecrated in 1210, dedicated to San Cassiano and located near the current Pieve di S. Eulalia. The building was declared unsafe in 1587 so it was ordered to partially demolish it during which, according to tradition, this important find was found. The church was completely demolished at the end of 1700 on the occasion of the construction of the new S. Eulalia.
The famous sarcophagus of Cajo Vettonio is kept in this beautiful church with sober neo-classical lines. On the front of the sarcophagus, a plaque supported by two winged cherubs informs us that it was commissioned by Cajo Vettonio, a Roman veteran of the Fabia family, returning from military service.
BRION TOMB – San Vito di Altivole (TV)
In Altivole, in the hamlet of San Vito, there is the Tomb of Brion, one of the most interesting funerary monuments of modern architecture. Built by the famous architect Carlo Scarpa between 1970 and 1973, commissioned by the Brion family, it occupies an L-shaped space near the old cemetery.
Also in this work one of the elements of Scarpa’s art recurs, the water that represents the perennial ebb of life into death, to rise to new life.
POSSAGNO, home of ANTONIO CANOVA
Eight kilometers from Asolo rises Possagno, the homeland of Antonio Canova.
The great neoclassical sculptor, who was born here in 1751, left in his land precious testimonies of his artistic activity: the Canovian Temple, with its unmistakable composition (inside there are works by Canova himself, Palma il Giovane and Luca Giordano) and the Gipsoteca, annexed to his birthplace, which collects the existing material, on the death of the artist, in his Roman atelier.
related article: Asolo, the “city of a hundred horizons”