Venetian Works of Defence

“Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra – Western Stato da Mar” is the 53rd UNESCO site in Italy. The Venetian Works of Defence are collected in a transnational site that includes the most extensive and innovative defense networks built by the Serenissima, wall structures with exceptional historical, architectural and technological value.

The fortifications throughout the “Stato da Tera” protected the Republic of Venice from other European powers to the northwest while those of the “Stato da Mar” protected the commercial sea routes and ports vital to the expansion of the Republic of Venice. Three of the six sites declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites are within Italian borders: in Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

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Bergamo. Photo by: In Lombardia

The journey to discover these jewels of "exceptional universal value" begins in Bergamo, a splendid art city in Lombardy, named UNESCO site thanks to the imposing defensive walls and bastions built in the 16th century during the domination by the Republic of Venice.

Bergamo was the westernmost outpost of the entire defensive system, the stronghold tasked with protecting the “Stato de Tera” by displaying the power of the Republic, with the aim of deterring the expansionists of the great European kingdoms.The imposing walls around Bergamo Alta stretch for over 6 kilometers, and reach, at some points, a height of 50 meters. The walls are equipped with four monumental doors or gateways that allow access to the historic center.

Peschiera del Garda is a charming pentagon-shaped city-fortress nestled on the shores of Lake Garda, in the Riviera degli Ulivi, in the Veneto Region. The walls and imposing ramparts appear to jut out directly from the lake and protect a perfectly preserved, vibrant and fascinating old town. Peschiera del Garda is an exceptional and rare example of a waterway fortified city. The majestic wall is a military construction designed by Guidobaldo della Rovere, and built, starting in 1549, by Michele Sanmicheli, a Verona-born architect and urban planner of Mannerist style, one of the most important architects of his tim.

The fortification “alla moderna” (bastioned system), a term referring to the new defensive system conceived in Italy from the 15th century to overcome the introduction of gunpowder and artillery, is superimposed on the pentagon shape of the preexisting medieval structure, with the addition of five bastions and two entrance doors. The Fortress of Peschiera del Garda was furthermore reinforced with embankments and riders, a structure suitable for the range of the artillery thanks to its high elevation.

The third masterpiece of Venetian military architecture is in Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Palmanova, a nine-point, star-shaped fortress city built by the Serenissima to defend its borders from the Ottoman and Austrian threats. The peculiar hexagonal structure and its perfect symmetry make Palmanova one-of-a-kind, a true war machine with bastions and walls designed taking into account the range of the cannons of the time. Palmanova represents the "ideal fortified city ", a perfect synthesis between the utopias of the Renaissance and the military war theories of the time.

The fortress contains a 70-hectare urban center enclosed within three concentric walls - two Venetian walls and an outermost French perimeter - giving Palmanova its characteristic nine-point star shape.The Venetian Works of Defence constitute an exceptional testimony to the military culture “alla moderna –bastioned system” which evolved in the territories of the Republic of Venice in the 16th and 17th centuries. The fortresses of Bergamo, Peschiera del Garda and Palmanova are refined and intriguing destinations, which allow the visitor to explore and discover the military, historic and architectural genius of the Serenissima.