When you arrive by car, Arquà Petrarca appears to you from below. This small village is immediately captivating with its timeless charm.
Its name perhaps derives from the fact that it is located on the slopes of two hills, namely from Arquata montium ('ring of mountains').
Walk up from the car park and you will find yourself in Piazza Roma, with the forecourt of the Church of S. Maria Assunta, at the centre of which is the funeral monument of Francesco Petrarca, in red Verona marble.
Walk along Via Roma, past shops and other buildings from the 13th and 14th centuries, until you reach Villa Alessi, the former seat of the bishops, which today hosts events and concerts.
In Piazza San Marco we find the Oratorio della S.S. Trinità (already in existence in 1181), where Petrarca used to go to pray.
Past the square and the Venetian lion that dominates it from above, you reach the house that was inhabited by Petrarca from 1370 to 1374.
The building can be visited, and it houses a permanent exhibition on the author. From its window you can admire the breathtaking view of the Euganean Hills, and you will probably never want to leave.
Piazza Mazzini in Monselice is home to most of the town's most important monuments: the Torre Civica, the Cini Castle, the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà with its Loggetta, and the Complesso monumentale di San Paolo, which houses the town's museum.
The latter is an essential stop for those who want to learn about the history of Monselice over the centuries, and the transformations from the Roman Age to the 20th century.
In the streets of the centre, in addition to shops, wine bars and cafés where you can stop for a break or an aperitif, you will have the chance to discover other beautiful architectural works, but the most engaging route from every point of view is that of the 'Seven Churches'. A good pace and comfortable shoes is all you need: the route is steep.
The Jubilee Sanctuary of the Seven Churches is a small pilgrimage on the slopes of the Colle della Rocca that winds its way from the Pieve di Santa Giustina, the old cathedral, to the Oratorio di San Giorgio and Villa Duodo.
The Mastio Federiciano, better known as Rocca di Monselice, is located on the top of the same hill and is the symbol of the city. The structure made of trachyte blocks was erected in 1239 as a defensive measure by Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, and is the emblem of the town's strong mediaeval identity.
A kilometre of defensive walls and majestic towers against a backdrop of hills welcomes you to the city of Este.
The city walls were erected in the 12th century during the rule of the Este family. They were damaged and partially destroyed following the clashes between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and finally rebuilt and extended by the Carraresi in the 14th century.
Inside, there are now the public gardens, rich in centuries-old trees and plants, where you can rest on a bench or take a stroll enjoying the view.
To stay in the mediaeval mood, you can visit the nearby Romanesque church of San Martino, the oldest religious building in the town, presumably of Longobard or Carolingian origin. Observing the structure, you will soon notice its 'leaning' bell tower: it is about 23 metres high and visibly crooked, but its slope has never affected the monument's stability.
There is more to see than just mediaeval beauty. Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by elegant historical palaces; in the vicinity of the castle, the Museo Nazionale Atestino houses a large number of Roman and pre-Roman artefacts, and there are also extraordinary Venetian villas, including Vigna Contarena, Villa Kunkler and Villa Benvenuti.
Also worth a visit are the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses a Byzantine icon considered to be miraculous, and the Cathedral of Santa Tecla, which preserves the remains of Beatrice d'Este and Tiepolo's altarpiece of Santa Tecla.
Two kilometres of intact city walls, 24 towers, two monumental access points to the heart of the city: the grandeur of Montagnana is truly breathtaking.
The first construction dates back to the 11th century. In the 13th century, the siege by Ezzelino Da Romano led to the burning of most of the wooden parts of the fortification, and he then had Castel San Zeno built for military use.
The enclosure work was completed by the Carraresi in 1362 with the construction of the Rocca degli Alberi, more than thirty metres high.
The San Zeno Castle (1242) represents, together with the Rocca degli Alberi, one of the two entrances to the fortification. The castle houses the 'Antonio Giacomelli' Civic Museum.
Within the city walls, head to the square, the beating heart of Montagnana, where the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its unique clock on the façade solemnly dominates. The cathedral was built in the 15th century on the remains of an earlier Romanesque parish church from the 12th century. Its position is asymmetrical with respect to the square, which makes the perspective of the ensemble unique and distinctive.
In the centre of the square stands the statue of Vittorio Emanuele and all around there are 18th-century Venetian-style buildings.
A visit to the centre of Montagnana, amidst elegant porticoes, historic buildings and postcard views, can be completed in half a day, perhaps including a stop to taste the pride of the area: the Veneto Berico Euganeo ham.