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Cittadella stands as a fortified outpost of Padua in the area between the River Brenta and Musone, north of Padua and Vicenza.
A brief history of Cittadella
This is an area of ancient settlements dating back to the Bronze Age, and Cittadella also had an important role in Roman times, because it was crossed by the Via Postumia trade route.
It is in the Middle Ages (1220), however, that the history of Cittadella as we see it today begins. The town first developed as a small walled city (hence Cittadella or small city) to defend the territory around Padua.
Despite these fortifications Cittadella frequently changed hands between the greatest Italian lords; for example, it was conquered by Da Romano in the 13th century, then the Scaligeri, then Da Carrara, and finally from 1406 by the Venetians (apart from a short period between 1483 and 1509).
Under the rule of Venice Cittadella had substantial civil and military developments, including reinforcement of the defensive walls.
Later, with the fall of Venice in the Napoleonic age, the town came under French and then under Austrian rule before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
The walled town of Cittadella has an unusual, almost circular, structure (other medieval fortresses were usually four-sided). The walls of Cittadella, built with stones of the Brenta river, also have a considerable length, over 1400 meters and a height of 12 - 13 meters, and stand on a mound surrounded by a moat.
A sightseeing tour to Cittadella starts from this defensive wall - perhaps with a walk around the ramparts (entrance charge payable) and a chance to look down on the city within the walls.
The Tower of Malta, dating from 1251, is well worth a visit. It was formerly a prison built by the terrible and cruel tyrant Ezzelino da Romano.
The tower is today used as the Archaeological Museum and includes various finds, mostly ceramic and bronze, from different periods including the Bronze, Roman and medieval Ages that have been discovered during excavations.
Inside the imposing walls stands the 16th century Cittadella cathedral, rebuilt in neoclassical style by Domenico Cerato and Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi in the 18th century.
In the cathedral sacristy you can see art works by some exciting emerging artists of the 1500s, such as Jacopo Bassano ( The Supper at Emmaus), Palma the Younger (The Flagellation), Andrea da Murano (The Deposition), Apollonio Domenichini (The Virgin Mary of the Cintola) and some paintings from the 16th century Venetian School.
Also in Cittadella you can see the Town Hall, which was also rebuilt at the time of Venetian rule.
Other buildings of particular interest are the Theatre, built in 1828 by Giacomo Bauto with a neoclassical facade by Giuseppe Jappelli and, finally, the 16th century Praetorian Palace.
Places to visit near Cittadella
The more recent urban sprawl that now surrounds the city is less enticing to visitors, but one recommendation is the Church of San Donato, dating back to the High Middle Ages (9th-10th century) just outside Cittadella on the road to Padua. In the church you can see some beautiful paintings including a 15th century Madonna and Child and a St. Anthony of Padua and other saints.
While on the edges of the town, particularly in San Donato and vicinity, you can enjoy various traditional local dishes such as roasted or boiled duck, the classic polenta and very tasty fish caught in the river Brenta.
Ideally these are best accompanied by the famous wines of the Veneto such as Merlot, Novello, Prosecco, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. "Prosit" (trans: cheers!) as we say in Latin!
You can find more local travel ideas in the Venice-Veneto guide.