If you are interested in medieval history, and want to see a well-preserved example of fortifications from the period, Cittadella in the Veneto region of Italy is a great place to spend an afternoon. Built as a military outpost to protect Padua in the 13th century, the ring of walls that runs around its outskirts is still almost entirely intact and open for visitors to walk around.
Cittadella’s construction began in 1220 on the orders of Padua authorities, who wanted to use it as an outpost during wars with other communes such as Vicenza and Treviso. The latter had started construction of a similar military outpost at Castelfranco towards the end of the 12th century, so Cittadella was Padua’s response.
Cittadella’s walls have a circumference of about 1460 metres and are about 16 metres high. They include 32 towers, including four main gateways. A protective moat was built around its outskirts, and drawbridges could be lowered to pass through the gates.
On my most recent visit, I made my way into the city through Porta Padova which was originally the main entrance into the town:
I then wandered through the pretty centre to Porta Bassano. Both gates are painted with the four-wheeled cart symbol of the Carraresi- a powerful aristocratic family which controlled Padua and its surroundings for some time before the Republic of Venice extended its power over the territory.
The tourist route around the walls begins here. Firstly you can visit a small museum where you can read about some of the other powerful families and rulers in the region during the Middle Ages. Then you can start the walk around the ramparts.
Most of the walls are well-preserved and restored. However, there are some rather scary bits where staircases help you pass over the gaps! While it’s a fun day out for children, this could frighten some younger ones!
Museums along the route tell you more about what life was like in Cittadella during the Middle Ages. You can learn about sieges of the city, the weapons and armour used and practices such as the trapping and use of slaves.
Overall Cittadella gives vistors an interesting insight into medieval history, and can be combined with a trip to nearby Castelfranco Veneto. As I also came here on a school trip when I was nine, I can say from personal experience that it is a particularly fun day out for children, though as mentioned can be a little scary at times. Even on my recent visit, more than twenty years later, I was a bit frightened of the heights at some stages, but it was thrilling. Enjoy!