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THE POLESINE BETWEEN 16th century and 19th century

frattaDuring the first period of the Venetian domination the podestà show a prudent attitude committed to not making the Duke of Este regret his decision.
At the beginning of the 16th century the Polesine was in good economic condition and the communities of Rovigo, Lendinara and Badia could direct their energies to reinforcing the river banks and regulating the water courses.
At the beginning of the XVI century the Venetian Republic had reached its maximum expansion, not only in the Islands and along the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean, but also in Italy. The Venetian power preoccupied the major European states, and in particular the border states who signed a secret treaty against the Republic at Cambrai in December 1508, event which led to war in the following spring.
After the battle of Ghiara» d'Adda on May 14, 1509, the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso I declared war on Venice in a desire to recover the Polesine of Rovigo lost a few decades before. This direct struggle between the two enemies lasted over a month on land and water but the Venetians, with skillful diplomatic maneuvers, managed to maintain their dominion on the Polesine and in 1509 occupied Adria which in the division of territories of1484 had remained property of the Estensi.
The Cambrai War, through alternate fortunes of both sides, lasted until 1515 and saw frequent ravages of Rovigo, destruction of the land and confiscations of goods, particularly cereals and livestock.
From the 1520s, a slow economic and civil recovery began rich in cultural fervor and innovation in the social, religious, architectural and artistic fields.
Canda Villa Nani Mocenigo The 16th century can be considered one of the most positive periods for the Polesine thanks to the ease of communications with Ferrara, Mantua, Vicenza, Padua and especially for the new found confidence of the time, in man’s own growth and in the development of culture and of society.
In the major towns, Adria, Rovigo, Lendinara and Badia, Venice guided public life through the podestà. In Rovigo, in addition to civil power the podestà also had military power. The republic put great effort into regulating the waters and into the productivity of the land. The reclamation work begun by the Estensi was encouraged and continued and above all, efforts were made to redeem vast quantities of wasteland.
During the sixteenth century public schools were developed in Rovigo, Badia, Lendinara and Adria and by the mid 16th century some young noblemen of the city eager to discuss literary and theological problems of the time and compete in eloquence, established the Accademia degli Addormentati (acadamy of the sleeping) and requested a venue from the Council of Rovigo. A site was granted in 1553 at the "case nuove" in the city centre, at the residence of the Roncale family. Nine years later, in 1561, in the climate of suspicion created by the Counter-Reformation, the Accademia degli Addormentati was closed by order of the Podestà, with the accusation of being "ricetto di heresie" (a shelter for heresy).
Almost twenty years passed before similar initiatives appeared again in Rovigo. Towards 1580, in Casa Campo, in present day via Mazzini, the meetings of the Accademia dei Concordi began.
Thanks to the commitment of Gaspare Campo and to the collaboration of men of culture and church a positive cultural climate was gradually created in Rovigo which favoured, alongside the Concordi, the foundation of the Accademia dei Cavalieri, active from 1594 to 1598 and of the Accademia degli Uniti at the Olivetano monastery of San Bartolomeo.
The sixties in Fratta, saw the establishment of the Accademia dei Pastori Fratteggiani thanks to the initiative of Giovanni Maria Bonardo. The meetings took place in the Palazzo Pepoli of Fratta, and were conducted by Lucrezia Gonzaga, a disciple of Matteo Bandello. The salon was animated by Bonardo and Groto and was attended by many representatives and guests from noble families of Venice, Ferrara, Mantova, Vicenza and Padova, who had stately homes and villas in Polesine. It was indeed the period of Palladio and of the flourishing of stately homes built between the Po and the Adige, almost a testimony to the interest shown by the great clans of Venice and the Veneto in the extensive reclamation work taking place, in which they had invested considerable amounts.
The Ferrara area also participated in this fertile moment of the Polesine.
The frequent prolonged presence of Ariosto in Bagnolo di Po undoubtedly encouraged exchanges and familiarity with the scholars and the nobility of neighbouring towns such as Lendinara, Badia and Trecenta. Guarini was also an important cultural reference point in his country residence near Castelguglielmo, thanks to his lively participation in the civil debates of the time.
Contextually to cultural development there are improvements to the architectural appearance of the city: the streets are cobbled, the town squares are well-kept and the Lion of San Marco or Extensi insignias are reproduced in marble reliefs, public buildings, towers, and bridges are restored or built from scratch. Even civil architecture increases both in the cities where the richest families erect buildings both in the country and in smaller towns where the Venetians build villas and granaries.
The fervour of construction is also transmitted to sacred buildings and there is no location of the Polesine without new churches or restoration or extension work in progress.


THE SEVENTEENTH AND THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
Palazzo AngeliThe Seventeenth century opens with important hydraulic interventions. In the delta between 1602 and 1604 the Taglio di Porto Viro (Cut of Porto Viro) was made, joining one of the main branches of the Po with the Sacca di Goro enabling fast drainage and solving the problem of frequent flooding due to the maze-like conformation of the river. Other interventions and extensive reclamation are carried out throughout the territory, promoting agricultural recovery and a relative well-being in the Polesine.
The territory of the Polesine during the XVII-XVIII centuries, was repeatedly trodden by foreign troops who confronted each other in the area between the Po and the Adige which was strategically placed for Venice, the Pontifical State and the duchies of Modena and Mantova.
It was above all the slow and gradual development of a network of people, institutions and initiatives embracing the whole of the Polesine and the participation of the main towns of the territory in the cultural events of the era, that characterized the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries.
The Accademia dei Concordi, after the death of Gaspare Campo, had several vicissitudes until 1697, year in which the activities of the association resumed due to Nicolò Casilini and Camillo Silvestri.
However, it was from 1734 that the institute, with a renewed statute entered into the Venetian cultural policy, and addressed its promotional role, moving away from pure erudition and turning to the fields of economics, geography, science, hydraulics and agriculture.
In the eighteenth century well-off families of the city gather collections of paintings and codes thus initiating a tacit competition that, in the words of Francesco Bartoli at the end of the century, turns some residences into real art museums.
Among these private collections, for the number of works and the level of the authors, are the picture galleries of Casilini and Silvestri. The latter also kept a very well-stocked library that was to reach 40,000 titles and included codes, incunabula and volumes of great value.
In Adria the fashion for collections involved members of the Bocchi family, in contact with the Silvestri and the houses of Rovigo, and was rich enough in archaeological finds to enable the opening of a museum in the 19th century.
In Rovigo, as in all other towns of the Polesine, the XVII-XVIII centuries are times of urban transformation and improvement thanks to theatres, bridges, public works and especially the many stately buildings that enrich the the building sector.
In the eighteenth century, worth a mention are Palazzo Venezze, Campanari, Angeli and at the end of century Domenico Cerato completes the Diocesan Seminary in the buildings vacated by the Augustinians.
There are prestigious buildings also in other towns: to mention a few by way of example, Villa Pellegrini at Salvaterra, Ca ' Moro at San Bellino, palazzo Pepoli at Trecenta, Ca ' Rosetta at Polesella, Villa Morosini at Fiesso, Palazzo dei principi Pio Falcò at Crespino, Villa Carrer at Contarina.
The new religious buildings or radically restructured ones are also  numerous.
For instance, the 1665 Bell Tower of the Chiesa del Soccorso designed by Baldassare Longhena, while the Church continues to be decorated, increasingly recognized as the expression of culture and faith of the city.

Reclamation
Villa Morosini Vendramin CalergiReclamation represents a key element in properly understanding the Polesine, a land torn from the waters and made suitable for civilian settlements and productive activities, thanks to the relentless activity of man who has restrained rivers, constructed channels for draining water, installed water pumping machines.
Following the ancient interventions of the Etruscan and Roman ages, the first significant experiences of reclamation are attributable to the Benedictines who left important traces in Badia Polesine (Vangadizza), Villafora, Villamarzana (Gognano) and at Grignano Polesine, where they established "La Comuna", a consortium of townsfolk for the management and cultivation of the reclaimed lands.
Another important operation was that of the Olivetano monks of San Bartolomeo who took part in the reclamation of the nearby countryside. A first type of Drainage Consortium was established around 1100, modelled on the religious corporations, to defend the territories from the invasion of water, to drain marshes and render them suitable for cultivation.
Over the years, rulers started to take control of development and to promote reclamation. In 1556 the Serenissima instituted the Authority for Uncultivated Heritage, to promote the formation of drainage consortiums between landowners and in the 17th century, embankments and canals are built and works are carried out to make the soil fertile and cultivable.
The first large-scale intervention in Polesine was undertaken by Alfonso II d'Este followed by the Bentivoglio Reclamation in the areas between the Po and the Tartar.
The main merit of reclamation must be given, however, to the Consortiums, originally established by several landowners, but subsequently managed by farmers whose properties were included within the consortium boundaries.