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THE POLESINE IN the RISORGIMENTO

Teatro SocialeIn May 1797 General Rusca, on behalf of the French Republic, occupied the Polesine and revolutionary troops entered Rovigo, Adria and other towns; a few months later, in October 1797, under the Treaty of Campoformio the Veneto was ceded to Austria.
The Polesine was to return to the French in 1801 and the territory would be united to the Department of the Lower Po based in Ferrara, until the following Austrian occupation of 1815.
The first years of the Nineteenth century are for Rovigo and the Polesine, a period of great civil and social changes as well as the backdrop to events which were to remain in the memory of the population for many years to come.
During occupation the French government implemented the laws and aims of the revolution, closing the male and female convents of the territory and acquiring and auctioning their goods. Secular brotherhoods were also abolished. The Abbey of Vangadizza was made to conclude its centuries old history of faith and culture and its assets with the monastic buildings passed to the family of Espagnac.
This repressed anxiety and widespread discontent is expressed in the peasant revolts, with assaults to buildings and public offices, which occur in the first decade of the nineteenth century in several towns of the Polesine.
In November 1813, the Austrian militarily forces occupied the Polesine which, a year and a half later, at the Congress of Vienna, was to be recognized part of Lombardo Veneto. Imperial domination was to last until 1866 and would influence the entire century for the civilian institutions which it established and for the economic development of the territory during that period.
From 1815 the Polesine finally includes all the territory between the Adige and the Po (except Cavarzere, Loreo and Ariano) and the province begins to grow in size and to strengthen its identity through increased trade between the towns that belonged to the Venetian Republic and those subject to the Papal States.
Gradually, these towns also began to refer to Rovigo for culture and administrative practices. A sign of the connections between the different parts of the Polesine was evident in the spread of the Carbonarist Movement which had its centre at Fratta and Crespino, but involved citizens across the province: Polesella, Rovigo, Calto, Occhiobello, Ficarolo, Badia, Ariano.
At the beginning of January 1819, an Austrian police operation, conducted in several towns, led to the arrest of Antonio Fortunato Oroboni, Felice Foresti and other Carbonari, later sentenced by the Court of Venice on 22 December 1821, to lengthy imprisonment in the Spielberg.
After the episode of 1819 some decades of relative political tranquillity followed until 1848.
In this year the anti-Austrian revolt broke out also in Rovigo and the city experienced several months of administrative autonomy under the leadership of count Domenico Angeli.
Patriotic spirit spread throughout the territory and the young left from many towns to fight alongside the Piedmont army in defending the Italian cause.
Following the negative conclusion of the first war of independence and the fall of Venice, the pressure of Austrian power is felt heavily  with trials and convictions, with the presence of military garrisons and the constant activity of a political police force.
In reaction to the progressive limitation of freedom, before and after the war of 1859-60, young people start to emigrate, crossing the Po, to join Piedmont army lines. Among these were several protagonists of the Italian Risorgimento who, following the annexation of the Veneto to Italy in 1866, were to promote important civil charges in the Polesine: Alberto Mario of Lendinara, Domenico Piva of Rovigo, Giovanni Battista Tenani of Guarda Veneta, Alessandro Casalini.
The Austrian period registers considerable economic and social development of the province which in 1859, reaches a population of 172,000.
In the first decades of the century the Chamber of Commerce of Rovigo established by the French Government in 1802, was strengthened, the Cassa di Risparmio bank was set up and the market square near the Church of San Domenico was improved.
Many convents, deprived of their occupants by the revolution at the beginning of the century, were adapted to the growing cultural, social and welfare needs of the population. Social classes were changing: aristocracy was on the decline, the bourgeois were increasing their standing and the conditions of the working classes were ever more harsh.
Education progressed considerably: in 1815 compulsory primary school is instituted; at Lendinara, after the removal of the Cavanis fathers who ran the high school there, technical school courses and a lower classical school were to be established. In 1841 in Adria the  Bocchi classical school is opened and from 1877 the technical schools are also on offer. In Rovigo, in addition to the seminary with its own classical school and high school, a state classical high school and a technical school are inaugurated.
According to data provided by Francesco Bocchi, in 1858 in Polesine there were 106 state schools and 30 private ones with a total of 7000 schoolchildren. The number of pupils in 1878 reaches 17,800.
Of great significance, in 1840, is the opening of the library of the Accademia dei Concordi which was possible due to an agreement between the institute and the City Council of Rovigo.
A book by the abbot Gnocchi and donations made to the library in  the following decades, particularly the bequest of 40,000 books and manuscripts from the counts Silvestri, make this an extremely valuable collection and together with the picture gallery, qualify the Academy at a regional and national level.
In Adria, in the 19th century, the Bocchi Museum is opened while the library of the classical school and the library of the Capitolo della Cattedrale function regularly.
The municipal library of Lendinara, which had been entrusted to Gaetano Baccari, received the Leopardi donation and in 1875 a librarian was appointed to direct it.
At Castelmassa Giuseppe Bellini composes a precious picture gallery with over 200 paintings of Italian and foreign painters of the  XV and XVIII centuries.
Also significant is that in Rovigo and Adria philharmonic institutes for studying music are opened and that in many towns, towards the end of the century, agrarian committees begin to develop, valid means for the exchange of information, experiences and ideas between agricultural and productive categories.
In the second half of the Nineteenth century, in Lendinara, Rovigo, Badia, Adria and other towns, mutual aid societies are founded in order to help the unfortunate that due to inability to work or to illness were left without any means of subsistence. This new widespread sense of solidarity was to support other initiatives like the rural funds promoted by Mons. Sichirollo to help small farmers and artisans which, in 1895, were already present in 32 parishes of the Polesine.
Other forms of support for the lower classes were promoted by socialist leagues, which in Polesine referred to Nicola Badaloni.

In architecture, it is the blossoming of theatres in the early decades of the Nineteenth century which is most significant. In 1813 the first theatre opens in Adria, in 1814 at Lendinara and Badia; in 1819 in Rovigo the Teatro Sociale overlooking the current piazza Garibaldi, is inaugurated.
Among the public and private buildings constructed in this era in Rovigo are, the Corpo di Guardia, Palazzo Minelli, Palazzo Camerini. Over the Adigetto in Rovigo, Lendinara and Badia, elegant and functional bridges are built in masonry, while the squares are decorated, after Italian unification, with statues celebrating the protagonists of the Risorgimento or illustrious citizens.

In Rovigo the monument to Vittorio Emanuele of Giulio Monteverde was erected as well as that of Garibaldi by Ettore Ferrari who also designed the monument to Alberto Mario of Lendinara.
In the second half of the century the construction of the railroad to Padua and Ferrara in 1866 and the one for Adria and Legnago in 1876, employed thousands of workers, who were also engaged in the maintenance or construction of the provincial roads which connect Rovigo to several other towns of the territory.
The economic development of the province however, was interrupted by serious breaches of the Po and by the great flood of the Adige in 1882 which reached the Canal Bianco. The population had to retreat onto the banks and in high places whilst homes and farmland were awash with damaging sand and mud.
The invaluable support of the state helped finance major reconstruction works and interventions for hydraulic safety.
Two years later the protest of labourers spreads to the cry of "La boje", demanding better pay and the defense of workers? rights. In the last years of the century, the strikes, the introduction of water pumping machinery in reclamation, unemployment and poverty forced thousands of families to abandon the Polesine for foreign countries and especially South America in search of a decent job.
From 1887 to 1900 over 63,000 people emigrated from the province of Rovigo.
Those who remained or returned in the early 1900s were to find work, as well as in agriculture, in public works on drainage canals and in the first industries: a foundry at Loreo, a starch factory in Castelmassa, sugar factories in Polesella, Ficarolo, Rovigo, Cavanella Po and Lendinara.

Traces of the Carbonari 
Monumento CarboneriaWith the Congress of Vienna, Fratta came under Austrian rule and was to be governed by Austria until 1866, year of the third war of independence. During this period the town participated actively in the causes of the Risorgimento and the tragedy of "Carbonari della Fratta" occurred, one of the most glorious but painful pages of the dawn of the Risorgimento, the first example of the Austrian repression of aspirations to national freedom and emancipation (1818).
In November 1818, all the Carbonari of Fratta were arrested: Count Antonio Fortunato Oroboni, Cecilia Monti, Angelo Gambato, Antonio Francesco Villa, Don Marco Fortini, Giovanni Monti, Antonio and Carlo Poli, Giacomo, Federico and Sebastiano Monti, Domenico and Antonio Davì, Vincenzo Zerbini, Domenico Grindati. From then on a long series of trials began that opened the painful gates of the Spielberg and other maximum security prisons, like Venice and Lubiana.
The move to strive actively towards national unity was facilitated by the presence in Fratta of the country mansions of noble citizens who were in touch with important personalities and exponents of the local bourgeoisie and of neighbouring territories.
Visitors to Fratta may retrace the "passeggiata dei Carbonari," a pedestrian path along the Valdentro drainage canal that passes in front of the villas which used to be inhabited by several activists of the movement: Palazzo Grindiati-Boniotti, Villa Davì, Villa Oroboni, Villa Dolfin, Villa Monti, Villa Labia.
A monument by the Veronese sculptor Grazioso Spazzi, was erected in 1867 in memory of the Carbonari, the first in the Veneto freed from the Austrians following the third war of independence.