Asolo was once ruled by Queen Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510). She was from one of Venice's most powerful families and is one of the more prominent females in Venice's history. She married the king of Cyprus, a year later he died, political tensions over Venice's intent to control Cyprus put the Queen in a sticky situation... she finally abdicated her Cyprus throne, giving Cypress to Venice... so the Venetian republic gave her Asolo as a "thank you". That's the short version.
So... this is where she lived during her rule, though much of the original structure is gone. There are nice views from the ramparts, and also a cafe up here and a small slide & swing for the kids. If you/re lucky, you may catch a bocce match on the fields.
The Cathedral is worth a peak inside. Again, from Piazza Garibladi you can't miss it. It is in sight and just south of the piazza; Head down the stairs. Constructed in the 1740s, inside the church is a wonderful painting by Lorenzo Lotto (early 1500s).
The tourist information is across from the Church, along with a city Museum.
Asolo is not too far up the mountain, but far enought to afford wonderful views of the surounding country side. The best views are from La Rocca, which is the midieval fortress perched above the town; a bit of a hike to get up there.
The 2nd best spot is the much more accessable Castle just up the hill from Piazza Garibaldi. Just follow your way up the cobble stone drive towards the large clock tower.
This is the heart of the small town. From the Piazza, all the sites are 5minutes away (excluding la Rocca, the old fortress atop the hill). Surrounding the fountain are elegant buildings, shops, and cafes.
The fountain is powered by an antique Roman aqueduct which keeps the water clean, one of the cleanest public fountains you'll see in Italy. See the photo on my Asolo main page.
The winged lion shows the cities former allegiance to the Venetian Republic.
There is a parking area here at next to the Piazza.
Piazza Garibaldi ( former Piazza Maggiore) is in the heart of the tiny town and is symbolized by the large fountain of a winged lion. From this fountain, the water that gushes out is still the same cool water that flows along the Roman Aqueduct, which has supplied it for nearly two thousand years!
Of course, the fountain has been modified over time, but its central part is still ancient (like the section of a Roman column and the coat of arms and name of the "Podesta Giovanni Pisani" and the date of 1575 when it was restored.
A pine cone towered over the column for a century and then was replaced by the lion to represent St. Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic
. While we were there, they were doing renovation on the statue, so the photograph is not mine (didn't think a covered scaffold would be too attractive).
Today the castle is an old massive construction, which has been altered many times. Its typical tower (Torre Reata) is original. Now, the Eleonora Duse Theatre is located inside. Of The Asolo Castle there remains only the Clock Tower, one wing, the remains of the Reata Tower, & the walls.
An interesting fact: In 1930 Mister Ringling of the American Circus family bought the dismantled parts of the Castle and rebuilt in Sarasota, Florida, & it bears the name of "Asolo Theatre".
We walked on the part that was left, and there is a wonderful view as well as pretty gardens.
The Castle has many names: Queen's Castle, Cornaro Castle, Asolo Castle.
The origin the castle is unknow. Its cited for the 1st time in the year 969.vThe first domination by the Venetians was 1329. That domination was interrupted by the invasion of the Hungarians who devastated the territory. After final Venetian victory, the Castle was the permanent seat of the Podesta and its Council.
The most interesting history of the Castle pertains to Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus. She was born in Venice but went as a young bride to James II, King of Cyprus. Some say that Venice had its eye on the island & used her to get control. Rumor also says that she poisoned her husband, & for her safety, Venice sent ships & soldiers to Cyprus to defend her.
The Venetian government finally convinced her to abandon the kingdom in exchange for going to Asolo. That was quite an honor because, at the time, Asolo was second in size & wealth to Treviso. She never became Queen of Asolo because Venice continued to nominate the Podesta & to govern the territory.
Caterina enjoyed a handsome annuity & kept a magnificent court. She brought men of letters & science to Asolo. Her idyllic life came to an abrupt halt when the troops of the League of Cambrai occupied Asolo territory, & Caterina took refuge in Venice where she died ( she was unable to live long enough to see the Venetian victory & repossession of Asolo).
A ruined fortress known as the "Rocca" dominates the hillside and the ancient city of Asolo. Its purpose was to protect this walled city. This Fort is an imposing construction of rock laid upon rock. It is quite mysterious and has fed the imaginations of the citizens of Asolo and many great writers over the centuries. It would be pre-Roman, Euganean, even Trojan with secret galleries leading to the Castle.
Recently, Guido Rosada and a group of archeologists from the University of Padua have been studying the Fortress. Study says that it is of medieval construction and developed around a previous tower or castle. At one time, it was the property of Venice. The Venitians built a great cistern-well on the inside to increase its independence as a military fortress. It suffered the first bombardment from the troops of the League of Cambrai (1509).
The Fortress was disarmed in 1652. Afterward, from time to time it was used as a refuge for those with the plague.
For those who love statistics:
58 metres long
27 metres wide
Walls are 15 metres high
3.5 metres thick at the base
A mass of 3000 square metres of stone has been calculated (C. Bernardi)
There is a 360 degree all around view
On a really clear day, one can see the distant gleam of the Venetian Lagoon!
My husband Allan and I walked 1,100 steps to the top. It was not open (only open on weekends and holidays!), but the walk was still worth it. Then we walked the 1,100 steps back down. Quite a workout!
Just down a few steps from Piazza Garibaldi in the Cathedral Square stands a modest, ancient church. This Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. Many Popes throughout history have favored this little church because of its location and simple elegance.
A visit to the Cathedral is made easy because of the captions placed alongside the works of art. The most beautiful, I think, is the basin of the Baptismal Font, which was a gift from Caterina Cornaro. It is embossed with Queen Cornaro's Coat of Arms as well as images of the Madonna and Child.
Another beautiful piece of art was Lorenzo Lotto's "Our Lady of the Assumption" with its gold gilded and embossed framework.
The Cathedral's present facade (1889) rests against the ancient Romanesque one (probably to reinforce its structure). The architecture is Romanesque, which has withstood a fire and the 1695 earthquake. The most ancient portion, the Cappella del Santissimo is from the 15th Century.
One can find great solace in such a simple, quiet, art-filled place. The picture was taken by my husband of me praying at the altar.
The city is loaded with a variety of great architecture. From gothic, to the Venetian style, there are a great number of beautiful buildings around town. Particularly along via Canova.
A little swing set and slide, up at the Queens castle. This is right near the bocce "courts" and a huge Rosmary bush. Smell.