A guide to Rovigo and its hidden surprises

February 22, 2022 | By

Rovigo is an Italian town of 51.104 inhabitants, capital of the homonymous province in Veneto.

The historical finds that have come down to us from antiquity are very few, but the attendance in the area of ancient Veneti and later of the Romans is sure.

The first certainly reliable historical document about the city is therefore that of 24 April 838, where Rovigo is defined in Latin villa que nuncupatur Rodigo, or “[rural] village called Rodigo”.

It is located in the southern part of Veneto, on the border with Emilia Romagna, in a flat area notoriously rich in waterways and about 40 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea and is included in the vast area of the Veneto Regional Park of the Po Delta, an area of great naturalistic and historical interest.

At first sight small and quiet city, it hides interesting routes and centuries of history, like for example some mighty towers inside the city that are part of a grandiose medieval fortress. This is just one of the surprises of the city, so here is Rovigo and its uncountable gems!

The Temple of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso

The Temple of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso known as La Rotonda di Rovigo rises between Piazzale del Soccorso and Piazza XX Settembre, close to the ancient city walls and it is one of the main monuments of the city of Rovigo

It is unique in its kind, octagonal with the magnificent Palladino del Longhena bell tower next to it at the end of the tree-lined garden of Piazza XX Settembre. Built by the Rodigini to thank the Virgin for having been saved from the plague of 1630 which miraculously saved the city, as can be read from the copy of the seventeenth-century book displayed in the Church whose original is at the Accademia dei Concordi in the center of Rovigo available anyone who wants to consult it.

Francesco Zamberlan, the first proto of the Arsenale of Venice and collaborator of the architect Andrea Palladio, who provided the plans for the temple and constantly followed the The first stone of the building – with a central plan according to the tradition of Marian churches – was placed by Monsignor Laureti during a solemn ceremony held on 13 October 1594. Later, due to static problems, the dome installed in 1603 was removed and replaced by a pitched roof in 1606.

Inside the church, there are frescoes both in the lower part (including eight stories of Mary) and in the upper part (where there is only one canvas with a sacred element represented). In the middle band there are twenty niches with twenty statues. On the dome there is the fresco representing Charity with the scene of the help of the plague victims, above the main entrance La Fede and above the altar instead La Speranza.

The altar is made of wood and was carved directly by a rodigino, Giovanni Caracchio (the design was said to have been provided by Zamberlan but seems to clash with the skinny and bare idea that he had externally imprinted), in about 1607. Unknown artist, he had to face the problem of being able to attract the attention of the faithful who in an octagonal church is not at all trivial.

Fortunately, splendor was used at the time and thanks to the brightness and size of this, the purpose was achieved widely! As for the image for which the Rotonda was built, albeit of a small size, the artist managed to fully enhance it through the wise and skillful use of the Baroque with various prosthetic elements essentially to put it in the foreground.

The bell tower, however, was built on a project by Baldassarre Longhena and construction began in 1655 to end – after multiple interruptions – only in 1774. The building is still made up of an octagonal body illuminated at the top by three large windows on each side and ending with a cornice in modiglioni stone, around which a portico with columns of the Tuscan order without base and joined by a balustrade turns in the lower part. The portico houses 80 stone inscriptions from demolished buildings in the city of Rovigo, as well as a sundial inserted in one of the corner points.

Museum of the Great Rivers

The Museum of the Great Rivers, recently rearranged at the ancient Monastery of the Olivetani, collects archaeological evidence from the Polesine delta area, characterized by the presence of two important rivers, the Po and the Adige. The museum layout is innovative, as the enhancement of this area takes place thanks to the support of modern technologies that offer the user a better use of the exhibition path. The museum is currently divided into three sections: Bronze age, Iron age and Roman age.

The Museum houses part of the collection of the learned collector Camillo Silvestri, who in the second half of the 1600s founded the Museum Silvestrium, the first nucleus of the future and modern Civic Museum. The rest of the material, following his death, was sold to Scipione Maffei and to the priests of the Episcopal Seminary of Rovigo.

The museum tour begins with the Bronze Age. A large diorama, placed at the entrance of the room, intends to explain how economic and social changes occurred in the different areas of the European continent during the second millennium BC. A suggestive reconstructive hypothesis of the center of Canàr restores the atmosphere of a built-up area on stilts, built near the Tartar river during the Ancient Bronze Age. In a showcase are collected the materials coming from this center linked to the culture of the terramare, which consist of some ceramic finds, bones and worked flints.

The diorama dedicated to the Iron Age illustrates how the beginning of this complex historical moment, characterized by the spread of writing, the appearance of well-defined peoples and the development of the first urban agglomerations, did not occur simultaneously in the various sites of the Eurasian continent . As for Italy, it is known that the civilizations that from the beginning of the first millennium BC they populated this territory were different: in the south the Magna Graecia, in the center mainly the Etruscan and in the north the Celtic and the Venetian ones.

The section concerning the Roman age aims to present the picture of the anthropization and transformation of the Polesine territory between the second century. B.C. and the second century. A.D. The path begins by highlighting how in the third century. B.C. significant commercial contacts with the Celtic population of the Cenomani settled in the lower Veronese plain are attested. An example is the necropolis of Lazisetta (VR), discovered in 1998, which has returned more than 180 incineration tombs. In this room the reconstruction of a pit tomb with a rich metal set, including weapons, fibulae and a coin, coming from this burial ground is exposed.

The Cathedral of Rovigo

The Cathedral of Rovigo is a church in Rovigo dedicated to Santo Stefano, pope and martyr. It is the co-cathedral of the diocese of Adria-Rovigo and is a parish church.

It is the first church built in Rovigo, we find traces of it for the first time as early as 964.

Although the origin of the church is unknown, it is supposed to be connected to the town and therefore roughly between the eighth and ninth centuries. They rebuilt it, around the 11th century, in accordance with the expansion that characterized the city in that period.

The baptistery was not to be annexed to the church but distinct and was rebuilt in 1361. The new church was consecrated in 1461 and had five altars. However, after about two centuries, the church was in poor condition. A new renovation is therefore necessary, which will bring the Duomo to its current conditions.

The project was created in 1696 by Girolamo Frigimelica who, in addition to dedicating himself to architecture, is also successful in the world of poetry and music. In fact, we remember his belonging to the Accademia dei Ricovrati of Padua (which also included Galileo Galilei among its members) and his fervent activity as a librettist of works.

The mammoth project involved a construction almost twice the size of the previous one. The attention was so high that Bishop Carlo Labia blessed the first stone, walled together with the gold coin, minted for the occasion. The work proceeded quickly, so much so that in fifteen years mass was celebrated in the new building. For the brick facade, however, no solution was found to complete it.

The baptistery was demolished in 1737, while the dome was rebuilt because the old one was too fragile and was demolished in 1785. The project was entrusted to Giuseppe Sabadini from Padua in 1791. He built it imposing and octagonal.

Inside the church, which presents itself with its vast single nave, we find the wonderful altar in red marble from Verona built on a project by Father Giuseppe Pozzo. Among the works of great artistic interest we point out a canvas by Palma the Younger depicting the risen Christ between Santo Stefano and San Bellino. A true masterpiece is the great painting, the work of the Sicilian Tommaso Sciacco, who represents Stefano Pope in the act of baptizing and making the view to Lucilla, daughter of the military tribune Nemesio. We can also admire two tables by Garofolo, one with San Pietro and the other with San Paolo. And yet a wonderful bronze candlestick attributed to Jacopo Sansovino.

The Temple of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso

The Temple of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso known as La Rotonda di Rovigo rises between Piazzale del Soccorso and Piazza XX Settembre, close to the ancient city walls. The beginning of the construction dates back to the end of the 16th century when the city authorities wanted to erect a new temple to honor a Madonna and Child believed to be miraculous that was frescoed on the altar of a small oratory that stood near the Convent of San Francesco.

It is said that the building was built on the occasion of the overcoming of the plague of 1575 in order to be able to welcome the numerous devotees who flocked to the oratory to venerate the sacred image. Designed in 1594 by Francesco Zamberlan, it was also built with architectural elements of old bridges that crossed the Adigetto, and from bricks of parts of the city walls. The octagonal structure of the church served as a grain depot and refuge for flood victims from the 1882 Adige route.

When it was founded, Rovigo had been part of the Republic of Venice for over a century.

In the 19th century the under portico became a lapidary museum of the finds coming from the churches and convents suppressed by the Napoleonic laws. In the portico a sundial was used as an astronomical reference for the coordinates of the city.

The 57-meter-high bell tower of the temple was designed in 1655 by the architect Baldassarre Longhena and completed in 1773.

The altar was built in 1607 by the rodigino carver Giovanni Caracchio based on a design by Zamberlan himself. In this work we can identify the image of the Madonna and Child surrounded by a glory of adoring angels.

The organ placed above the door facing the altar was built in 1767 by the Venetian Gaetano Callido.

The ceiling completely redone and painted in 1887 by Vittorio Bressanin with a fresco inspired by the origin of the church. In fact, the work describes the miracle of the Madonna that stopped the plague epidemic in the city. The Madonna who came to the aid of the sick appears surrounded by angels.

Palazzo Roncale

Palazzo Roncale is one of the main buildings in the city of Rovigo. The main entrance is in via Laurenti, but the building can also be admired from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, the main square of the city. The construction of Palazzo Roncale stands next to that of Palazzo Roverella; the latter, however, was built a few decades earlier. Palazzo Roncale was built in 1555 by the Roncale family, originally from Bergamo but moved to the Polesine as early as the previous century.

The project, led by Michele Sanmicheli from Verona on behalf of the family, had the main purpose of supporting the famous Palazzo Roverella without the ‘bulk of the latter’ diminishing it ‘; remember, in fact, that both buildings were commissioned by their respective families to demonstrate the prestige acquired within the city: the visual impact, in this case expressed above all by the majesty of the buildings, was therefore a criterion of primary importance, inside of a sort of challenge between noble families.

Palazzo Roncale is one of the main buildings in the city of Rovigo. The main entrance is in via Laurenti, but the building can also be admired from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, the main square of the city. The construction of Palazzo Roncale stands next to that of Palazzo Roverella; the latter, however, was built a few decades earlier. Palazzo Roncale was built in 1555 by the Roncale family, originally from Bergamo but moved to the Polesine as early as the previous century.

The project, led by Michele Sanmicheli from Verona on behalf of the family, had the main purpose of supporting the famous Palazzo Roverella without the ‘bulk of the latter’ diminishing it ‘; remember, in fact, that both buildings were commissioned by their respective families to demonstrate the prestige acquired within the city: the visual impact, in this case expressed above all by the majesty of the buildings, was therefore a criterion of primary importance, inside of a sort of challenge between noble families.

Porta S. Bortolomeo

Porta San Bartolomeo (or Porta San Bortolo), is so named because the neighborhood of the same name and the Monastery of the Olivetani were outside it. It is the best preserved door, and it is possible to admire it from Piazza Merlin. It was erected between 1482 and 1486 while it was Doge of the Serenissima Giovanni Mocenigo.

It is in fact possible to admire the coat of arms on the battlements of the building. In the central part of the door there was a statue depicting the Madonna and Child with San Giovannino, by the artist Clemente Molli and currently kept in the church of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso. It is one of the three doors of the original fourteenth-century walls.

It connected the city to the San Bortolomeo district. It was a turreted door, about 25m high, with a fresco depicting Hercules killing the lion; seriously damaged by the Venetian artillery, it was subsequently restored, but with a lower height.

A second intervention was carried out in 1639 at the behest of the mayor Vittorio Correr, who had a clock with two dials positioned on the tower, one facing inwards and one towards the outside of the city (now placed on the clock tower in Piazza V. Emanuele II); this made it necessary to raise the door creating a second battlement.

In the niche, outside the door towards S. Bartolomeo, there was the statue of the Madonna sculpted in 1639 by Clemente Moli which is now located in the sacristy of the Rotonda.

The two plaques that are located above the archway housed the stately inscriptions commemorating respectively the podestà Vittorio Correr, towards S. Bartolomeo, and Alvise Tiepolo, towards the city.

Porta S. Agostino

The name derives from the ancient church of Sant’Agostino, annexed to the convent of the Eremitani, which once stood on site, demolished in 1772 to build the new diocesan seminary.

Not far away was the Portello, demolished in 1824, which, as its name suggests, must have been a more modest door.

No documents have emerged capable of dating the construction of the gate, while the renovation carried out in 1713 is certain, which gave the monument its characteristic termination with opposing curves. In 1983, during a new restoration, the ancient now illegible writing “Porta Divi Augustini” above the internal facade was replaced with the current “Porta Augustina”.

The ancient city wall was characterized by numerous gates, crenellated towers and turrets to guard the city and between this and that of San Bortolo you can admire the last remaining tower, Torre Pighin. It is with S. Agostino gate, one of the last two gates built on the medieval walls; the dating is uncertain but presumably it is to be placed in the first half of the 16th century, in conjunction with the construction of the Convent of the Eremitani di S. Agostino of the Monte Ortone congregation.

Originally it was a very simple building covered with a saddle roof. It was rebuilt in 1713 in its present form, with the characteristic ashlar and the curvilinear tympanum; the inscription on the entablature, Porta Agostina, was created during the restoration in 1983 to replace the original writing Porta Divi Augustini, degraded by time.

The historic tower – Torre Pighin

The tower that rises in via Pighin is the only evidence of the towers that marked the walls in medieval times. Originally the tower was open to the interior of the city as it had exclusively defense and non-housing purposes. The interior was divided into several wooden floors connected to each other with ladders.

In the eighteenth century, having lost all military significance, a private house was inserted inside the structure through the addition of the missing wall.

The building was abandoned for several decades in the last century, until the recent restoration that made it habitable again. It is the only tower in the surviving medieval city wall. The 23 m high tower had an exclusively defensive function and was therefore open to the interior of the city. The interior was divided by wooden mezzanines connected to each other with ladders.

During the eighteenth century, once the military function was lost, a building was built inside that partially closed the opening.

Subsequently, the building was abandoned and remained in a state of decay until the 80s of the last century when, thanks to a restoration, it was made habitable again.

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