Abano Terme is the biggest spa town in the world with a large number of hotels all equipped with professional thermal centres and spa facilities. In the 19th century inspiration was drawn from the legend of Aponus and some of these traditional thermal centres in Abano were set up. Strolling in the town centre means discovering the history of the last two centuries: the doric column by Giuseppe Jappelli stands out at the thermal spring on Montirone Hill and Jappelli himself designed the neoclassic façade of Orologio Grand Hotel; historic Trieste&Victoria Hotel was a base of the Italian army during World War I and the room of General Armando Diaz is nowadays still unchanged. The frescoes of Villa Bassi, as well as their stunning fountains and water decorations, are not to be missed and Amleto and Donato Sartori International Masks Museum is also worth a visit.
The city centre has a large pedestrian precinct, filled with old and modern buildings, large hotels with well-tended gardens, shops, bars and restaurants, and the historical and monumental sights also include one of the most important testimonials of the Aponus spa, Montirone Hill.
Not to be missed.
Montirone Hill: this small hill, once rich in naturally flowing spa springs, was particularly dear to the ancient Patavini, who in Roman times surrounded it with villas and spa stations. The entrance to the old spring, where until the second half of the 1800s the water still flowed spontaneously at a temperature of 80°C, is marked by an early 19th century Corinthian colonnade and a mighty Doric column crowned by a chalice wrapped in the coils of a snake, designed by Giuseppe Jappelli in 1825 for the visit of Emperor Franz I of Austria. The two buildings either side of the entrance house the Maav – Abano Terme Art Glass Museum.
Chiesa del Sacro Cuore: with its modern architectural design, this is one of the most important churches in the town. Built during the second half of the 1950s to the design of the architect Giulio Brunetta, it houses a beautiful crucifix, by the artist Mario Pinton, a frontal by Carlo Mandelli, and works by Paolo De Poli.
Kursaal public gardens: amongst the greenery of the gardens, right in the middle of the pedestrian area, we can find the statue of Pietro D’Abano, one of the most famous sons of Aponus. Another decorative element of this garden is the Harlequin fountain, by Amleto Sartori, artist of international fame, to whom also the Mask Museum, located in Villa Savioli, is dedicated.
Grand Hotel Orologio: one of the emblems of the history of Abano, this beautiful building was constructed in the 17th century by the noble family Dondi dall’Orologio, and was extended in the 19th century with the addition of its neoclassical façade (1825), by Giuseppe Jappelli, who also restored the large gardens surrounding the hotel. Opposite the Grand Hotel Orologio is the Hotel Trieste & Victoria, another building of particular historical value. This was in fact the headquarters of the Italian Supreme Command during the First World War (1918), and General Armando Diaz often stayed here in an apartment on the first floor.
Viale delle Terme: wide, tree-lined avenue, the real dynamic heart of the town, with its shops, hotels, bars and restaurants. It includes two sites of great interest: the recent Piazza del Sole e della Pace, also known as Piazza della Meridiana, and the S. Lorenzo Cathedral. The polychrome marble sundial is one of the largest of its kind in Europe (3000 m2) and is certainly unique. Designed by Salvador Condè and with the support of the architect Giulio Genta and the gnomonist Giovanni Paltrinieri, it was completed in late 1996, and constitutes a work of the highest scientific, astronomic and educational value. The S. Lorenzo Cathedral is the main religious building in the town centre. It was founded in the second half of the 10th century, but its current condition dates back to the 18th century, and is the work of the architect Domenico Cerato. Inside we can find 16th century sculptures by Tommaso Allio, the Flagellation on the upper altar by Bartolomeo Litterini (1712) and a Via Crucis attributed to Carlo Henrici. The lovely bell tower dates back to 1314, with its base from the 10th century.
Parco Urbano Termale: a jewel of modern architecture, designed by one of the most famous architects and architecture historians, Paolo Portoghesi. This large complex, which blends harmoniously in with the buildings and architecture of the spa town, has been conceived as a single, enormous, continuous lawn, criss-crossed by paved walkways and cycle paths and rich in plants and trees along the main avenue. Buildings line up along its sides, all prestigious residences, shops and offices.
“Amleto e Donato Sartori” International Mask Museum: the only one of its kind in the world, housing the prestigious works of Amleto Sartori and his son Donato, internationally renowned artists, creators of masks for the “Commedia dell’Arte” and theatre generally.
Maav – Abano Terme Art Glass Museum: the International Artistic Glass and Spa Museum displaies more than 500 works by Giordano Guarnieri, historical master glassmaker from Murano, Umberto del Negro and other master glassmakers from Murano including Venini and the Toso brothers. A section displays precious archaeological findings from the Roman period, which were discovered in Montegrotto Terme.
Pietro d’Abano: born in 1257, Pietro, son of the notary Costanzo, spent much time in Constantinople, and completed his studies at the University of Padua before going on to become the greatest Italian scientist of the 14th century. He taught medicine, philosophy and astrology at the University of Paris, and from 1306 at the University of Padua. Expert in Greek Byzantine and Arabic arts, he believed that a good doctor should also be a good astrologer and an expert alchemist. This multi-disciplinarity attracted the attention of the Court of the Inquisition, and he was accused of necromancy and heresy, and in 1316 his body was burned at the stake. Pietro believed that human matters were influenced by the stars. His theories inspired the splendid astrological cycle, frescoed in the “Palazzo della Ragione” in Padua.
Villas and Parks.
Beautiful noble villas, built mainly between the 16th and 18th centuries, enrich both the town centre and the surrounding green hills. Villa Savioli, built in the 17th century and extended in the following centuries, houses the extraordinary Amleto e Donato Sartori International Mask Museum. Villa Bassi Rathgeb, built in the 16th century and restored in the 1700s, belonged to the noble family Dondi dell’Orologio. Inside the frescoes are by Antonio Buttafuoco. In the 19th century many famous people stayed here, including Eugenio Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson, and Viceroy to the Kingdom of Italy. Since 1979 the villa and annexed gardens have belonged to the Municipality of Abano Terme, and have been transformed into a prestigious centre for cultural events (now it house the Civic Art Gallery, with its collection of 15th – 20th century paintings, drawings and engravings, and the municipal Modern Art Gallery, which hosts temporary exhibitions). Opposite Montirone there is a small oratory designed by Domenico Cerato in 1780, which today is used as an exhibition centre.. Villa Rigoni Savioli (ex Malipiero) is a beautiful Palladian villa built in the 16th century. The façade has four semi-columns surmounted by a triangular tympanum. A staircase decorated with statues leads directly to the first floor. Inside (not open to the public) the lounge is decorated with precious frescoes by GiovanBattista Zelotti, friend and apprentice of Paolo Veronese. Villa Mocenigo Mainardi: this complex, where Giacomo Casanova also resided in 1779, includes a small oratory facing over the road. Other villas of particular architectural interest are: Villa Sette (late 17th century with some early 19th century modifications), Villa Erizzo Zanin (19th century, with large gardens and private oratory), Villa Foscolo (also known as the “Cittadella Vigodarzere”), at Feriole, known to have hosted Ugo Foscolo when he was writing “The last letters of Jacopo Ortis” (1796), and finally Villa Selvatico Treves, built in the 16th century but completely renovated in the 19th century in line with the rules of architectural Eclecticism. Among the parks we may mention the historical gardens at Villa Bembiana, in Monterosso. Lying at the foot of the hill, its rich vegetation includes many species of the Mediterranean Maquis, and specimens of holm oak. The villa, which is not open to the public, was home to the poet, historian and philologist Pietro Bembo (15th – 16th century). At the end of the First World War the Italian Victory Bulletin was drawn up here.
Sanctuaries and monasteries.
At Monteortone, just outside Abano Terme, we can find the lovely sanctuary dedicated to the “Madonna della Salute” (Madonna of Health). The church was built in the 15th century at the place where, in 1428, a soldier named Pietro Falco was miraculously cured of the plague when he found a wooden image of the Virgin in a small cave and then bathed in the waters of a fountain that flowed at the foot of Monteortone Hill. The church, in the form of a Latin cross with an apsidal nave and two aisles and a bell tower dating back to the 15th century still houses the miraculous image of the Madonna, and each year is visited by many pilgrims. Inside, the church is decorated with many paintings from the 15th century, including frescoes of saints, prophets and kings in the leftnave, and some frescoes by Jacopo da Montagnana in the Chapel of the Crucifix and on the walls of both aisles, beautiful marble bas-reliefs in the presbytery and the tombs of the monk Simone da Camerino, founder of the annexed Agostinian monastery, and other monks as well as the tomb of the noblewoman Maddalena Cardini Capodivacca (1491). The entrance portal in Istrian stone is also noteworthy, the work of Matteo and Tommaso Allio (1667). Next to the church is the old Agostinian convent, which is now a Salesian institute, with its large Renaissance cloisters. Another important religious centre is the Benedictine Monastery of S. Daniele, nestling on the mountain of the same name. This construction dates back to 1075, built by the noble da Montagnon family in honour of the Paduan martyr Daniele. In 1461 it was home to the canons of S. Salvatore, and from 1772 until the mid 1900s it was the private residence of the BonomiTodeschini family. Today it is home to the enclosed order of Benedictine nuns, whose original nucleus came from Rijeka in 1948. Within the complex, the church, built in 1711 by Francesco Muttoni, a panoramic loggia and some rooms on the ground floor are open to the public.