The Catajo Castle was built between 1570 and 1573, at the foot of Montenuovo, at the behest of the leader of the Republic of Venice Pius Aeneas I degli Obizzi, belonging to a family originally from Burgundy, and based on the project of the architect Andrea da Valle. The building, designed as a private residence by the mother of Pius Aeneas, following the enlargement commissioned by her leader son assumed the imposing appearance of a fortress. During the nineteenth century, the castle was inherited prior by the Este family, Dukes of Modena, then by the Habsburgs family, who moved to Vienna the very precious collections of weapons and archaeological finds, and finally became the property of the Dalla Francesca family in 1928.
The building is majestic, with a long boulevard that leads to the Giants Courtyard. This space was used by the Obizzi family for theatre performances, tournaments and naval battles (re-enactments of naval battles), since the lower part of the yard could be filled with water. Among the various fountains of the villa the Elephant fountain is the most spectacular, located inside a cave carved into the rock embellished by the sculpture of the animal, an emblematic work with the exotic tastes of the former owners. A stairway, built in a way that can be climbed even on horseback, allows access to the piano nobile and boardrooms, where you can see the Obizzi family tree, painted on a wall. The castle consists of 350 rooms, some of which are home to frescoes by Giambattista Zelotti, a Venetian painter of the sixteenth century and a pupil of Paolo Veronese, in which are celebrated the events of the best-known members of the family, leaders in the service of various Italian states, from Lucca the Papal State, the Serenissima. From the large terrace, the visitor can admire the Southern extensive gardens, set up in the 17th century by Pius Aeneas II, characterized by two magnolia trees dating back to the eighteenth century and an American giant sequoia, as well as fish ponds, pergolas and boxwood mazes. The curious name “Catajo” pertains not to Cathay told by Marco Polo like some have imaginatively speculated in the past, but probably derives from a mispronunciation of the name Ca’ del Taglio (taio in Venetian dialect), which indicated a rock excavation aimed at the water outflow.