The history of the Euganean spas.
Montegrotto Terme has always been one of the favourite places of European tourists because of the green parks surrounding the hotels and the contact with nature.
Together with Abano, Montegrotto Terme constitutes the main centre of the Euganean Spa.
The thermal springs in Mons Aegrotorum are mentioned in ancient myths and legends. According to archaeological sources, the ancient lakeside sanctuary, frequented by the people of Veneto between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC stood exactly here, in the area between Monte Castello and Colle Montagnone. The lake covered around 2 square kilometres and was round in shape, originating from a spa water spring. The sulphurous exhalations, considered to be divine, came naturally and powerfully from the centre of the earth and were revered with votive offerings, including vases, chalices, cups and glasses.
From the 2nd century BC onwards, in Roman times, the lake lost its sacred function and Montegrotto became a large, famous spa location. The current name of this place is in fact Roman, Mons Aegrotorum, meaning the mountain of the sick. Ancient Latin authors described the Euganean spa waters as prodigious and, as Claudian writes, “without damage, they renew lost vigour and calm the sicknesses of the suffering, who return to good health”. The origin of these therapeutic properties was attributed to the presence of Aponus, the god protector of the springs. Still in Roman times, in addition to their curative properties the waters were also attributed with special oracular powers. According to literary sources, oracle of Gerion was consulted in the ancient S. Pietro Montagnon, today known as Montegrotto.
In the archaeological area in the centre of Montegrotto Terme (it is possible to visit the archaeological excavations with the ancient spa and theater, where archaeologists are currently discovering important Roman patrician villas and residences) the foundations of some buildings dating back to the Julius-Claudius period can be seen, and these represent just a small amount of the rich imperial spa town, which was certainly one of the most representative of the “X Regio Venetia et Istria”. Among the findings, some baths, one of which has marble flooring, spa water pipes, the remains of an aqueduct and the foundations of a range of buildings.
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, a long period of darkness and silence reigned, and the Spas suffered from an economic and urban slump. In medieval times the Spas were still in use, but it was only from the 15th century, with the arrival of the nobility of the Serenissima that they were restored to their ancient splendour, frequented for both therapy and pastime.
In the 18th century the first organic scientific studies were carried out on the composition and provenance of the waters, and in modern times the use of the waters and spa mud for therapeutic purposes led to the development of the Euganean Spas, which are now among the most famous and loved destinations of spa tourism in Europe.
Not to be missed.
Villa Draghi: set against the splendid backdrop of a park measuring 316,000 m2, this beautiful 19th century villa lies on a small hill half way up Mount Alto. It is a unique example of eclectic architecture, close to the Venetian and oriental styles with typical medieval elements, and this building, which has been uninhabited for a long time and is in a poor state of abandon, has unfortunately been stripped of its most important architectural furnishings, of which today only some rare photos remain. The villa still conserves its crowning Ghibelline battlements, which give it the appearance of a castle. A nature trail, called the “Villa Draghi and Mount Ceva Pathway”, departs from outside the villa. This is one of the main hill walks in the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills. Approximately 10 km long, it offers splendid view of one of the most rich and varied hillside environments, with chestnut, acacia and oak woods, vast meadows, Mediterranean maquis, vineyards, and rocky sections with their typical rocky vegetation.
Oratorio della Madonna: the current building of the old parochial quarters of Montegrotto dates back to 1724, with the bell tower from the 18th century, probably built from a castle tower.
Cathedral: built in the mid-18th century on the flattened summit of Montagnone Hill, this new church houses modern frescoes by Armando Migliolaro and sculptures by Luigi Strazzabosco.
Butterfly Arc-the butterfly house: thousands of tropical butterflies fly freely around this extraordinary place open to all, scientists, students, butterfly lovers and other visitors; walking through the tropical gardens it is possible to observe the life of these splendid creatures, and watch their evolution from egg to adult butterfly, their splendid colours and infinite forms. The complex also includes the Fairy Wood and a large insectarium.
P.G. Omesti permanent exhibition of fossils, minerals and rocks: rich collection of materials from all over the world, with an important and large variety of rocks and minerals that form the earth’s crust and the particularity of the forms of life that have populated the earth in the various geological eras. It is a reference point for lovers and students of mineralogy and palaeontology.
Villa Meneghini: also known as Villa Callas, as GiovanBattista Meneghini, the owner in the mid 1900s, was also married to Maria Callas. The building in Caposeda dates back to 1559. Following careful restoration, it is now the headquarters of the International Atelier of the Plastic Arts, run by Master del Negro.
Torre al Lago: the suggestive ruins of this late medieval tower, which was once the fortified residence of the Dell’Arena family, provide refuge for a group of bandits led by the infamous brigand Giovanni Stella in the 19th century.
The legend of Berta.
Legend has it that in 1084 Henry IV of Germany and his wife Bertha of Savoy were guests of the noble Da Montagnon family (from Montagnon, the ancient medieval Montegrotto). During their stay, a poor spinner came before the queen. She had the same name as the queen, and was as beautiful as she was poor, and she begged for clemency for her imprisoned husband, bringing a gift of a reel of thread. Taking pity upon her, the queen granted the pardon of the prisoner, and as much land as could be cordoned off with the reel of thread that the poor spinner had presented to her. Word of the queen’s compassionate gesture spread quickly, and many other women hurried to the castle to try to obtain the same treatment, but the queen replied with the famous phrase, “Berta’s spinning time has long since passed”. Each year the municipality of Montegrotto Terme organises the re-evocation of this ancient legend, an entertaining display in medieval costume.