A day trip to the Villa Castle of San Pelagio

by Marina Greggio
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On Friday evening I was wondering what I could do on Saturday, beyond studying and tidying up my house, I felt the urge to discover something new. So I explore on Google Maps the surroundings of Padua, and here it is, the Castle of San Pelagio, which I had never heard of, but I decide I still want to discover. Saturday afternoon, with still thirty-five degrees in July, I head to Due Carrare, a town in the province of Padua.

The Castle is visible from the road thanks to the imposing crenellated tower, impossible to get lost. The complex was built in the fourteenth century at the behest of the Da Carrara, lords of Padua, to defend themselves from the Scaligeri of Verona. Later, in 1544, the Sant’Uliana family acquired the castle which then passed to the Zaborra Counts in 1752.

In the summer of 1917, the Castle of San Pelagio became a strategic point in the context of the Great War. The Zaborra family signed a rental contract with the Italian army for the construction of an airfield and so the apartments on the second floor became the residence of Gabriele d’Annunzio. The rooms are now open to visitors and an integral part of the Flight Museum.

From San Pelagio, on August 9, 1918, Gabriele d’Annunzio‘s air squadron took off for the crazy “Flight over Vienna”, on which he launched thousands of flyers inviting to surrender. The story of those events is central to the idea of transforming the Villa into a museum, inaugurated in 1980 in the presence of Maria Fede Caproni – daughter of Gianni Caproni, an early 20th century aviation pioneer. The Museum develops through thematic sections, retracing the main stages of the evolution of the means that led man to the discovery of the sky and space from the dawn, with Leonardo da Vinci, to the most recent conquests, with models of airplanes from 1903 to the 2000s. We remember Maria Concetta Micheli, the first Italian woman to obtain a helicopter pilot’s patent in 1971 and the first attempts at space flight by the Soviet Union – which sent the first cosmonaut Juri Gagarin’ into orbit – and the success of the American Apollo 11 mission which led Neil Armstrong to be the first to put his feet on the Moon.

The Castle of San Pelagio rests in the embrace of a wonderful park of three hectares, inserted in the circuit of the Great Italian Gardens. The wonder of a thousand roses in the Representative Garden, the Secret Garden, the Brolo, the Glacier, the Labyrinths and finally the long avenue of centuries-old hornbeams with the romantic pond filled with water lilies as in Monet’s paintings. The Representative Garden was the main garden of the Villa with the four flowerbeds where the most fragrant roses bloom and in the center the water lily pond. While the Secret Garden was the family garden, where to receive the closest friends and where to cultivate also aromatic herbs for culinary use such as sage and rosemary.

If you enter the villa from the right of the Representative Garden, you will be immersed in the wonderful nineteenth-century living room, the connecting room between the ballroom and the two historic gardens, paved with a precious Palladian and decorated with country scenes and castles. A magical place, immersed in the silence and sounds of nature.

As mentioned, in the wonderful park there are two labyrinths: the Minotaur – inspired by the mythological episode of Knossos linked to the myth of Icarus – and the “Perhaps that yes, perhaps that no”, dedicated to Gabriele d’Annunzio, in the center a play of mirrors alludes to the concept of “double” and creates a sense of estrangement. “Perhaps that yes, perhaps that no” is a mysterious motto that Francesco II Gonzaga had inscribed in a labyrinth painted on the ceiling of his palace.

The castle also hosts private events, such as weddings and corporate events with different packages to choose from to make a dream come true on an unforgettable day.

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