Among esoteric frescoes, golden rations and brand new charming restaurants set within its medieval walls, here is an itinerary through the most evocative places of Castelfranco Veneto, a city known for being the birthplace of one of the most enigmatic painters in history, Giorgione, mysterious genius of color.
Founded in the 12th century, its imposing walls, built under the lordship of Ezzelino III da Romano, date back to the mid-13th century. Starting from 1388, Castelfranco Veneto passed under the dominion of the Republic of Venice, enjoying centuries of uninterrupted peace that will lead to the proliferation of arts and culture, reaching its peak in the 16th century, a period in which the myth of “Giorgio da Castelfranco” start to shine.
Thus, symbolically, our “Secrets itinerary” starts right from Piazza Giorgione, where his statue stands, from which you can walk along the walls until you reach the Civic Tower. The symbol of the city for 8 centuries with its beautiful clock with a large blue dial, it reopened to the public in 2022. During the visit, you can also see the gears of this engineering masterpiece designed by the famous Solari Brothers from Pesariis in Friuli Venezia Giulia, the makers of the most famous watches in the North of Italy in the 1800s.
In painting, Leonardo Vinci, Mantegna, Raphael, Michelangelo, Giorgio da Castelfranco are excellent. Nonetheless, all are among themselves dissimilar (…) by which we know each one in his style to be most perfect.
(B. Castiglione, Il Cortigiano, 1524).
Adjacent to the Tower, is the historic Hotel alla Torre, where you can sleep in one of the junior suites that “share” the frescoed medieval walls with it, including the one dedicated to the famous jazz musician Miles Davis who used to stay here during his tours. From the top floor terrace, open to hotel guests, you can enjoy an unprecedented view of the Tower, where the signs of the bombings that hit it during the Franco-Austrian War at the end of the 18th century are still visible.
From the Tower, a short walk will take you to the Museo Casa Giorgione, where allegedly the famous painter was born between 1477 and 1478. Here, you can admire his first certain work, an original monochrome fresco full of esoteric and astronomical references. Its success was such, that it was immediately copied to decorate other buildings of the time and, still today, it is an inspiration for decorative patterns and prints.
Giorgione was one of the greatest painters of his era, despite his premature death, uncertain attributions and symbolisms that are still subject of debate today (just think of The Tempest, a painting preserved in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, second only to the Gioconda for the many investigations and mysteries), so as to be placed by Vasari among the initiators of the Modern Manner, immediately after Leonardo. Anticipator of “trends”, such as tonal painting, where color builds the forms, the use of the landscape for cultured allegorical meanings, and the bold perspective poses, as in the Sleeping Venus, that were of inspiration for many masters to come, from Titian to Manet.
Right in front of the Museum, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Liberale, consecrated in 1746, allows us to admire another certain work by Giorgione, La Pala di Castelfranco, and get in touch with another illustrious character of the walled city: Francesco Maria Preti. Mathematician, architect and scientist, the church is his first work, projected when he was only 23 years old.
Francesco Maria Preti, born in 1701, a pupil of Jacopo Riccati, was part of the so-called Riccati circle. Together with Giordano Riccati, certain of the “mathematical” origins of the world, he will propose the thesis of the “proportional harmonic mean” which governs all knowledge, from music to architecture, in order to achieve both perfect functional and aesthetic balance. His treatise Elements of Architecture, published posthumously by Riccati, is present in the personal library of Thomas Jefferson, future president of the United States of America and a great admirer of Venetian villas, and it seems to have been an inspiration for the design of the White House.
The practical demonstration of this golden proportion that governs the universe can be found in another jewel of Castelfranco, the nearby Academic Theater. Made almost entirely between 1754 and 1780 by Preti according to precise mathematical rules to enjoy ideal form and acoustics, it is the only theater in Italy designed to stage shows and at the same time offer academics a meeting point.
For lunch, just 10 minutes walk away, you can book at the Stezionetta: the old little station in Borgo Pieve which has been transformed by chef Stefano Biasibetti into a modern osteria where homemade pasta coexists with rock accents, even in the kitchen. Here, in an extremely romantic combination, you can have lunch under its pergola cradled by the timeless charm of the train tracks.
If, on the other hand, you want to try a fine dining cuisine, in Borgo Treviso, in a former convent from the 1600s, the Feva restaurant is the jewel created by chef Nicola Dinato and the master of hospitality Elodie Dubuisson, who here have realized their gourmet dream among works of art and a very short supply chain attentive to biodiversity.
A short distance from Feva, we find Villa and Parco Revedin Bolasco, commissioned in 1866 by Francesco Revedin, podestà of Castelfranco and first mayor of the city, which enchants with its elegant English-style garden, awarded as the Most Beautiful Park in Italy in 2018, that he wanted to design as a real earthly paradise by calling the most important landscape architects from all over Europe to create it. Do not miss the Hispanic-Moorish style greenhouse and the arena for horses surrounded by imposing equestrian statues.
At sunset, Castelfranco offers us another uniqueness: it is Osteria del Maniscalco, a wine bar designed and renovated in 2015 by Anthony Bandiera which offers the truly unique emotion of having an aperitif literally immersed in the city walls, with a romantic view of the canal that surrounds them.
For dinner, the “secrets” address is Hortense, a brand new gourmand restaurant and pizzeria with a wood-burning oven opened by Federica and Michele, already known for having created the beautiful Herb in Cittadella, who renovated an ancient frescoed building giving life to a charming establishment with a botanical inspiration and a sustainable soul.
And, of course, a wonderful dehors overlooking the garden that runs along the city walls, the undisputed protagonists of this fascinating itinerary.
And, unmissable, from June 16 has reopened to the public Palazzo Soranzo Novello, the new “Wunderkammer” museum of Castelfranco Veneto, that hosts till October 2o23 “Temporanea. Esibire, documentare, recuperate”, an exhibition experience organized by the Municipality of Castelfranco Veneto in order to give this remarkable building’s legacy back to the community.