On September 2, 1964, Margaret of England, the sister of Queen Elizabeth, visited the Catajo Castle in Battaglia Terme, located in the Euganean Hills in Veneto, Italy. The castle, which has 350 rooms and 26 hectares of park, was built in the 16th century and is known for its frescoes by Gian Battista Zelotti, a disciple of Paolo Veronese.
Princess Habsburg also measured her height on the castle walls in the 19th century. The Catajo Castle is one of many architectural gems in the Euganean Hills, a group of 100 volcanic hills located near Padua, about 50 kilometers from Venice. It’s close enough to hire a car from the airport and spend 3 or 4 days in this magical and relatively undiscovered part of Italy that almost rivals Tuscany for its natural beauty, food, wine and hotels that come complete with natural spa water.
The Euganean Hills have been a regional park since 1989 and are now being considered for the program of Biosphere Reserves promoted by UNESCO. The hills were once a popular location for country houses of the Paduan and Venetian nobility. Francesco Petrarca, the poet, spent the last years of his life in Arquà Petrarca, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and other notable figures such as Mozart, Goldoni, Goethe, and Shelley were also inspired by the medieval villages, walled cities, and ancient monasteries in the area.
Tourism in the Euganean Hills is centered around food, wine, and spa, but there are also many other attractions to explore. Villa Vescovi in Luvigliano, is a monument inspired by Roman architecture and dating back to the 1500s. The Papafava caves in Rovolon were built in the basement of a manor house in the 19th century and used for entertainment. In Galzignano Terme, the natural amphitheater of Monte Venda opens up among the vineyards of Ca’ Lustra and is used for shows and events in the summer and autumn.
The Euganean Hills area is located in the “parallel of wine” because it is the ideal latitude for many great wines of the world. The Strada del Vino Colli Euganei is a wine route through the area where you can visit many cellars and taste the local Fior d’Arancio DOCG.
The Merlot grape is the most popular and widely grown in the Euganean Hills. The Colli Euganei Rosso wine DOC is made from a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, and Raboso Piave grapes. One to look for is the Gardina family’s 101 organic farms are notable for their motto “do the best possible wine with the least possible intervention.” In 2019, they created a unique, eco-sustainable natural larch-lined modern cellar called “CasaClima Wine” in the Euganean Hills.
The Euganean Hills are home to the largest spa in Europe, with over 200 pools. The bromine-iodic salty waters have thermo-mineral properties and are used for both therapeutic and aesthetic treatments. One pool to try is the H2O3 Pool, which uses ozone microbubbles to provide a sensation of floating. The RoofTop54 is a saltwater pool with a central fireplace and panoramic view of the hills, located at the Esplanade Tergesteo hotel. The White Pool is an outdoor thermal pool with a temperature of 34-36°C during the colder season, providing a relaxing experience. The benefits of the mud from Abano Terme have been known since Roman times, but according to recent archaeological findings, the area has been used for its therapeutic properties since the 8th century BC.
Hotel Majestic Spa and Golf Resorts in Galzignano Terme (below) is known for producing some of the best mud spa products in the Euganean Hills. The Esplanade Tergesteo in Montegrotto Terme (above) is a 5-star luxury retreat at the foot of the hills, featuring a Vital Spa Suite with a Finnish sauna.
The Ermitage Medical Hotel in Abano offer spas, relaxation, diagnostics, dietetics, and pre and post-surgical hospitalization. They also have a program to recover from long Covid. The GB Hotel group in Abano includes five of the best hotels in the area, including the Residence Terme & Hydrokinesis, a water rehabilitation spa center for arthro-rheumatic and neurological pathologies.
Incàlmo in Este (below) is a gourmet restaurant located in the Beatrice d’Este hotel. It features a seasonal menu with a focus on local ingredients, and has been awarded a Michelin star. It is very chic and it’s as much of an experience than a meal out and the level of creativity displayed by the talented chefs is really something.
The Ancient Restaurant Ballot in Torreglia (below) is said to be the birthplace of the Italian Academy of the Kitchen, and it is known for dishes using truffles from the hills, bigoli with court duck sauce, and baked pigeon with a torresano stuffing. The food is a level above the usual Trattoria quality (which is already high) and if you are with the right people, the friendly staff make any evening here one to remember.
Bistro Enoteca Strada del Vino Villa of Vescovi in Torreglia (above) features a selection of wines from the Euganean Hills. For a unique tasting experience, contact James, the innkeeper of Enoteca di Wine Route. Quota101 in Torreglia, via Malterno 12 (below), is a fantastic organic winery that produces the red Oron wine. Ca’ Lustra in Cinto Euganeo is another excellent organic winery that produces the Nero Musqué wine.
Este Ceramics in Este is one of the oldest ceramic manufacturers in Europe, dating back to the 18th century. They continue to work by hand, and were rediscovered by John Baptist Giorgini, an ambassador of Made in Italy, in the post-war period.
Many years ago Giorgini also organized the first fashion shows in the Hall Bianca of Palazzo Pitti. Their plates of ceramic food are amazing and if the prices are high for you, it’s also possible to pick up a near perfect second.
For more information on this beautiful part of Italy visit www.collieuganei.it