Looking at the plan of the city of Palmanova leaves one bewildered to see a perfect nine-pointed star. It is immediate to think that such a masterpiece, designed by engineer Giulio Savorgnan in 1593, is meant to reflect the grandeur of human ingenuity and represent an aesthetic ideal. The perfect shape of the starry city is, however, the result of an extraordinary defense project of the Serenissima against Austrian and Ottoman invasions. Suffice it to say that the double set of fortifications was built on the basis of the calculation regarding the range of the cannons. Over time the fortifications became three, and the city also came under the control of the Austrians and French.
Today, the fortifications, which have remained unchanged, have been lavishly restored. Palmanova is a destination for history buffs and visitors who want to admire the beauty of this town, listed among the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy.
In 1960, Palmanova was proclaimed a National Monument and, in 2017, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Astonishing is to see the floor plan of the “Starry City.” Visiting it, one can radiate the still unaltered circle of walls and observe the ramparts, ravelins, and lunettes that form the 9 points of the star.
The visit to Palmanova is extremely rich. It is recommended to visit it in its entirety, walking through the streets and in the square, but also taking one of the paths outside the walls.
The fortress city offers the privilege of admiring its still intact 16th-century walls. The plant, which forms a 9-pointed star, makes this place unique in the world, so much so that it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fortress city is enclosed by 3 wall circles. The innermost are composed of nine bastions and nine revetments; the outermost, built in the early 1800s, consists of nine lunettes. Within the walls are moats and observation ramparts, as well as hidden tunnels connecting the outposts to each other.
The perimeter of the walls can be visited via 3 different routes that allow you to see the different military works and visit some of the tunnels.
Access to the town is through the three monumental gates, named after the city they face: Porta Aquileia, Porta Udine, Porta Cividale. Porta Aquileia was the representative entrance, consequently it is the most elaborate, full of friezes and decorations.
To learn about the perfect geometry of Palmanova’s defensive structures, one can walk or ride a bicycle around the perimeter of the walls and observe the fortress’s ramparts and military routes. The defensive walls consisting of the bastions “Donato,” “Aquileia,” “Udine,” and “Cividale” are imposing, as are the three gates.
With the payment of a 3 euro ticket, it is possible to explore one of the tunnels that allowed the militia to move and the Donato bastion. Other galleries can only be visited by guided tour. There are three trails around the walls and they are ideal for sports. They can also be traveled by bicycle by following the marked “Bastions by bike” routes.
The routes, which are well marked, are:
The indoor and outdoor routes are connected in some places and can alternate as desired. In addition, they are developed entirely in the midst of greenery and allow the observation of many species of birds.
Outside Porta Udine is the white Venetian bridge, or the 16th-century aqueduct that supplied the city with water from the Roggia di Palma. The aqueduct, made of Istrian stone, is adorned with a central plaque depicting a lion skin between the two allegorical figures Igea and Source.
The ancient aqueduct system includes a waterfall that emerges near the arches of the Venetian bridge. Water from the Palma Canal was conveyed into this sluice, but, even today, its precise function is unclear.
The lunettes are part of the third circle of fortifications, built by Napoleon in the early 1800s. The structures housed cannons and batteries of riflemen. Surrounded by a dry moat, they were on two levels connected by a rope ladder, which was withdrawn if necessary to allow soldiers to escape to the inside of the walls.
At the corners of the rampart are two loggiased galleries: one was the assault gallery, the other was a guardhouse and shelter post. Niches for lighting and a fireplace can be seen inside the latter.
Counter tunnels were used to surprise the besiegers at the fortress. They were real traps because they could be mined and detonated.
An intricate system of tunnels connects all the fortifications of the city wall. Some are walkable and visitable. The galleries can be accessed independently upon payment of a 3 euro ticket, including an audio guide.
The number of people resting in the Austro-Hungarian Cemetery in Palmanova is impressive. 4,000 are the tombstones of identified soldiers, arranged in a row on either side of the main avenue.
Another 13,000 bodies of unidentified fallen soldiers are buried in the two mass graves near the cemetery chapel.
Beyond the imposing walls, the visitor is confronted with a charming town that radiates around the one square, which forms a perfect hexagon. The geometry of Palmanova, therefore, is also reflected within the walled circle, and entering through one of the gates, which are the only entrances to the city, one must proceed in a circular fashion around the square to reach a specific place or exit through one of the other gates.
Piazza Grande or Piazza d’Armi is the center of city life and is overlooked by the most important historical Venetian palaces: the Doge’s Cathedral, the Palazzo del Provveditore Generale, the Palazzo del Governatore, the Loggia della Gran Guardia and the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà.
Palmanova is developed around this single hexagonal-shaped square, with a six-sided stone base in the center from which a flagpole rises. Surrounding the square are eleven statues depicting some of the Provost Generals. Piazza Grande is the heart of the city and the center of public life, where residents gather to share daily chats and vicissitudes.
The Dogale Cathedral is one of the most interesting examples of Venetian architecture in Friuli and, on the tympanum bears the symbol of the Serenissima, the figure of the Lion of St. Mark. A curiosity: the bell tower was built very low so as not to risk being knocked down by enemies.
In 1810 Napoleon had three powder magazines built as storage for artillery and gunpowder reserves. Today the tinderbox in Contrada Foscarini hosts exhibitions and events. Slits for ventilation can still be seen along the walls.
Palmanova is a small town and it is possible to visit its historic center on foot by walking through the narrow streets. Starting from Piazza Grande, you can visit the historic buildings and museums, but also stop to taste Friulian wines and products in one of the many typical restaurants.
The museum tells the military history of the Fortress from 1593 to the present. It houses artifacts and evidence from all eras and is considered one of Palmanova’s sources of pride for its large collection of relics.
The museum is housed in the dongione, or highest part, of Porta Cividale. Inside are weapons and uniforms of the various military corps and documents on fortifications from the time of the city’s founding to World War II.
Visiting the city of Palmanova can be done independently, as can a visit to the Bastion Park, which has careful signage and signage describing the various buildings and their function.
Upon payment of a 3-euro ticket (free admission for FVG card holders), it is possible to visit a section of the Rivellino’s underground countermountain galleries and Baluardo Donato, the best preserved of the Fortress.
The ticket includes an audio guide for adults and one for children, guiding them on a Scavenger Hunt in the gallery and a tour of the bastion.
PromoTurismoFVG’s Info Point is located at 4 Borgo Udine Street and is open daily from 09:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 18:00. PromoTurismoFvg and other guides organize guided tours, scheduled and non-scheduled, in Italian, English and German.
The Great War and Fortress Museum has free admission and can be visited on Mondays with hours 09:00-12:00/13:45-15:00 and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 09:00-12:00. All other days are by reservation.
Palmanova is provided with free and paid parking outside and inside the city. Inside the walls is an RV parking area, with 20 stalls available. The town can also be reached by train or bus from Udine.
Palmanova is crossed by the Alpe Adria Cycle Route, from Salzburg to Grado. In addition, Bastion Park is entirely bikeable and has a track maintained by “Bastions by bike.”
In one day it is possible to make a complete tour of Palmanova, outside and inside the walls.
Palmanova is also well known for the two historical reenactments that take place there: the “Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer,” in which local people dress up in seventeenth-century costumes and perform dances and duels, and the “A.D. 1615 Palma at Arms,” in which many companies of actors from all over Europe reenact a battle from the 1600s.
The municipality of Palmanova organizes many events, especially the two famous historical re-enactments. One event that draws many people is the “Easter on the Bastions,” where people can order baskets to picnic on the grass. Finally, several concerts by famous artists, including international ones, are hosted in the Piazza Grande.
Through this section you can contact the Palmanova infopoint directly. Explorer FVG does not handle responses, nor is it responsible for the information exchanged in these conversations.
Borgo Udine, 4
33057 Palmanova (UD)
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