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On the water's edge... the Delizie Estensi

A constituent element of the great Este architecture, water - thanks to a dense network of navigable canals - connected the city to the Delizie, sumptuous suburban palaces



“At the end of autumn, His Highness with the Madam Duchess, and other gentlemen and gentlewomen of the city, go to the marina, where among the delightful residences above the harbour of Goro, in a wood called the Mesola, he has built a sumptuous palace” [Annibale Romei (1586)]


If we think of a monument symbolising an epoch, what usually comes to mind is a heap of stones. But that is not the case. Water, exactly like stone, was a building block of the great architectural works of the Este family.

You can count on one hand the courtly Renaissance residences surrounded by water. When Castelvecchio was erected by the Este in 1385, water guaranteed the separation of the fortress from the people, who increasingly posed a threat. When this massive structure was turned into an elegant residence, the moat remained so that the water would continue to mirror the beauty of an entire court.

Once this challenge was overcome, water would allow the building of the “Delizie Estensi” in the hunting grounds and countryside made fertile by land reclamation; these were residences for entertainment purposes used to mark the territory and provide luxurious accommodations for an itinerant court. To reach these splendid residences, princes, noblemen and women made use of a network of waterways designed by the expert hydraulic engineers of the court.

And finally, we have the last utopian project of Alfonso II d’Este that revolved entirely around water. Alfonso, fearing the loss of Ferrara, had the illusion of constructing the largest Mediterranean city ever built on an island at the mouth of the Po. What is left is only its nucleus, the Castello della Mesola: the outpost for governing Adriatic commerce and testament of a new Atlantis we can only begin to imagine today.

Viewing the profile of the water on the horizon from dry land...

last modified Apr 11, 2023 04:55
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