Castle of San Zeno – Montagnana, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Castle of San Zeno

Montagnana, Italy

A medieval castle was used for centuries as a hemp farm. 

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The small walled town of Montagnana, in Veneto, was an important city during the Middle Ages thanks to its strategic position in the middle of the countryside, halfway between the domains of Padua and Verona.

Contested by many local powers, the area was conquered by the troops of the feudal lord Ezzelino III da Romano, who ruled most of Veneto during the 13th century. After conquering and pillaging Montagnana, Ezzelino III da Romano ordered the construction of a new fortress in 1242 to improve the defenses of the town. The Castle of San Zeno, which takes its name from a nearby church, was surrounded by a moat and was integrated into the city walls as the eastern gate. A 125-foot tower and some other smaller ones were the main features of the castle, but now only the tallest tower remains.

After the Republic of Venice conquered all of Veneto, Montagnana lost its military importance and became an area of agricultural production. The wide courtyard inside the castle was turned into a hemp farm, for material to make ropes, sails, and clothing. After the unification of Italy, the castle was used as military barracks, especially during World War I, but it was later turned into a museum.