Euganean Hills – Cinto Euganeo, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Cinto Euganeo, Italy

Euganean Hills

A sudden, striking cluster of hills south of Padua has been attracting visitors for centuries. 

The Euganean Hills rise curiously in the midst of the Venetian Plain, like a lone patch of whitecaps surrounded by otherwise placid seas. Sounds like a nice place, doesn’t it? Picturesque, romantic, even poetic? Yes, it does. No surprise, then, that the area has been a popular retreat destination since ancient times.

The hills themselves were formed 35-40 million years ago, their distinctive conical shape a testament to their volcanic origins. Being situated as they are between the Alpine foothills and the Venetian Lagoon, their igneous foundations provide a perfect impermeable barrier to force hot water deep in dolomitic aquifers to the surface in the form of several natural, mineral-rich hot springs. Do you know what humans have enjoyed travelling to visit for millennia? Hot springs. Pot: sweetened.

In practical terms, this all adds up to the Euganean Hills being a perfect place to “get away from it all” since the days of ancient Rome. Having originally served as a cradle of Paleovenetian civilization centered on the village of Este, the area was subsequently colonized by the Etruscans and then the Romans.

While already a spot much frequented by ancient Venetians, incorporation into Roman territory was a commercial boon to the hot springs, including the erection of magnificent public baths in Montegrotto and the popularization of the baths in Abano Terme thanks to the writings of Livy and Pliny the Elder. Handsome Roman and then Venetian country villas dotted the vistas and waterways of the Euganean Hills over the ensuing centuries.

In the 14th century, Petrarch thought the area would be a great place to retire, spending the last years of his life in the village of Arquà (now known as Arquà Petrarca). Percy Bysshe Shelley also found the place inspiring, composing “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills” which — full disclosure — compared the hills to islands and waves amidst a flat sea. So you beat us to it, Shelley. Anyway, point is the Euganean Hills have also been popular among writers and artists which, again, of course. They’re rapturous.

The Euganean Hills were officially protected in 1989 in the creation of the Parco Regionale dei Colli Euganei, which was the first regional park ever in Veneto’s. The park boasts monasteries, Venetian villas, castles, medieval settlements, and altogether a total of 81 hills and 15 towns — including the popular and stored baths of Montegrotto, Abano Terme, Battaglia Terme, and Galzignano, constituting the largest spa center in Europe. Oh, also, the food and wine are amazing. The info most readily available on the Euganean Hills consists of tourist guidance and real estate prices — a fact which has probably changed little since the days of Caesar Augustus.

Know Before You Go

Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting.