What to see in Palmanova

Visita alla città fortezza di Palmanova- Stella a nove punte- Fortezza-

A Brief Guide to Exploring Palmanova in One Day

Are you planning a vacation in Friuli and unsure of which places to visit? Join us in discovering what to see in Palmanova, the fortress of Friuli!

The fortress city of Palmanova stands as one of the most fascinating examples of a Venetian fortress built between the 15th and 17th centuries. This recognition has earned it the prestigious UNESCO status alongside Bergamo, Peschiera del Garda, the Croatian cities of Zadar and Sibenik, and the Montenegrin town of Kotor. Since November 2018, it has also become part of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” club.

Its relatively recent history, marked by the laying of the first stone in 1593, fits into the complex Friulian scene of that time. The Venetians decided to construct it from scratch in the midst of the plain south of Udine. Designed in a distinctive nine-pointed star shape with a double defensive wall, it was built to counter Austrian expansionism and potential Ottoman incursions. This design enabled it to withstand enemy artillery attacks, forcing adversaries into prolonged sieges.

After this brief introduction, let’s embark on our tour to discover what to see in Palmanova.

What to See in Palmanova: Monumental Gates

Our itinerary exploring things to see in Palmanova must commence with the monumental entry gates. There are three, named after the cities they face (Udine, Cividale, and Aquileia). Preserving their original structures, they remain the only entrances to the historic center.

what to see in Palmanova- Porta Cividale- Walls- Bastions-
Porta Cividale, one of the three access gates to Palmanova (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Once past the gates, one immediately notices streets radiating from the main square to the bastions.

What to See in Palmanova: Piazza Grande and the Cathedral

Following any of these streets leads to Piazza Grande, the true heart of Palmanova. For centuries, it was a site for exercises and gatherings, now a favorite meeting place for locals. The hexagonal square features a massive Istrian white stone base, crowned by a standard affectionately known as “Mario,” symbolizing the fortress and witnessing its history.

Surrounding the square are the city’s most significant buildings and statues depicting various Provveditori who commanded Palmanova. Notable among them are the Provveditore Palace, now the Mayor’s office, and the Loggia della Gran Guardia. The latter is named after the guard unit protecting the provveditore and houses wrought-iron gates that once adorned the city entrances.

While strolling around the square, one cannot miss the pristine Cathedral, an intriguing example of Venetian architecture in Friuli. The central oculus reveals the powerful figure of the Lion of St. Mark, symbolizing the Serenissima. Inside, valuable works include Paolo Randi’s Annunciation altarpiece and exquisite paintings by Padovanino.

What to see in Palmanova - Palmanova Cathedral - Piazza Grande - Church of the SS. Redeemer- Standard-Italian Flag- Mario
Glimpse of Piazza Grande with the Cathedral and “Mario” (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to See in Palmanova: Museums and the Historical Bastions Park

To gain a deeper understanding of Palmanova’s fortress history and complex urban structure, visit the city’s two museums. The Civic Historical Museum houses a fascinating collection of vintage weapons and original historical documents, categorized into the Venetian, Napoleonic, Austrian, and Italian periods, allowing a comprehensive exploration of the city’s history.

The second is the Museum of the Great War and the Fortress of Palmanova, located in the keep above Porta Cividale. It displays relics, uniforms, and testimonies of the various military bodies from the fortress’s foundation to World War II.

One of the most captivating things to see in Palmanova is undoubtedly the Historical Bastions Park. Here, walking allows you to recognize the various structures of Palmanova’s fortifications and ramparts. Along the route, you’ll encounter some 17th-century underground galleries used for reaching enemy positions, creating chambers filled with gunpowder, and triggering explosions. Some galleries are even open for exploration, such as the Venetian Counter-Mine Gallery near Porta Udine and the Venetian Aqueduct.

What to see in Palmanova- Porta Udine- Venetian Aqueduct- Walls- Bastions- cyclists-
Porta Udine and part of the Venetian Aqueduct (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

This site is notable not only for its military features but also for its geological aspects, situated 9 meters deep with limestone formations and unique cave pearls.

Contromina tunnel - Bastioni - underground route
A part of the Venezian Counter-mine Gallery

Throughout the year, the city comes alive with numerous events and festivals, particularly the splendid historical reenactments. Continue reading to discover them with us!

Palmanova Historical Reenactments

La passione e l’orgoglio dei Palmarini per la propria città si riscopre soprattutto durante le due  rievocazioni storiche che vengono realizzate durante l’estate:

  • The passion and pride of Palmanova’s residents shine during two historical reenactments held in summer:

    1. The Feast of SS. Redentore, on the second Sunday of July, celebrates the city’s patron saint and a significant historical event. In 1602, Provveditore Generale Gerolamo Cappello raised the banner of the Republic of Venice for the first time in Piazza Grande. Locals don 17th-century costumes, recreating the atmosphere of the era with carousels, dances, and duels. The day concludes with the nighttime parade known as the “lume dei ferali,” when the flag of St. Mark is lowered.

    2. - Historical reenactment A.D. 1615 Palma to arms - Period costume - flags - Palmanova -
      Historical reenactment A.D. 1615 Palma alle Armi (Credit to carlo on Visual Hunt CC BY-NC-SA)

      Historical Reenactment A.D. 1615 Palma alle armi, the first weekend of September, recalls the War of the Uskoks, the last fought between Venice and Austria. The town welcomes numerous reenactment groups from all over Europe, engaging in armed skirmishes and passionately reliving a 17th-century battle.

      Rievocazione storica A.D. 1615 Palma alle armi a Palmanova (Credit to carlo on Visual Hunt CC BY-NC-SA)

Now, immerse yourself in the captivating atmosphere of the fortress city of Palmanova! If you wish to stay, click here to discover the best accommodations at the best prices!

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Article Name
What to see in Palmanova
Planning a vacation in Friuli? Discover what to see in Palmanova, a fortress city rich in history and charm. Uncover hidden gems now!
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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