Cradle of the ancient Venetians, major walled town and land of ceramics.
The town of Este stretches on the southern side of the Euganean Hills, extending from the slopes of Mount Mural towards the wide alluvial plain. The archaeological finds, currently exhibited in the National Museum of Este, evidence the long history of the land, almost three thousand years old. At first the place was a Paleovenetian center, later colonized by the Etruscans and Romans. The ancient peoples living in this land have been indeed the makers of its development.
The toponym Este is derived from the Latin name of the river Adige (Athesis), flowing here until the sixth century, when its course shifted to the south as a result of large floods. The barbarian invasions led to a severe wane in the area, that recovered new boost only towards the year one thousand, becoming the seat of the family of Lombard stock which assumed their name from Este. The House of Este ruled the city until the middle of the thirteenth century, when the Marquis Azzo VII was forced to move his residence to Ferrara.
The imposing city walls, alternated with towers that still soar in the center of Este, were built by the Carraresi in the mid-fourteenth century, on the ruins of earlier marquis fortifications. In 1405, the city was peacefully incorporated into the lands ruled by the Republic of Venice, relishing a new thriving phase of economic and cultural growth. The castle finally lost its defensive role in the mid-sixteenth century, becoming the property of the Venetian family Mocenigo, who turned it into their summer residence. Inside they edified a grand Palace, whose west wing today houses the prestigious Museum Atestino.
In the well-preserved old town of Este, we still can admire some main religious buildings, rich in works of art, such as the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Church of San Martino, the Church of Beata Vergine della Salute and the Church of Santa Maria delle Consolazioni.
The Cathedral of Santa Tecla contains a large painting by Giambattista Tiepolo, dated 1789, which is one of the most important works of art in the city.
Another building worthy of note is the monumental complex of San Francesco; it formerly was a convent of Franciscan friars, now it hosts a school as well as is used for theatre performances and concerts.
A particular historical interest is also attached to some civilian buildings: the Torre Civica di Porta Vecchia with a big clock still working, the Palazzo Municipale and the Palazzo degli Scaligeri. Last but not least are many noteworthy Venetian villas, such as Villa Kunkler, Villa Albrizzi, Villa Vigna Contarena and Villa Contarini called the Prince's Palace.
Nowadays, the main handicraft excellence in Este is the production of ceramics, whose millenary tradition dates back to the birth of the city. Over the years, it has achieved high levels in the evolution of technique and style. Ceramic sector is currently one of the most intense activity in the area, with shops and manufactures open to the public.