From the archeology to the wellness of its thermal baths
The municipality of Montegrotto Terme belongs to the most important spa complex in Europe, the Euganean Thermal Baths, and is located at the foot of the Euganean hills, a few kilometers from Padua. In the past, the town was called San Pietro Montagnon; only in 1934 it adopted its current name, which derives from the Latin Mons Aegrotorum (hill of the sick), with reference to the therapeutic purpose of its hot springs, used since ancient times.
In the first millennium B.C., the Venetians already knew the healing properties of thermal waters, which were associated with the worship of a god, then called Aponus in Roman times. The sick healed here thanked the gods by throwing sacred sculptures in a small pond; many of these ex voto (the votive offerings) were recovered and studied by archaeologists.
When the Romans arrived in the area, it benefited from a phase of great splendor. Some magnificent public baths and sumptuous villas were built here during the Augustan age.
In the Middle Ages, Montegrotto was the feud of the family Da Montagnone that owned their own castle, later disappeared. In the fifteenth century it passed from domain of the Carrara to the control of the Venetians. Thanks to the latter, the town regained favour, enjoying a growing influx of visitors, attracted by the hot springs and the construction of elegant holiday homes. To be mentioned, among the historic buildings, the nineteenth-century Villa Draghi (now municipal property) situated on a hill.
In 1780 the Paduan Giovan Antonio Dondi dall'Orologio carried out a series of excavations which brought to light three bath-pools decorated with mosaics and marble floors. Then, during the Second World War, the remains of a small theater dating back to the first century AD were found in the area itself. Such excavations are still visible today along Viale Stazione.
In the old center of Montegrotto it’s recommended to visit the Oratorio della Madonna, which is the ancient church once dedicated to San Pietro and then rebuilt in the eighteenth century.
The territory of Montegrotto boasts the first Italian museum of live butterflies, the Butterfly Arc or Casa delle Farfalle (Butterfly House) which is home to several specimens from around the world and connected to the Bosco delle Fate (Fairy Wood), a path where each tree is associated with a fairy tale or a legend. Besides, also the International Museum of Art Glass and Thermal Baths, housed in Villa Draghi cottage, is worth a visit.