Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Far from the Madding Crowds of Italy (I) - Lendinara, 'Little Athens'

The Adigetto flowed towards the centre of the town; black dragonflies, with feathery wings, danced across the water. The far side of the river played host to the eighteenth century Teatro Ballarin, formerly a storehouse dating from the fifteenth century, and a statue of the locally born sculptor and artist Lorenzo Canozi. The air rippled with the sound of cobbles being shaped for the restored road otherwise, silence. We had arrived in Lendinara, once known as 'little Athens' a priest at the Sanctuary later told us, as it held so many sights in such a small space. 

We had taken a local train, decorated with red and purple graffiti from Rovigo to Lendinara, along tracks and to stations that did not seem to have seen traffic for some time. But at every stop there was passenger movement. The stations may not be manned, a disembodied voice announces the comings and goings of trains - we walked across the one line to catch the train on the sliver of a platform on the other - but they are utilised. 

Risorgimento Piazza, Lendinara

Crossing a cobbled footbridge we entered the medieval piazza of Lendinara. An eleventh century document shows that the town was replete with castle, towers, factories and a cultured population at that time. The Palazzo Pretorio that stands in the piazza dates from the 1300s and had been used as a gaol among other things. The Torre dell' Orologico was originally a gateway into the fortified town but was turned into a clock in the 1500s. 

The duomo, campanile and to the right, the towers of the
church of S. Giuseppe and the Sanctuary.




From the centre we followed the myriad of brown signs that point the way to the numerous churches that this small town boasts. In close proximity we found the duomo of Santa Sofia, the Chiesa de Santo Giuseppe and the Sanctuary, officially known as the Chiesa of Our Lady of Pilastrello. The duomo boasts a separate campanile that is one of the tallest in Italy at 101 metres high. Unfortunately the opening times of the duomo were not as advertised, so we passed to the Sanctuary along quiet cobbled streets, hugging the shade wherever possible as the afternoon sun beat down. 


The Sanctuary is home to a statue of the Madonna made out of dark olive wood. Beneath a large replica 'miracle healing' water is dispensed. We each took a cup full of the water, just in case, and asked a rather smiley and helpful priest as to the story behind it. 

On the night of the 8th and 9th May 1509 the house of Giovanni Borezzo was destroyed during a storm. A survivor from the house was a small statue of the Virgin with Child which was found radiating a strange light. The tale of the statue attracted a number of visitors and a small column (the Pilastrello) was built on the spot to house the statue. In 1576 Ludovico Borezzo, a descendant of the statue's owner Giovanni, started to renovate the damaged pillar, taking from a nearby fountain spring water for the masonry work. The clear water become red, as if with blood. This was seen as a miracle and miracle healing powers were attributed to the water. The site became a popular destination for sick people. The sanctuary was built between 1577 and 1583 and the spring was deviated into it. 

The original statue is held in an elevated position at the tops of stairs above the altar, behind glass and surrounded by angels. The afternoon sun made it dazzle. The Sanctuary is also home to some wonderful frescos and works of art. As we stood admiring them we could hear the singing of the Benedictine monks as they held their mid-afternoon prayer (Vespers). There is something very soothing to the sound of their prayer.

Where the 'miracle water' is dispensed
from in the Sanctuary.


As we wandered the town, small squares opening up before us, a church on almost every corner, we could imagine how the town would have been in its heyday. It is nice to see towns that are not over-run with tourist shops, and no sign of a dreaded fast food place, but I wonder if they are missing out on potential business at a time when income streams should not be overlooked. The presence of the brown signs indicating the way to the historical sites is evidence that the town knows it has much to share, but there were no other outsiders that we could spot.
The Adrigetto.
Lorenzo Canozi, son of Lendinara, painter and sculptor.

These sleepy backwaters of Italy, sitting on their once navigable canals and streams, could be easily missed. I would heartily recommend utilising the small regional train lines and dropping in on them - you'd be surprised at what sits behind the deserted train stations. Our day was not yet done, Fratta Polesine, the next town along the track was to be our second port of call for the day.

The train arriving at Platform 2...
Lendinara to Fratta Polesine.

Lendinara Tourist Board (though their info is not always spot-on!) http://www.comune.lendinara.ro.it/iat.html
Lendinara can be reached by train from Rovigo http://www.trenitalia.com/

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