Asolo and its environs have been historically and culturally important since the Roman times. The area survived destruction at the hands of the Barbarians and fell under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Venice in 1300. But it was the arrival of Catherine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, in the late 15th century that really changed the town’s fortunes.
Catherine reigned in Cyprus after the death of her husband, Jacopo di Lusignano, King of Cyprus, but when the Venetian Republic invoked her home in June 1489, she was assigned Lordship of Asolo, as a golden exile. The town then became a small but sophisticated capital of culture, worldliness and courtesy, with a great many writers and artists attending her court.
Asolo’s frescoed gothic palaces, cloistered convent and stunning castle tower reveal the splendor that the small town acquired at that time.
After the League of Cambrai, Catherine and her court left Asolo and retired to Venice in 1509.
Asolo has continued to attract artists and men of culture ever since the departure of Catherine Cornaro. Giosue Carducci, the influential Italian poet and teacher, called it “the city of the hundred horizons”.
The actress Eleonora Duse lived in Asolo and was buried in the small cemetery of Saint Anna. Gabriele D’Annunzio, Arturo Toscanini, Robert Browning, the composer Francesco Malipiero and Freya Stark all lived here at one point or another and imbued it with their cultural legacies.
Cultural events are held in Asolo throughout the year.
In the spring, the International Music Festival and The International Art Prize Biennale of Asolo take place.
In June, there is the Palio of Asolo and the 100 Horizons, an exciting competition in which Asolo’s hamlets challenge each other by pulling Roman chariots along an uphill path of almost 2km. In each chariot, there is a girl dressed in historical costume representing Queen Catherine Cornaro, as she triumphantly entered Asolo in 1489 to take possession of her new kingdom.
In September, there is the International Festival of Chamber Music of Asolo, the Festival of the Traveller – in which travellers regale each other with stories celebrating life’s journeys – and the Segafredo Zanetti literary prize.
Also, every second Sunday of the month, hordes of passionate collectors and visitors gather at Asolo’s famously charming antique market.
Beautifully situated on a hill with breathtaking views of the Veneto region, Asolo is perfectly located as a base from which to visit countless places of historical, cultural and artistic interest.
The town is an hour from Venice, Vicenza and Padua – and half an hour from Treviso.
It is within range of some of the most famous villas of the architect, Andrea Palladio, including Villa Barbaro in Maser and Villa Emo in Fanzolo.
Just a few kilometers from Asolo are the Museum Gipsoteca Antonio Canova and the Temple of Canova at Possagno and Bassano del Grappa, with its picturesque Palladian bridge.
A little further away is Marostica, with its famous Chess Square, where every two years a living chess event is held, with local people dressed up in magnificent medieval costumes.
And Castelfranco Veneto with the medieval walls and Cittadella with its parapet walkway still accessible.