Palmanova: who would build a city like this?

It’s Renaissance times (1500-1600 AD). Picture an architect and an artist having a beer in a tavern. I think the conversation went a little like this.

Giulio (aka Giulio Savorgnano) - an architect quite passionate about all things military. He’s been thinking for a while about creating a utopic town in Italy. A military flavour would be poured into this project as a result of a few Ottomans in Bosnia threatening to invade Venice: it had to be a fort, as well as a utopic town. Let’s not forget that during the Renaissance times, the book Utopia was also topping the charts. Written by Thomas More, it described the look and feel of the ideal city.

But Giulio's idea needed someone who loved architecture just as much as him, with the added artistic touch.

Enter Vincenzo (Vincenzo Scamozzi) - an artist/architect who had published a book or two full of sketches on how cities should look like in an ideal world. This Vincenzo guy was also the one who designed the 3 sets of connecting buildings (Procuratie Nuove) surrounding the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

“You'll be perfect!”, exclaimed Giulio that evening, at the tavern.

It was decided: they were building a star-shaped ideal and perfect city, and were pretty serious about it. 

Put together the chat at the tavern, a book on Utopia and a bunch of scary Ottomans and the result: the fort of the star-shaped Palmanova, in Friuli.


(Photo courtesy of

In some aspects this project worked.

In fact, it was cleverly built under the water level and surrounded by trees that no Ottoman ever spotted the fort. No aerial-view features in anybody’s camera back then and planes either. You can argue this was a fort like you've ‘never seen’ before.

But this perfect town just felt too enclosed, too protected, and too flawless that it instilled uneasiness, to the point where no one wanted to live there. For a while, Palmanova was home only to soldiers and criminals.

But it's a different story today! Today Palmanova boasts a population of just over 5,400 people and its main square, Piazza Grande, is one of the perfect sets for some of the best local feasts (sagra locale) - I took this video with no intention of showing to anyone, but it sums up the party life in Palmanova.

So make sure you pay a visit to this extraordinary town and be literally surrounded by Renaissance flair with its big ideals, intense history and achieved perfection.

And if a feast (sagra) in not on when you get there, simply ask any local:

Dov’e` la sagra piu` vicina? (where is the nearest 'sagra'?)

Fun times!


Return to Blog
Hi friends! Join our growing community to receive your FREE weekly fix of "All things Italian" | Special offers, Italian events free webinars and videos weekly blog sent to your inbox.