The medieval walls, which circle the historical center and are surrounded by a moat (Vallo), are considered among the best preserved in the world and can be walked arounda perimeter of almost 2 km. With a height of about 6-8 meters (excluding the battlements), they are about one meter thick and have 4 gates that allow access at the cardinal points. Protruding about 3 meters from the line of the walls, as many as 24 guard towers stand out, over 17 meters high, adding unquestionable architectural beauty to defensive effectiveness. The great visual effect is enhanced by the lights that illuminate them in the evening.
- From the 15th century onwards, having lost their defensive function, the towers were used as storage rooms or even as dwellings, thus taking different names depending on their position or who was in charge of them: Squarzacoje, Spinà, Boxio, Ungaro,Ziron, Berica, Ciconia.
- The “Torre dei Battù”, equipped with spires and large windows and visible along the north side of the walls, is the current bell tower of the city. It was raised and became the cathedral bell tower in 1602.
Access to the city was initially controlled only to the east by the fortified gate of Castel San Zeno in the direction of Padua (hence the name Porta Padova) and to the west, towards the Verona area by the Rocca degli Alberi (also known as Porta Legnago). In order to facilitate communication with the Frassine river port and on the way to Vicenza, in 1504 a third gate was opened to the north with the name of Porta Nova, now Porta Vicenza, while Porta XX Settembre was opened at the end of the 1800s to facilitate access to the railway station, inaugurated in 1885. A walk along Montagnana’s majestic walls will enable you to appreciate the alternation of different materials (for example, the Carrarese stretch alternates layers of brick and trachyte blocks) and construction techniques, testament to the various historical periods.The clearly visible brick patches on the west side testify to the damage suffered in a siege during the War of the Cambrai League in 1509, a time when Montagnana, now under the political influence of the Serenissima, had lost its importance as a military stronghold.Plaster residues are visible here and there: it seems that in the Middle Ages the walls, crowned with Guelph-type battlements, were plastered to make them smooth and slippery for the enemy. Halfway through the curtain walls, the parapet is missing, so that the space could be used as a post for a war machine, such as a small bombard or a ballista. The slits are also remarkable: placed at various heights to allow the use of a bow or crossbow at different distances, some are equipped with a trap that served as a garbage dump or, before that, as a latrine for the archers, sliding directly on the ditch below.
- Contrary to popular belief, boiling oil was not most dangerous for the enemy. Non-potable water, wine turned into vinegar and red-hot sand were less expensive and were used more frequently with ruthless atrocity against any attackers, penetrating fiercely into the interstices of the armor.
On the internal side, the walkway has different widths, so some parts used to be enlarged with wooden planks, unfortunately easy to burn. The picturesque rows of colorful houses leaning against the walls are interrupted by stretches where one can easily imagine somehuge built-in cupboards (the so-called canipe), used as storage space to safeguard crops and goods from looting and to have enough provisions in time of war. The city walls are arranged in such a way that, at noon, the shadow of each of the 7 south towers will cover the exact battlement interval between the tower itself and the first merlon on its left. The picturesque moat around the walls could be defined as a “record” one, as its width varies from 20 to over 40 meters on the south side, far more than the standard 10 meters.
- It is narrated thatsomebody called Pela, who was a servant in a Scaligeri family, was caught measuring the width of the moat; for this reason Ubertino Da Carrara, the lord of the time, had his family arrested on charges of espionage. Indeed, it is well known that the wider its external moat was, the more difficult it was to conquer a town.