Isola della Scala

GEOGRAPHY

Isola della Scala is located in the green Po Valley and is watered by the rivers Piganzio and Tartaro, in addition to several irrigation canals and minor streams of spring water. Contributing the composition of its terrain were the several post-glacial floods and their sediments. Around 20 km south of Verona, with its surface of 69,89 km², it is located at an average altitude of 31 m above sea level. Its fractions are: Casalbergo, Caselle, Passilongo, Pellegrina, Tamassia and Vò Pindemonte. It borders the comuni of Erbè, Trevenzuolo, Vigasio, Buttapietra, Oppeano, Bovolone, Salizzole, Nogara.

ETYMOLOGY

During the Roman Age, the swamps of the river Tartaro, "Paludes Tartari fluminis", which occupied the southern area, were widespread, so that in several places cut off from the nearby villages and districts. Because of this the town received the name of "Insula Cenensis", meaning Muddy Island. The name was then changed into "isola dei Conti" once the counts Sanbonifactio from Verona settled there. But only under the Scaligeri dominion in the 1300s the town's name reached its definitive form of "insula sclarum" or "Isola della Scala" referencing the noble house.

HISTORY

The first settlements date back to the Bronze Age, thanks to the ideal conditions of the terrain turned muddy by the wide basin of river Tartaro. The remains of an extended village were discovered around the mill of la Giarella, and are now entrusted to the ware of a small local museum. Inside the Archaeological Museum of the town there are also Roman findings. The construction of the road via Claudio-Augusta, in 15 b.C. that joined the Po and the Danube, starting in Ostiglia and going through Verona, gave birth to several rural villages in the area. As chronicled, during the early Middle Ages some Benedictine monasteries undertook a land reclamation work in the marshy surroundings. In 1126 the enchanting Santuario della Madonna della Bastia was built, one of the best examples of Veronese Romanesque style. The land during that age was mainly property of the counts Sanbonifacio of Verona, and received the name of "Isola dei Conti". In 1300, the town was subdued by the Scaligeri, who reinforced the fortifications on the river Tartaro. As a token of their presence, there is today a tower called "Scaligera" on the bank of the Tartaro on the road to Vigasio. It was built in 1336 by Mastino II della Scala, for protection against Verona's enemy Mantova, and it was formerly part of a wider defensive compound called Serraglio. The building is made of two quadrangular bodies, one of them taller, and divided into rooms to host soldiers, the other made of two drawbridges to control the western area of the town. With the arrival of the Serenissima Repubblica, who replaced the Visconti's authority in 1405, the name was to be changed into "Isola San Marco". At this time Venice promoted the establishment of allied families that took care of the land encouraging development, building water infrastructures, noble homes and country houses which became the true economical and social cornerstone. Thanks to these wealthy families the area was radically transformed and from the seventeenth century rice farming was introduced. Even if through the centuries the town was embellished with Villas with their elegant architecture, its distinguishing trait are the religious buildings, first of all the Parish of Santi Stefano and Giacomo, completely rebuilt between 1558 and 1619. During the Napoleonic era, Isola della Scala had to surrender its independence to the jurisdiction of Villafranca, but it came back to a leading role with the Austrian domination, becoming the administrative centre of a district officiated by an Imperial Regio Commissario, who exerted his authority upon the police force of many surrounding Comuni. After the Third Italian War of Independence, Isola della Scala became part of the Kingdom of Italy, and didn't play any historical role in the troublesome happenings of the twentieth century. 

ART

Isola della Scala can boast a wide historical and artistic heritage and can offer the chance of various cultural trails through the art and architecture of Verona at its best, such as the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, or "church of the Friars", built in 1511. Inside this, there are several valuable Brusasorzi's frescos from the 1500s and the 1600s. Today it hosts the Archaeological Museum with its artifacts and findings from the Bronze, Iron and Roman ages. The seventh-century church of la Madonna della Bastia, built on a terrain embankment is a magnificent example of Romanesque Style. Inside, there are Renaissance artworks and frescos. The abbey of Santo Stefano was built in 1572-1592 by Bernardino Brugnoli, nephew of Sanmicheli. Inside it there are a baptistery of 1412 in International Gothic fashion, paintings by Claudio Ridolfi, statues and frescos from the 1500s and interesting artworks of the following centuries by Veronese artists such as: Prunati and Ronca of the Giolfino school. The oratory of the Madonna della Formiga was built in the 1600s on the left bank of the river Pinganzo. The parish in Tarmassia dates back to the sixteenth centiry, with its painted canvas by Domenico Brusasorzi and Paolo Farinati. Another medieval building is the Tower Scaligera, emblem of the town, located on the river Tartaro. It is a defensive structure with two lift bridges. There are, in addition, several important Villas: Villa Pindemonte in Vò, built in 1742 with a neo-classical look by architect Alessandro Pompei; Villa Pellegini, built in the 1500s and enlarged in 1726, with its frescos depicting the Four Continents by Paolo Ligozzi, became National Monument in 1925. Villa Boschi, built by Conti Brà in 1747, a typical country house with a stable and a rice mill. Villa Guarnieri with its majestic garden. La Palazzina, with its oratory and colonnade in Pellegrina, surrounded by the typical green landscape of the Veronese Valley. 

Also noteworthy are Palazzo dei Guarienti, built in Tarmassia in 1500, Palazzo dei Mandello and dei Conti Pellegrini and, around the Bastia, Palazzo dei Conti Emilei.

There are also the rice mills, symbols of history and tradition such as the Pila Vecia on the river Vò, originally built in the seventeenth century and still working today, in addition to Pila dell'Abate in the town centre and Pila di Villa Boschi. Another fascinating sight is la Giarella, the most ancient mill of the town. Considerably newer, the PalaRiso is a modern building designed to host the several fairs and exhibitions that take place in Isola della Scala.

ECONOMY

Being the reclaimed lands so fertile and rich in waters, a conspicuous yield is guaranteed, especially from the paddy fields of Vialone Nano (traded internationally), and the plantations of tobacco and grains. In the fields there is a substantial employ of seasonal work. The access to new technology allows for high yield from pig and cattle breeding. On the background, but noteworthy is the role played by craftsmanship and industry.