Within an hour of Venice, near the Renaissance Padua, rise the isolated, rounded cones of the Colli Euganei. These volcanic formations, known in English as the Euganean Hills, surround Abano Terme. Forests of oak and chestnut alternate with grapevines and Mediterranean almond trees, and the refined architecture of the sumptuous Veneto villas narrates centuries of history, art and tradition.
The name Euganean Hills comes from the Euganei, an ancient people who inhabited the region before the Romans. The area was known to the Romans as Aponi fons or Aquae Patavinae, and the oracle of Geryon lay nearby.
The description of the area is given by Ostrogoth king Theodoric, and later, the Venetians associated the place with the cult of Aponus, the god of thermal water and curative properties. Already in antiquity, there was a complex of thermal baths here, but it was destroyed in the 6th century by the Lombards to be rebuilt in the 12th century, when Abano became an autonomous comune.
Near the town is the 11th century Abbey of Praglia, founded by Benedictine monks. The abbey, surrounding a Renaissance church and four cloisters is a center of book and manuscript restoration and it also makes its own, excellent wines. The entire region is the expression of a culture of well-being with a history and tradition that are unique in the world. Other little treasures found throughout the immediate surroundings of Abano Terme include rare species of orchids and butterflies in the shade of majestic chestnut trees, the spring-blooming almond trees, the Catajo Castle with Zelotti frescoes, and Arqua Petrarca where the great Italian poet chose to live. All this, in addition to the historical, cultural and artistic marvels of nearby Padua, Verona and Vicenza.
For 2,000 years the Abano There has been immersed in the re-energizing, green Euganean Hills. The eco-compatible economy became a reality here before others started even formulating environmental theories. All activities result from a 1,000 year harmony between man and nature, and even the town's heat comes from the heart of the Earth, as the 200° F water supplies all the heat needed by the elegant hotels in the thermal basin. The spa's fame is based on the medicinal qualities of hot, salty water with Bromine and Iodine, contained in the subsoil of geothermal origin. From the uncontaminated Pre-Alps, the rainwater seeps into the subsoil to depths of 9,000 feet, and during this journey, it is enriched with mineral salts and it progressively heats up. Over the period of 30 years, the water crosses the distance of about 70 miles that separate the Pre-Alps from the Euganean Area, where because of the particular structural features of the subsoil, it re-emerges to the surface keeping its high temperature of 70 - 200° F and its salinity. The chemical composition and temperature play an important role in the therapeutic properties of the mud and in the development of particular algae and microflora which develop during mud maturation.
The sophisticated cultural circles and associations founded in the shade of the arbours laden with the scent and color of wisteria have made the Euganean Hills a truly special place for generations of nobility ever since the days of the Roman Empire and the Venetian Serenissima Republic.
In the Euganean Hills, at Arquà, which now bears his name attached to it, Petrarch found peace and harmony towards the end of his life. He discovered the village in 1369, and there, he stated in his letter, "I have built me a house, small, but pleasant and decent, in the midst of slopes clothed with vines and olives."
The Euganean Hills, like an archipelago of steep-sided wooded islands rising from the perfectly flat agricultural plain, their bucolic tranquillity and the magical scents, also inspired the setting of Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Lines Written in the Euganean Hills"; Shelley likens the hill he has found himself upon, at first to an island in "the deep wide sea of Misery", then he sees that
Beneath is spread like a green sea
The waveless plain of Lombardy,
Bounded by the vaporous air,
Islanded by cities fair -