South of Padua, a chain of hills of volcanic origin rise to heights of 300 to 600 m from the Padovan-Venetian plain, the Euganean Hills that was the first park established in the Veneto region. To be explored on foot, the Euganean Hills offer a succession of strong feelings, changing panoramas, fragrant views in every season, recreational activities, picnic areas, and enchanting places of faith and poetry. Regardless of the direction you come from, the soft outline of the hills draws the skyline of the province. Monte Venda rises up 601 metres above sea level, while the other 85 hills have an average height of 219 metres. The hills are just visible from Venice and have been celebrated for their picturesque beauty and their hot springs. They, like an archipelago of steep-sided wooded islands rising from the perfectly flat agricultural plain, inspired the setting of Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills. The geological origins of the soils, the shape of the terrain (responsible for contrasting microclimates and biotopes), the isolation from other mountain ranges and changing climatic circumstances due to glaciation patterns are the main reasons for the enormous range of Euganean flora. Indeed, the park protects a vast and surprisingly rich territory in which over 1400 plant species are concentrated, or about 1/6 of Italian flora!
One of the most particular habitat of the hills are the dry grasslans that are prevalent to the south, on most of the chalky hillsides between Arquà Petrarca, Valle San Giorgio and Baone. These meadows are what remain of abandoned farmland and nutrient-poor pastures and are known as vegri. Such areas are constantly reverting to their original woodland state and feature herbaceous plants that prefer dry areas, particularly grasses and prickly or leguminous composites, while areas that have been left fallow for longer and that sometimes have very dry soil are home to scattered bushes that are typically tough, pioneer species, such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Juniper, Viburnum and Spanish Broom. Particularly in April, there are a lot of orchids, really both beautiful and enchanting. In some places one can find literally carpets of white and pink orchids, sometimes more than one thousand of them. There are over 20 species of wild orchids with striking, bizarre shapes, including Villosum Orchid, Bee Orchids, Lady Orchid, the Adriatic Lizard Orchid, Fragrant Orchids and Violet Limodore. There are species sometimes numerous, above all the Monkey Orchid, so named because each flower resembles a little homunculus with a big head. Then the Great Orchid and finally a really rare one, the Miltary Orchid, to be found in very few sites in the hills. Other species are the Narrow-leaved Helleborine and the Pyramidal Orchid, while during mid-summer the slopes are studded with Amethyst Eryngos with their unique inflorescence color amethyst. The rarest species of the hills is the Paduan Rue,the only species bearing the name of Padova and at present endangered due to the progressive reduction of its environment.