There are many, one more beautiful than the other and it is really difficult to choose which one to visit. Let's talk about Palladian Villas of the Veneto, Unesco heritage since 1996, and among the treasures more or less of our country. The hand – or better said head – which designed them in most cases is the same (Palladio in fact), the era in which they were also built, yet these homes are very different from each other, and they are each unique and special in its own way.
We are located a few kilometers from Venice, in a lucky (tri) corner of the Po countryside between Vicenza, Padua and Treviso, where vineyards and land make love to give the world their best wine. Here, in a period of peace and great wealth (for some), the Renaissance noblemen from Veneto had representative homes built, to supervise summer work in the fields. The one who first had the flicker was Andrea Palladio (Padua, 1508 – Maser, 1580), official architect of the Serenissima Republic, to whom the invention of the open villa as we know it today. "In the sixteenth century there were no more wars that had characterized the previous time, the castle was no longer needed to defend itself and the villa gave the idea of a structure open to the world and perfectly integrated into the surrounding naturalistic and landscape context", explains Tiziana Spinelli, secretary of the La Rotonda Foundation, which heads one of the most famous villas.
Villa La Rotonda
It was erected between 1560 and 1565 and in reality it is not called that, but rather Villa Almerico Capra, like the surname of its first owners: Paolo Almerico, the founder, and the Capra marquises, to whom Almerico's son sold everything after having squandered the entire family patrimony. The most famous appellation owes it to the circular shape of the dome (and not only that), which clearly recalls the Pantheon in Rome, of which also imitates the hole at the top, but also the hill of San Sebastiano overlooking it. For Palladio, everything had to be harmonious and in accordance with the rules and geometry, just as it had been for the Greeks and Romans, from which he also columns and gables of the ancient temples. In turn, however, Palladio was also taken over, even exported: the White House with the long colonnade it is inspired precisely by its villas, as well as the Capitol, seat of the American Congress, which evokes the lines of La Rotonda. He was the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson to take inspiration from Palladio to give (also) an artistic connotation to his nation, beautiful and cultural.
Today Villa La Rotonda belongs to the Valmarana counts, who every now and then – blessed! – weekends are spent at the palace. Curiosity: just like in the Renaissance when the villa was only a representative home, in La Rotonda the furniture is discovered in mid-March, "and in mid-November it is covered", says Tiziana Spinelli. Between March and November, the structure is open to the public every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 12 and from 15 to 18, and only guided tours are to be booked.
Villa Valmarana "ai Nani"
It is very close to La Rotonda, you can get there by crossing the road in a few meters. As the name already suggests, this also belongs to the Vismara accounts and takes the name to the Dwarves because of the dwarf statues placed on its surrounding wall. It dates back to the seventeenth century and is the work of the architect Francesco Muttoni. It is said that the daughter of the ancient owners, Layana, was born small and they, in order not to make her feel inferior, decided to build her around an equally small world, made up of servants of limited height, barchesse mignon (that is, the service areas typical of these villas) and, precisely, stone dwarfs. The story so far is very tender, then changes register and turns into tragedy: the little girl falls in love with a boy tall, she discovers that the world is not as small as her and takes her own life. Sigh.
The Villa consists of three buildings – building (1669), guesthouse and stable (1720) – located in a large park with Italian garden and built perfectly symmetrically. Here, the element of greatest interest is given by the frescoes of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, called in 1757 by the owner Giustino Valmarana to decorate the building and the guesthouse. Villa Valmarana can be visited every Sunday at 10:30 and 11:30 and, in this case, it is advisable to book.
Let's go back to Palladio, who designed it in 1559, and we are in Mira, in the province of Venice. What makes this villa special, owned by the Foscari family of Venice (who are still the custodians of it today), is above all the natural context in which it is located, right on the banks of the Naviglio del Brenta, which by Palladio was perfectly incorporated into its architecture. Before entering, you have to leave your car in the parking lot of the village because here you get strictly on foot.
A legend says that the villa owes the nickname of Malcontenta to one mysterious lady of the Foscari house, who lived here alone for thirty long years, but was never seen going out or looking out of the windows. More prosaically, it is possible that the name derives from the expression Brenta poorly contained, since the river often overflowed.
The villa is open every weekend from 9.30 to 12.30 and from 14.30 to 17.30.
If in addition to visiting these wonderful villas you want miss – so to speak – between narrow streets and rows, mostly cycle and flat, book an e-bike at thePalladian Routes agency: each bike – there are 120 available – is equipped with an integrated GPS that will guide you along the main stages of your Palladian tour. All you have to do is pedal.
It may not have been designed by Palladio, but it is still a villa full of charm and history. Surrounded by greenery, it is close to the Vicenza Est and Vicenza Ovest motorway exits and is an excellent base for Palladian, cycle and food and wine tours: The Locanda degli Ulivi, historic residence of the eighteenth century, it has only 10 rooms, and offers authentic hospitality. In addition to a beautiful view of the lake of Fimon.