Along with its delicious cuisine and splendid weather, Italy’s renowned for its stunning architecture, none more so than its villas.
The region of Veneto, in the northeast of the country, is home to some of the finest examples of Venetian villas. Featuring work from the likes of Palladio, these structures are sure to give a new perspective on palatial living in historic times.
This post offers a cultural form of travel inspiration on Italy, so grab a drink of your choice, sit back and enjoy.
Veneto – the basics
The region of Veneto is one of 20 in Italy. It’s a region with a rich cultural history, and a population of around 5 million people. The enchanting city of Venice is its capital city, and is also home to other provinces such as Verona and Padua.
The principle language spoken is Italian, though the Venetians also have their own Veneto dialect.
A member state of the EU, the Euro is the currency, and its international dialling code is +39.
History of the villa
The first villas in Veneto date back to the time of the Romans, from around 200 BC. The Romans changed the landscape and surveyed and plotted agricultural land. It was the noble gentry that first began to build homes outside the cities as seasonal homes.
Settlements of walled villas or farms called ‘Corti’ first emerged in the 4th century. These corti feature a type of villa, with a separate area for the owners, and that for agricultural activities. Between the 9 and 11th centuries, Venice became a great power in the seas with an ever-growing fleet.
With the rise of a prominent trading industry in the 13 and 14th centuries, a new middle-class also began to take shape. Encouraged by the stable government and prosperous economy, more people began building their homes outside the city walls. These homes would include a garden, fountain and sometimes even a vineyard.
Veneto villas to see in the region
La Rotonda – Vicenza
In the small province of Vicenza, just outside the city centre is Villa Almerico-Capra. Also known as La Rotonda, the famous architect, Palladio, designed this villa for noble priest, Paolo Almerico. The priest wanted a home that would wow his fellow citizens, and Palladio created a building that reflected the priest’s wishes.
Sitting on a green hill, the villa is cube-shaped with a circular salon in the middle. The name itself of La Rotonda comes from this central and circular feature. Four small corridors resemble the arms of a cross and branch out to other rooms in the villa. In every room, the doors are on an axis with the windows, meaning that you always a view of the surrounding countryside.
However, the pivot of the building is the rotunda. Directly centre of the floor is the head of the faun collecting rain water under the dome above. Palladio’s vision was to create a feeling of the harmony of the sky above and the earth at ground level.
Villa Pisani – Bonetti - Vicenza
The villa belongs to the nobleman, Giovanni Pisani. He commissioned Palladio to build a villa that would reflect his family’s power and status, as well as be a comfortable home. In turn, Palladio created a villa with arcaded service wings, and a walled courtyard.
The façade of the villa is built over a sunken ground floor area, with renowned architectural features of the time, such as a 3-arch loggia. On the loggia is the Pisani family’s coat of arms. Another notable design feature is the semi-circular flight of stairs that lead to the atrium, and the cross-shaped central salon.
Villa Contarini - Padua
With definitive Baroque decorations, Villa Contarini is one villa that has to be seen to be believed. Once the ruins of an ancient castle, brothers Paolo and Francesco Contarini added a third floor to the stunning villa.
During the late 17 and 18th centuries, they added decorated Baroque wings to the structure, along with myriad statues. The villa also houses a grand Auditorium of the Inverted Guitar, a reference to music lover in the family, Marco Contarini.
Villa Serego – Innocenti - Verona
This magnificent villa in Verona is one of Palladio’s more experimental works. With columns consisting of layered rocks, some experts believe the influence comes from his time studying the late Roman villas.
The villa is named after the Serego family, whose military background also reflects in the house’s design. It has 2 floors and is surrounded by a huge park, where you’ll also find an ancient chapel of Santa Sofia.
Villa Farsetti – Venice
Walking up to the entrance of Villa Farsetti is one experience that’ll leave you speechless. The stunning villa is named after its proprietor, Filippo Farsetti. He was a rich Venetian nobleman who had spent a lot of time in Florence and Rome. A fan of Classicism, Farsetti commissioned architect Paolo Posi to create a home that resembled that of one in ancient imperial Rome.
The villa’s exquisite façade and interior are an architectural lover’s dream. The columns in the building are made of rare Greek marble and Egyptian alabaster. Its gardens were also as elegant as the home, with statues, fountains, fish ponds and a wide variety of plants. In fact, the garden was home to the first magnolia grandiflora ever imported in Italy.
Villa Giustinian - Treviso
You may think that this stunning villa closely resembles that of a medieval castle, and you’d be right. Also known as ‘Il Castello’, this villa has a moat, crenellated walls and square corner towers. The bridge leads inside to a grand building surrounded by a spacious garden. Interestingly, the villa also has 2 chimneys, 6.5m in height, and shaped like the towers of the gateway.
The villa belonged to nobleman Gerolamo Giustinian, who had the home built over pre-existing medieval constructions.
On either side of the villa are identical porticoed serviced buildings and a family chapel with a marble medallion featuring San Lorenzo Giustinian.