Veneto is well renowned for the innumerable villas that are scattered all over the region. Many villas were built in the territory of Vicenza, which also hosts most of the masterpieces built by the celebrated 16th century architect Andrea Palladio, set in a sweet and unforgettable landscape. Spend a day thoroughly exploring a couple of these exquisite masterpieces of renaissance Italy.
First and foremost, Villa Rotonda is well worth a visit: it’s the archetype of the harmony between Nature and Architecture and the main inspiration for Neo-palladianism. The name "La Rotonda", which means "The Round one," comes directly from Rome: indeed the Pantheon, whose dome inspired Palladio, was called La Rotonda as well. This villa is a Renaissance dream, the house in which we all would like to live, for its peaceful atmosphere, its unique elegance and proportions. This estate represents both the glory of the past and the modernity of a beautiful lifestyle. The German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe perfectly described it: "Maybe never architectural art has reached such a level of magnificence”. The Rotonda also has beautifully furnished interiors and from the villa one can enjoy a wonderful view.
The Rotonda is a private villa in which the owners still live. Fortunately, the family opens it to the public on some weekdays.
A short path and two centuries separate the Rotonda from the frescoes of Villa Valmarana ai Nani. While the exteriors display a simple and nice country house, the interiors unexpectedly carry the sumptuous and full-coloured Rococo frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico. This villa represents different values if compared to the pureness of the Rotonda: indeed, the Valmarana was built when the "villeggiatura" (that is, ‘holiday in the country’) was becoming more and more fashionable, and villas were above all dedicated to good life, parties, music, banqueting and flirting.
The piano nobile of the dwelling house was entirely decorated by Giambattista Tiepolo, the greatest Venetian Rococo painter, who was at the height of his glory when working at Villa Valmarana. All the frescoes represent five love stories taken from great epic poems: in particular, the leitmotiv is the fighting between passion and duty. The meaning of these seemingly frivolous and sensual decorations involved the destiny of the millenary Republic of Venice, which was about to fall in the hands of Napoleon.
The guesthouse was frescoed by Giandomenico Tiepolo, who was the son of Giambattista. This is the only "freelance" work done by Giandomenico, as this painter had always been an assistant of his great father. Giandomenico had a different taste and technique: his frescoes show the country life and decorate the villa’s exotic Chinese bedroom, the Carnival dining room, and the four seasons' room.
Many Italian and foreign celebrities either visited or were hosted in the villa, such as England’s Queen Mother, the Queen of the Netherlands, the former Queen of Italy Marie José, the great film director Federico Fellini and his wife, actress Giulietta Masina, the inventor Guglielmo Marconi, tycoon Gianni Agnelli and many more. The villa also belonged to the great Italian writer Antonio Fogazzaro.
Thanks Francesca, for detailing what makes these unique villas well worth a visit. Now that spring is here, Vicenza’s villas are once again opening their doors to the public; if you’re traveling to this part of Italy anytime soon, consider getting in touch with Francesca to learn more about what makes her part of Italy unique.