Palladio and more: the top 10 Venetian villas, chosen for you

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Everyone thinks the most beautiful villas in Veneto are the ones built by Palladio. But this is only partly true, since some of the most spectacular and majestic villas in Veneto were designed by others, in the same period or even before the famous architect began his work.
In 2014 a journalist from the prestigious Financial Times, referring to some villas he was visiting, wrote that ‘these early examples of classical Renaissance architectures make Palladio lovers go weak at their knees’.
Our insiders have grabbed their passion by hand and come up with a list of the Top 10 most beautiful Venetian villas to visit... just imagine that only 4 of them are villas by Palladio! 

  1. Villa Almerico Capra, also known as 'La Rotonda', is the most important among the Palladian villas in Vicenza and in the world. Palladio Villa ‘La Rotonda’ is an icon of world architecture, a perfect synthesis of cube and sphere shapes dominating and connecting synergically with the surrounding hills. A universal masterpiece, a timeless dwelling and... still privately owned today.

  2. Villa Foscari called 'La Malcontenta' by Palladio, located along the River Brenta in Malcontenta di Mira (VE), is defined as one of the most beautiful villas in the world and one of the best Palladian villas to visit. Even today the owners (descendants of the family who commissioned it in the 16th century) use candles and lanterns as lighting: electricity is only installed in a small number of rooms of the house. Symmetry and references to Roman architecture are the characteristics of this unique place, jealously guarded by the water of the river that surrounds it.

  3. Palladian Villa Barbaro Volpi, on the hills of Maser (TV) near the beautiful Asolo, is the most beautiful creation by Palladio in Treviso. Do not skip this one because in one building there are the works of the best painter (Paolo Veronese), the best sculptor (Alessandro Vittoria) and the best architect of the time (Andrea Palladio): a blaze for the eyes and the mind amidst a fortunately intact landscape. It was born as a villa and dwelling for the managers of a farmstead and still covering this function today thanks to the remarkable dedication of the noble family that lives there.

  4. Villa Emo in Fanzolo di Vedelago, near Treviso, is a home - now the seat of a banking foundation - which exhibits the splendor of Palladio’s artistic maturity: the villa is a perfect synthesis of agricultural versatility and a celebratory function. The courtyard in front of the entrance was where agricultural activities took place – it seems impossible that just a few steps away one of the most beautiful cycles of 16th century Venetian frescoes can be admired.

  5. Villa Pisani in Stra (VE), the 'queen of Venetian villas': it is the most beautiful and scenic mansions of 18th century Veneto, the best icon of the splendour of Palladian villas in Italy. It’s just that this one has nothing to do with Palladio. It is located along the River Brenta and was built by the noble Pisani family, an aristocratic family who had its golden age in the 1700s, so much so that it gave the Republic the Doge Alvise Pisani and was immortalized in the famous fresco "La Gloria della famiglia Pisani” by Tiepolo on the ceiling of the ballroom. Frescoes, paintings and furnishings of the 30 halls of the main floor are all originals: a very rare case in Venetian villas. Some call it 'the Versailles of Veneto' also because of its majestic park, made of long and spectacular prospects: here there is one of the most famous and important mazes of Europe with a small tower in the middle dating back to the Baroque period and mentioned by the Italian poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio in his novel ‘Il Fuoco', an imposing exedra in front of the large pool of water in the parterre. There are also stables, colossal statues, an eighteenth-century Coffee House built above the icebox and surrounded by water, an English garden dating back to the Napoleonic era, an orangerie, tropical greenhouses and ancient trees. After the fall of Venice, the entire complex became the property of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Today Villa Pisani in Italy is a National Museum (Mibact) and without a doubt a must during your stay in Veneto.

  6. Villa Pizzoni Ardemani and Valsanzibio Gardens in Valsanzibio on the Euganean Hills (PD) are a spectacular complex made up of a splendid 17th century villa and an extraordinary, monumental 15-hectare historical garden. The villa is normally only visible from the outside but a visit to the garden is a must: it is a rare example of a seventeenth-century symbolic garden, with a complex system of fountains all still functioning, centuries-old box hedges and a famous maze. The path inside the garden symbolizes the path towards Salvation and every element, whether natural or not, is especially designed to be an allegory. An almost mystical experience!

  7. Villa Bertolo Valmarana 'ai Nani' in Vicenza: treasure chest of the highest cycle of eighteenth-century Italian Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo paintings, it is well known for the famous 'legend of the Dwarves' and is immersed in a unique dimension thanks to its location overlooking the hills of Vicenza and Valletta del Silenzio, so dear to the famous writer from Vicenza, Antonio Fogazzaro - who married a countess of the Valmarana family and lived in the villa itself.

  8. Villa Arvedi in Grezzana, Valpantena (VR): monumental and majestic, this late seventeenth century villa of very ancient origin is located in a beautiful hilly area between Verona and Lake Garda. It was so scenic as to be chosen several times as a film set, it has a centuries-old agricultural vocation that still continues today with the production of excellent wines and olive oil. Salone dei Titani is truly unforgettable: a 12 meters high salon, completely frescoed with mythological scenes. Then there’s the splendid Italian garden - unique in its kind - with complex double-fan designs created by low, centuries-old box hedges.

  9. Villa Emo Capodilista called 'La Montecchia' in Selvazzano (PD): one of the most spectacular villas, a quasi-baroque triumph, so much so that it was recently also a film set for 'The Merchant of Venice' starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons. It was founded in 1580 as a hunting lodge, and therefore does not have the classical structure of a villa. Here, every indoor and outdoor space is specifically designed to fully enjoy the surrounding nature, in a spectacular combination of geometry, paintings and landscape: the large loggias, for example, allow you to admire the landscape of the Euganean Hills surrounding La Montecchia, the small hill on which the villa is perched, and its vineyards.

  10. Villa Contarini in Piazzola sul Brenta (PD) is one of the largest Venetian villas, with a large English park decorated with fountains, fish ponds and small lakes. Born as a rural villa, it became a real palace in the late seventeenth century at the behest of the powerful Contarini family, which among its members at that time included a Procurator of Saint Mark. In fact, it was designed by the greatest architects of the time: first Palladio, then Scamozzi and Longhena. Villa Contarini in Padova, Italy is today one of the most spectacular complexes in the Veneto region thanks to the majestic portico with arcades that surrounds the large square in front of it, where today famous concerts and antique markets are held. The villa is owned by the Veneto Region and is often open for exhibitions and cultural events.

 

All these villas can be visited, but unfortunately not always on the same days and at the same times: some are in fact still private residences. Check the website of each villa before planning your trip to make sure it is open.