Hidden treasures

The legend of the Dwarves of Villa Valmarana ai Nani

Mysteries & Legends

The legend of the Dwarves of Villa Valmarana ai Nani

Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vicenza, Italy, is one of the best known and most visited villas in the Veneto region thanks to the frescoes by Gianbattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo that adorn the magnificent rooms. These frescoes are considered the greatest masterpiece of 18th century Venetian painting.

However, not everyone knows that Villa Valmarana ai Nani also hides a famous legend, from which it derives its name.

It is the poignant legend of a dwarf small girl, Princess Layana, daughter of one of the noble owners of the villa. Because of her deformity, the parents ordered that the young woman lived confined within the high walls of the mansion and, to avoid hurting the girl’s feelings, that all the servants and custodians of the villa were chosen exclusively among the dwarves.

The myth of the princess never seen before and confined in the villa started to circulate amongst the folks of the village, until one day a prince decided to enter the complex and look for the girl. When he succeeded, upon seeing him, Layana became aware of her condition and fell into so much despair that she took her own life by jumping off the tower. At that point the faithful but desperate dwarf servants turned into stone.

Even today the 17 dwarfs guard the eternal sleep of Layana placed on the walls of the villa… Villa Valmarana takes its name from them.

From a historical and artistic point of view, the statues have a grotesque style and reproduce the classic characters of the Commedia dell'Arte. According to some scholars, they were most likely made from Giandomenico Tiepolo’s drawings.

The dwarves were originally placed in the villa's garden and are thought to have been sculpted by the artist Francesco Uliaco.

If you want to hear this story with more details and interesting facts directly from the current owners of the villa, take part in our bike tour in Vicenza and Palladian Villas!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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