Venice and the Riviera del Brenta
The two faces of the Venetian Republic
An itinerary through the myth of Venice, discovering the nobility of the Riviera del Brenta.
FIRST AND SECOND DAY
1500 years of history moulded into a city: more than any other place, Venice represents a world apart.
Emotion is guaranteed: whoever sets foot here brings this city into their own heart and holds it forever.
One can never tire of looking at Venice, because one lives Venice. Nevertheless, before we embark on our tour of the most important sites of Venice, it is necessary to have an idea of the general picture of the city’s role throughout history.
Its origins date back to the 5th and 6th centuries, with the lagoon area being populated by Germanic peoples. The city quickly assumed its own unique identity based on its peculiar geographical environment.
Strong ties with the Byzantine Empire eventually led to subjugation by the same, then support and finally supremacy, leading to a style of art and architecture combining eastern and western elements in perfect harmony.
This style became known as “Venetian”. It eventually achieved total dominance over the ports and searoutes of the Mediterranean owing to its ruthless role in the fourth Crusade, when it conquered Constantinople.
Returning with enormous riches, the city prospered greatly: during the Renaissance the Repubblica Serenissima became one of the greatest European powers, able to be treated as an equal of other independent states.
It rise appeared unstoppable, laying claim to inland territories, which lasted until the 18th century. Thanks to its commercial and military determination Venice today boasts an unrivalled artistic heritage.
There are in fact so many things to see in Venice, a city where every corner reveals a masterpiece of beauty and history.
From those marvels our tour will comprise the following sights:
Piazza San Marco, with the Duomo (9th century), campanile (9th-15th) and clocktower (15th), the Gothic-style Doge’s Palace (9th-15th), former residence of the rulers of the Republic, the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, the Rialto bridge, the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the churches of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (14th-15th) and of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (13th), with their wealth of artworks, the magical architecture of some of the most beautiful palazzi on the Grand Canal (Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi), the church of the Redentore (16th), and S. Maria dei Miracoli (15th).
We continue with a vist to the most important museums and art galleries:
the world-famous Accademia, the Museum of 17th century Venice, the Archeological Museum, the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, the Peggy Guggenheim collection and the Querini Stampalia gallery and library.
Riviera del Brenta
We move now into contact with another side of Venice, though possessed of equal emotion and rich in architectural wonders, though in a different setting: amid the green horizons of the Riviera del Brenta.
The Riviera del Brenta connects Padua with the lagoon of Venice by 36 km of beautiful and unique countryside: a landscape which depicts art and culture, nature and history, reaching from Stra to Fusina.
The construction of a canal in this area began in the 16th century. The new waterway gave birth to a type of “bucolic civilisation”, echoes of which can still be felt today in the of the villa, the expanses of greenery and the wherries which are berthed here.
It was the Venetian nobility who, attracted to the countryside, built their houses here. At first their agricultural settings gave them a functionality of design, though quickly they became transformed into luxurious residences, thus initiating the so-called “villa culture”.
This area, between toil and ease, quickly became populated, and it became commune for the nobility from the lagoon to own a villa on the Brenta, and to reach such by wherry from San Marco.
Only a few villas are today open to the public, though a visit along the river allows us to admire several. Many of the patrician residences, clothed in their immortal elegance, are focussed around the areas of Stra, Dolo and Mira. Of these, we will visit Villa Foscarini Rossi, the first to be encountered on the road after the centre of Stra, and which was designed by Palladio; Villa Pisani, the most important, erected as a ducale residence and studded with frescoes including one by Tiepolo and with its famous maze in the vast gardens; Villa Widman at Mira; and finally, on the outskirts of Fusina, Villa Foscari, known as La Malcontenta, built according to a design by Palladio.
Worthy of a visit, even if only from the outside, are the La Barbariga, on the other bank not far from Dolo, the 16th century Villa Querini Stampalia at Mira, and the Villa Gradenigo at Oriago.
It is possible to undertake the excursion also by boat, from Padua to Venice or vice versa.
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