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venetian villas

Venetian Villas Offer Glimpse into Lives of Nobility

Posted by Darya Camacci on September 9 2016

When you have taken in tiny Venice, take a guided cruise on the Brenta River and see dozens of fabulous villas and lavish gardens of the former Venetian elite. This area, for good reason, is known as the Brenta Riviera.

The Brenta Canal was built when engineers diverted the Brenta River's course and created a canal with locks. Back in the day, barges were pulled by horses for well-heeled visitors.

Villas were built in the 15th century along the edges of the river on farmland, to be used as summer homes for wealthy Venetian families. More than 4,000 villas are still in existence today in the Venetian countryside. Artists were hired to lavishly decorate the villas, some of which were actually former agricultural buildings. No longer farmland, towns have been built and several of the villas are open to the public for touring. Others are hotels or privately owned. The rest are in ruins.

Now that the river is no longer used for commerce, you can take a leisurely ride for a half or whole day and enjoy the incomparable architecture of the nobility on the Naviglio del Brenta, which connects Padua with Venice.

andrea palladio architect

Many of the palaces were built by Andrea Palladio, considered the best architect in 16th century northern Italy and one of the greatest Western architects of all time. He is known for religious buildings as well as the magnificent Villa Rotundo in Vincenzo. He left his signature style all over Venice.

Villa Pisani is the grandest villa, one that you will not want to miss.

Villa Pisani, Strà

villa pisani Venice

This is the enormous country estate of the Pisani family, one of whom was a doge, or leader of Venice. It resembles a palace indeed, it is sometimes called a mini-Versailles.  An early 18th century villa, Napoleon was said to have slept here before looting it. It is the largest villa in the area, with 114 rooms, a ballroom with Tiapolo frescoes an altar, and sprawling gardens with a maze, an orangery and formal English gardens.

The next one you will want to take note of is the Villa Foscari.

Villa Foscari: La Malcontenta

Villa Foscari La Malcontenta

Villa Foscari, or La Malcontenta, has gained fame as a popular destination close to the Venetian lagoon. Surrounded by weeping willows, it was designed by Palladio for the Venetian Foscari family and serves as a showcase for his architectural theories, which he detailed in his Four Books on Architecture. He was so influential he was named architectural adviser to the Venetian republic.

Used as a military hospital during the Austrian occupation, it's been restored by new owners, who are descendants of the Foscari family, some of whom live on the upper floors. The first floor with painted frescoes is open to the public, and consists of a few lofty frescoed rooms, where architectural decoration is painted rather than real. 

Riviera Fiorita Festival in September

A week after the historical Regatta Gondola festival in Venice or Regata Storica, this festival takes place. On the second Sunday in September, rowers in costumes form a boat parade, while spectators watch from both sides of the canal. The reason for this parade is to recreate the historic visit of Enrico III, the king of France at the Villa Contarini in 1574 with the Doge of Venice.


If you’d like to learn more about the magnificent sights to see in Italy, and events such as Carnivale, talk to one of our Italy travel experts today at 877-723-0802.

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Topics: architecture, art, northern Italy, Venice

Darya Camacci

Written by Darya Camacci

VP Sales & Marketing BellaVista Tours