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The Venetian Villa is a type of patrician residence hailing from the Republic of Venice and widespread in the countryside areas of the Domini di Terraferma (mainland domains) between the 15th and 19th centuries. During this period of time, more than 5.000 of these summer villas were built, and many are well-kept, restored and can be visited. In the 16th century a specific type of Venetian Villa was born, thanks to the efforts of architect Andrea Palladio – the Villa Palladiana, or Palladian Villa. Palladian villas of the Veneto region have gained UNESCO world heritage site status.
Originally used as a rural residence, the Villa became a trend, so widespread that noble families begun spending large amounts of money to have summer villas built. The structure of the Villa lost its rural profile and increased in size, and the riches inside of the residence are comparable to those of palaces in Venice. Moreover, the villas boasted large gardens, full of exotic plants and vegetation, topiaries and complex waterworks.
The most beautiful and famous Venetian and Palladian Villas are within the area that goes from Vicenza to Venice, particularly along the shores of the Brenta River, from Padua to the Venetian hinterland.
“La Rotonda” is Palladio’s most famous creation, and the most famous and copied building in the history of modern architecture. The structure takes inspiration from Rome’s Pantheon, and towers over a hill just outside Vicenza. The structure consists of a cube, topped by a dome, which connects to four identical entrances with a temple-like façade, framed by large stairways. The spaces inside are decorated with statues and stucco reliefs, with frescoes by Anselmo Canera and Alessandro Maganza dating back to the 1500’s and ones from the 1700’s by the French artist Louis Dorigny.
Villa Pisani in Stra, is by far one of the most famous villas. It’s the perfect symbol of the beauty of Venetian Villas along the shores of River Brenta. The Villa boasts stunning decor and furniture, as well as 18th and 19th century artworks that enhance its interior; so much so, that the villa now houses a national museum with over 168 rooms. Inside the villa, there is a majestic hall for parties and celebrations, housing the Gianbattista Tiepolo masterpiece “Apoteosi della famiglia Pisani”. On the outside, there are large, sprawling gardens and a stunning hedge maze.
The Villa was built by Andrea Palladio in 1560 for Daniele Barbaro, patriarch of Aquileia, and his brother, Marcantonio, ambassador for the Republic of Venice. It was built by transforming the old medieval Maser palace, owned by the family, into a wonderful countryside residence. Painters were called to take care of decorating the villa’s halls; Paolo Veronese frescoed the piano nobile, painting one of his masterpieces within the Villa, and Alessandro Vittoria, brilliant pupil of Sansovino, took care of the plaster reliefs and detailing work throughout the Villa.
Many varieties of native grapes are grown in the nearly 90 km that separate Vicenza and Venice, and each of them makes for several excellent and unique wines, due to the differences in the territory – from the plains, to the Euganean Hills, to the piedmont region.
We’ve selected three excellent wines, one for each city, which you can taste in one of the many wineries of the region and in the incredible restaurants that can be found here.
These wines are the main production of the area by the same name. These white wines are a light straw-yellow color, and the perfume is fresh and delicate, with a faint note of elderberry flowers. The taste is dry and stark, with a nice aftertaste of almonds; Gambellara Classico and Gambellara DOC are moderately strong wines and are great when paired with fish-based meals, seafood-based first courses and grilled or baked fish.
Made from native vineyards of the Beric Hills, these grapes are from the same genetic strand as Sardinia’s Cannonau and French Grenache, but the variety has found his own direction and identity in the Vicenza area. Ruby red in color and with a full-bodied bouquet of cherry, raspberry, violet and spiced notes, the tannins are delicate on the tongue and the wine has a refined aftertaste of almonds and dog rose. Perfect when paired with baccalà alla vicentina, according to the local customs.
Production began along the Euganean Hills since the second half of the 1800’s, and it was then named Cabernet Franc. This type of wine is quite rare, and can be found in Chile, Peru and in North-Eastern Italy. The Euganean lands where the grapes grow and the volcanic micro-climates give this wine its peculiar profile. It’s strong-bodied and the scent is stark and sharp, with notes of green bell pepper and freshly sown grass.
As for wines, traditional recipes of the local cuisine in the area between Vicenza and Venice are also characterized by their richness and variety, ranging from fresh pasta dishes to meat and game meat, and to fish from the Adriatic Sea.
Here are some culinary suggestions for each of the three cities that frame the context of the stunning Venetian Villas.
This traditional dish consists of a base of the best dried codfish from the Lofoten Isles. Once the fish has been mashed, it’s left to soak in a stream of water for three days, until it softens. The fish is cleaned and then covered with flour, before being slow-cooked with generous amounts of onion in a earthenware pot. The fish is covered in equal parts milk and oil, and once ready, it’s served on a bed of yellow polenta. A real treat that you cannot miss.
This traditional treat is perfect all year round, thanks to the versatility of the recipe and the variety of ingredients used for it. The duck is accompanied by an assortment of fruit and citrus in season, which give the meat a peculiar and excellent taste. It’s served hot and doused in its own juices, alongside the traditional polenta eaten all across Veneto.
The “busera” is the pot used by fishermen to cook fish in while on their fishing boats. The recipe calls for a plate of spaghetti with prawns, with a fresh tomato sauce, sautéed onions and doused with red wine. To be served with a sprinkle of hot pepper to give it its traditional and sublime taste profile.
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