DRIVING the Brenta Canal to see Palladio

Apr 17th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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DRIVING the Brenta Canal to see Palladio

Hi everybody -

My family and I are going to be in Venice in the middle of May. From there, we are going to rent a car and drive around the Veneto, stay in Asolo, etc. etc.

My question is: Has anyone driven the route along the Brenta Canal to see the Palladian Villas?

I know it's wonderful to take a boat down the canal all the way to Venice, but we won't have the time for it. But I still would love to see the villas and maybe stop in to one or two along the canal.

Do we see anything if we drive along a road there, or are all the villas facing the canal and thus not interesting from the road?
Mylesaway is offline  
Apr 17th, 2005, 06:09 PM
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Actually, the only villa by Palladio himself on the Brenta canal is the Villa Foscari, probably better known as La Malcontenta. Its principal facade does face the canal.

The best Web site about Palladio's buildings is probably


(If you look up Villa Foscari, it will give you the opening hours, etc.)

And there is a lovely book about Palladio's villas (criticized by some for having too few images) by Witold Rybczynski. It's available in paper.
Eloise is offline  
Apr 17th, 2005, 06:23 PM
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P.S. Very close to Asolo is one of Palladio's most famous villas, the Villa Barbaro at Maser. It's the one with the frecoes by Paolo Veronese. It's well worth visiting, in my opinion, if you can manage it. Not very far away is Palladio's Villa Emo, which I found less interesting.
Eloise is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 07:13 AM
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Thanks Eloise.

Believe it or not, my family and I are staying in Asolo for 2 nights, but the Villa Barbaro isn't open to the public on those days (a family still lives there). I called them, to see if we could possibly get in on another day, and we could...for around $800!

I will check out the website.

And I'm assuming that the facades of the buildings on the Brenta canal face the canal. Is this car ride even worth it?

Mylesaway is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 03:25 PM
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Hello, Myles,

Yes, $ 800. seems a bit much to visit the Villa Barbaro... But I too learned, uncomfortably, that it was owned by a family that still used it. I was staying in Bassano del Grappa and took the only bus -- on a Sunday --to Maser to visit the villa. I don't remember the exact times, but let's say it was supposed to be open to the public starting at 2:00 p.m. Having already spent an hour and a half in a tiny bar where everyone looked at me as if I were some kind of alien, I walked to the gates of the villa at 2 o'clock and stood -- in the rain -- until they graciously decided to open the doors at 3:00 p.m. The reason: The family had had guests for lunch...

I've never taken the boat along the Brenta canal, so I have no idea what villas one sees if one does so, but I would assume that their facades would face the canal, which was the chief form of transportation at the time they were built.

I also have never seen La Malcontenta. It is still owned by a member of the Foscari family. Mira, where it is located, is really quite close to Venice, but not easily reached, as far as I could make out, by public transportation. You might want to try, though, if you were renting a car anyway at Piazzale Roma or Mestre.

I would suggest that you borrow the Rybczynski book from a library -- the title is "The Perfect House" -- and see whether you are prepared to do what he did. As far as I can recall --I read the book about a year ago -- he had to park some way away from the villa and approach it on foot. He does say that the Brenta facade is quite overwhelming, as it was meant to be. He visited on a day when the villa was open and seems to have had mixed feelings about the interior. He also describes the back facade, which faces onto a park.

I visited a number of the Palladian villas with a private driver/guide from Vicenza.

If you are anywhere near Vicenza, it has a large number of Palladio's city palaces, his Teatro Olimpico, the Palazzo della Ragione, and very close by, his most famous villa, La Rotonda.
Although I visited the interior, I found the exterior far more interesting. And within a few hundred feet, there is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (not by Palladio) that has some wonderful frecoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo, son of the more famous Gianbattista, in the "forestiera" or guest house.

There is an office in Venice -- on the Piazza San Marco, the side closer to the Bacino di San Marco, on the second floor, as I recall, that has information about the "ville venete".
From the guidebook I used at the time:

Ente per le Ville Venete, Piazza San Marco 63; tel. 5230783 (before that, you would, these days, have to dial 041, even if you are calling from Venice).

Personally, I find Palladio's villas among the most perfect expressions of the humanism of the Renaissance, but only you can decide how much time and trouble you are prepared to give to visiting one or more of them.
Eloise is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 03:28 PM
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They are, of course, "frescoes" and not "frecoes"...
Eloise is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 04:10 PM
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Eloise -

Thanks for your advice. I was planning to spend time at Palladio's Rotunda, given how much our architecture in Washington D.C. and Jefferson's Monticello is based on that building.

How's this for irony about Villa Barbaro - my family and I are staying in Asolo for 2 nights! But it's not during the time the Villa is open.

I am going to hit the Palladio sights in Vicenza.

I'll have to figure something out about the Brenta Canal facades. But that's a great tip on that book which I'll get before I leave.

Thanks again,

Mylesaway is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 04:18 PM
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Eloise: You are a paragon -- and a connoisseur, obviously. Great fact-filled posts.

I have been curious about Asolo since reading a biography of the 20s aesthete and man-about-town Brian Howard, generally thought to have been the model for Anthony Blanche in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

He had a villa in Asolo in the late 40s/ early 50s.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 04:57 PM
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Tedgale: Thank you for your kind words.

Asolo seems to have been a place where a number of interesting people spent time. (I never spent any time there myself; complications of public transport, reservations, etc.)

Browning is the first that occurs to me. He "invented" an Italian word --"Asolando" for what happened to be the last volume of his poems to be published.

Eleanora Duse and Gabriele d'Annunzio had, it seems, a grand old time in Asolo. (If I recall correctly, one of the hotels in Asolo is named after Duse.)

It would not surprise me at all if Brian Howard had spent time there. I think it's now almost universally accepted among scholars that he was the model for Anthony Blanche in "Brideshead Revisited."

P.S. As a Canadian who has frequent occasion to use the handy directory, I know you are not Paul Martin. Just as well, these days...
Eloise is offline  
Apr 20th, 2005, 07:46 PM
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Eleanora Duse is buried in Asolo.

Asolo is beautiful but I never spent a colder wet week in my life then in Asolo. It never stopped raining! The streets were like rivers and my friends garden was like a lake. And it was only the beginning of October.
So unfortuantly although I had a grand time with my friends and their friends I mentally think of Asolo as gloomy and dark.
LoveItaly is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 01:47 AM
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Eloise: The bio I read was "Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failuire". Howard certainly records cold, wet weather in Asolo.

As a former Chretien aide, I am unlikely to resemble, even less likely to impersonate P. Martin. (LOL)

Hard to imagine Paul Martin reading Brideshead R.-- or being curious about Brian Howard! I suspect our PM is closer in views to King George V, who famously said of a similarly peccant personality "I thought men like that shot themselves...."

tedgale is offline  
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