Veneto's three main cities of art are on the Venice-Milan motorway: Padua, Vicenza and Verona. Padua, abode of one of the most ancient universities of Europe, was one of the big Renaissance centre in the Veneto: Giotto, Donatello and Mantegna created here some of their major works of art. On and all through an area not too far from Padua extend the Colli Euganei, with their extraordinary artistic and scenic beauties, where, in Arquà, Petrarca lived ad died. Nearby there is Montagnana, a city closed in by protective walls and in the same area lie the famous thermal baths of Abano. Further down the motorway there's Vicenza, the city where Palladio lived, and then Verona, from which the lago di Garda is but 30 km away.
The green countryside zones of the province of Treviso dominate the area behind Jesolo, with the pre-Alps north of it. In the Treviso area, also known as the garden of Venice, you can see some of the most beautiful villas by Palladio, like Villa Maser, backed by the enchanting scenery of the colli asolani. Just a little further there's Possagno, with the Canova's gypsotheque , Bassano, famous for its ceramics and another city protected by ancient walls, Castelfranco, home to Giorgione. Proceeding down the valley of the Piave or going through the city of Conegliano, one of Italy's major wine centres, and of Vittorio Veneto, we reach Belluno and Feltre right in the heart of the Dolomites. Cortina D'Ampezzo, in the middle of a unique area which was awarded such a status thanks to the beauty and variety of the alpine landscape, will be ideal for a trip by car.
Of great historical interest are also all the routes east of Jesolo, starting from Portogruaro, the Republic's very old river post of call and main centre of a ziba that’s very well known for its wines, and Caorle with its beautiful Romanic cathedral and bell-tower. Along the coast you’ll bump into Aquileia, the major north Italy's Roman port, and then Trieste. Not far from Aquileia there's Palmanova, unique example of Renaissance city-fortress built in 1593 by Vincenzo Scamozi to protect the eastern territories of the Venetian Republic, and the city of Udine.
The Venetian countryside areas are spangled by ancient villas that were built on the XVI, XVII, XVIII centuries by rich people from Venice as their summer places of abode. They are witnesses to one of the most civilised ways of life of the Renaissance period and among these villas are some of the greatest works of art belonging to the Italian architecture. The most famous are, most certainly, Palladio's, like for example the Malcontenta, near Venice, and Maser, in the Treviso area, both of them are open to the public. Along the Riviera del Brenta, which connects the lagoon to Padua, an incredible collection of these villas from different ages can be admired, among these is the one of Stra, built in '700 as the Doge's residence.
The fortunes of the Brenta are closely related to the urban structures of Venice and the Veneto. The river begins in the lakes of Caldonazzo and Levico, near Trento, passes through Valsugana and enters the Veneto plain
at Bassano del Grappa, where it has been spanned by a bridge since at least 1209. The history of the river is of its continually changing course, of its floods and changes in its bed. Following the flood of 589 which also modified the courses of the rivers Mincio, Adige, Piave and Tagliamento, the Brenta veered from Padua and the Malamocco branch, directing itself towards Chioggia. Again breaking its banks in 1152, the river emptied into the Venice Lagoon, carrying its silt as far as Venice and the Port of San Nicolò, and in time causing reed-beds and malaria to develop. From that time on the Veneti began their great struggle against the elements that would otherwise have suffocated them, by making small cuts and taking other measures too to divert the flow. Often these works were cause of contention between Padua and Venice at time when Venetian territory was limited to the Dukedom itself, whose 1375 boundary mark, El Termen, can be still admired at Oriago Termine. The major works were carried out between 1457 and 1896: four canals were constructed which gradually turned the waters away from the Lido basin towards Malamocco and Chioggia, and finally to the sea.
The Naviglio Brenta, or Brenta Canal, that we see today is the result of this massive hydraulic work and is fitted with a system of locks and swing bridges to make it easy to navigate. The gates at Dolo are particularly important as they are installed on a picturesque island complex that includes old water mills and the boatyards. The last lock downstream was located at Moranzani, just before the river enters the lagoon at Fusina. The canal was a vital commercial waterway. Great barges loaded with goods, burchi, were pulled upstream by horses; but gondolas and passenger barges, splendidly adorned burchielli, also plied the waters conveying parties of aristocrats from the city to their country houses.
Life in the villa
Not all the Veneto country houses, have survived until today. Nevertheless, over the north-east of Italy they still number thousands. In the 15th century, after the Venetian Republic's conquest of the "mainland" territories, Venetian investments slowly shifted from the Orient to its own landholdings. However, already in the 14th century, when the borders of the Venetian State did not extend beyond the edges of the lagoon, the wealthiest nobles owned estates in the provinces of Padua and Treviso. From then the old nobility, and those that had only recently reached a certain wealth, aimed to secure a part of their capital in safer though less profitable investments than those deriving from the shipping trade.
The life of the villa combined two apparently diametrically opposed aspects: the contemplative pleasure of country life, observed from the humanistic standpoint of the epoch (which is why the country villa draws upon the classical world), and the cultivation of the country estate itself, whose affairs the proprietor managed in person.
Over the centuries the conception of the country house underwent a number of changes: from originally being a gentleman's country house, by the 18th century - when there was competition to possess the most magnificent demesne - it had assumed the splendour of a palace. The elegant but restrained forms of the Renaissance gave way to imposing building complexes located in vast parks ornamented with pavilions, fountains, statues, woods, and whatever else could be suggested for the fancy and pleasure of ladies and their beaux. Many months were spent in the villa between the spring and the summer. Time was passed in grand balls, coursing hares, and card and garden games, and then it was time to return to the city with the first cool breezes of autumn - where it was immediately Carnival, and the entertainment could continue in other ways. Carlo Goldoni, the Venetian playwright, wrote a trilogy describing the villa season; it wittily described the fatuous life in Venice in the 18th century: ‘Tis time to set out for the villa, o longed for moment come at last! What anguish we've endured, fearing we should never go.
Home Page - Apartment - Price - Last Minute - Booking - Maps - Itineraries - Photogallery - Venice - Jesolo - Carnival - Links - Summary - Venice Postcards - Cà Venezia Apartments