Cruising the Brenta
An unforgettable boat trip visiting the sumptuous residences of the Riviera.
A journey back in time, to the era of the great playwright Carlo Goldoni, traveling aboard one of Veneto's "burchiello" barges, often described as "floating rooms".
This itinerary follows the course of the River Brenta, on the banks of which the Venetian nobility built a string of opulent residences, far from the crowds and chaos of their densely populated Lagoon city.
From the mouth of the Brenta, sailing in the direction of Padua, the first villa we come to is Villa Foscari, also known as Villa "Malcontenta" (the Unhappy One). Realized by the great Italian architect Andrea Palladio, the entrance to Villa Foscari features a magnificent Ionic loggia accessed by two sweeping flights of steps. The interiors of the villa are equally impressive, its walls and ceilings embellished with stunning frescoes.
Villa Foscari's nickname is derived from one of the building's most infamous inhabitants: the unfaithful wife of a Venetian nobleman who, following the discovery of her infidelity, was exiled here
The central hall is particularly noteworthy and contains frescoes by Giovanni Battista Zelotti, a pupil of the great Paolo Veronese.
Villa Widmann Rezzonico Foscari
Traveling along the Naviglio, the managed waterway of the Brenta constructed 400 years ago, we come, at Mira Porte, to another important building: Villa Widmann Rezzonico Foscari. Built in Rococo style, the villa has a beautiful garden with a lake where, it is said, Count Ludovico Widmann hosted elegant parties and theatrical performances.
Villa Bon, Palazzetto Ferretti-Mocenigo and Villa Badoer de Chantal
The Villa is situated not far from Dolo, built when the river was diverted and one of the most important towns on the Brenta Riviera.
The majority of the historic buildings in the town date back to the 16th century, and include the old mill, the boat yard where the burchiellos and gondolas were repaired, and the Villa Bon and the Palazzetto Ferretti-Mocenigo, this last was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1596. The Villa Badoer de Chantal, now home to the town's Ethnographic Museum, was built over a century later, in the 1700's.
The next stage of the journey takes us to what, for many, is the finest of Brenta's villas: the 18th century Villa Pisani. Here, once again, the imposing façade was inspired by the area's Palladian villas: featuring a balcony supported by four caryatids, eight Corinthian columns, and a decorative cornice from which a triangular gable decorated with statues rises.
A Venetian version of Versailles, Villa Pisani was constructed to celebrate the election of Alvise Pisani as Doge of Venice
Inside the luxury is all pervading, from the furnishings to the collection of magnificent 18th and 19th century artworks. The most important of the works is the fresco, located in the ballroom on the first floor of the villa, by Tiepolo. Entitled "Glory of the Pisani Family" the fresco depicts the Pisani family surrounded by allegorical personifications of the Arts and Sciences.
The park which surrounds the villa is itself a work of art and features a large 18th century formal garden complete with avenues, rose gardens, an orangery, ice house, water features and the maze which so enchanted Gabriele D'Annunzio.
Following the demise of the Pisani dynasty, the villa was acquired by Napoleon before passing to the Hapsburgs and, later, to the House of Savoy.
It was here, in 1934, that the historic meeting between Hitler and Mussolini took place
The last masterpiece we come to on our Brenta Riviera cruise is the 17th century Villa Foscarini-Negrelli-Rossi. The villa is famous not only for the its elegant architecture and gardens but also for its Rossimoda Museum.
The museum has two permanent exhibitions: the modern art collection belonging to Luigino Rossi, president of the prestigious Rossimoda shoe factory, and owner of Villa Foscarini-Negrelli-Rossi, and Calzature d'Autore, a beautifully presented collection which records fifty years of shoe design, showcasing prestigious articles by design houses such as Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy. Not to be missed: the avant-garde footwear inspired by the pop artist Andy Warhol.
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