Palladio - Veneto's Architect

One of the jewels in Veneto's crown is the presence of the villas of Palladio.
Born in Padova in 1508 as Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, Palladio trained first as a stonemason. He completed his training in Venezia and spent the rest of his life there. As well as building villas for the wealthy, Palladio worked on the town; Venezia and the villas are collectively listed with Heritage Status by UNESCO.

Palladio was employed by the Humanist scholar, Trissino, who was heavily influenced by the works of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. Trissino sponsored Palladio to study ancient architecture in Rome and gave him the name by which he is known, alluding to the Goddess of Wisdom, Pallas Athene.

Palladio applied the classical architectural principles he had learned to his own designs. He designed many palaces, churches and villas but did not stray from the Veneto region of northern Italy. His designs on the other hand did, influencing the style of the homes of the wealthy across Europe and America, reflecting the owner's positions and status (realised or hoped for).

We visited one of Palladio's villas in Fratta Polesine, the villa Badoer was the first to display the classical temple pediment facade that is now so recognisable as Palladian.

Villa Badoer in Fratta Polesine

A narrow canal runs through the town and the attractive buildings are crammed up against each other on either side. Sadly the approach to the Villa Badoer is quite stunted, no winding avenue before the villa pesents itself, and the visitor entrance is to the side. That said, the villa does retain some of its original grandeur, with the steps sweeping up at the sides and the front to the raised pediment. Previous owners had attached plaster to the walls covering frescoes, which now uncovered bear the scars of the plaster attachment. The proportion of the rooms is majestic but with little to tell you of what you are seeing, unless you know something of Palladio their meaning may be lost.

On the ground floor was a lecture theatre and a couple of interactive screens that explain about Palladio's design methodology. As a rural, agricultural villa, Badoer had the barchesses incorporated into the overall design of the building. In the barchessa that doubles as the entrance is the Archaeological Museum. This is a further entrance fee of é1.50, but though small is worth the price. For English speakers the display labels and descriptions have recently been transcribed in English; very well I might add.

Overall there is a disappointing lack of information about the villa itself, but I was told that this is going to improve with 'new people' have taken over the running of the villa. The staff were helpful and very pleasant. A stroll through the town is recommended to see the other architecture on offer, and some of the other villas are also museums.

A fun look at the Villa Badoer.
Details of UNESCO's listing as a World Heritage Site


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