Venice province, 61 minutes from Jesolo, 68 km
A dip in the splendour of Venetian nobility
By Rachele Callegari
Riviera del Brenta is the territory that extends along the banks of the Naviglio del Brenta and includes several municipalities, among which Stra and Mira are the most notable. The area has an important historical and artistic importance as it is where many villas dating back to the period of the Serenissima can be found, built by the most important aristocratic families of the time as a sign of their wealth.
When the Republic of Venice decided to extend its domains also to the mainland, the nobles saw in the acquisition of land and large estates a way to expand and consolidate their power: the symbol of this became the Veneto villa, which united an image of luxury and pomp to the place most adequate for the management of the estates. After an initial period, however, the villas began to be almost exclusively a status symbol: they lost their rustic character to become summer residences where the nobles could escape the Venetian heat. They were enriched with lush gardens, water features, exotic flowers and plants and even the interiors became more sumptuous and impressive.
During the sixteenth century, thanks to the influence of the architect Andrea Palladio, a particular type of villa, called Palladian, took hold; the twenty-four villas that meet this definition are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the villas are privately owned and cannot be visited; amongst those open to the public are Villa Pisani and Villa Foscarini Rossi in Stra, Villa Widmann in Mira and Villa Foscari in Fusina.
The Queen of Veneto villas
Amongst the villas of the Riviera, Villa Pisani is the most impressive: built between 1736 and 1756 to commemorate the election of Alvise Pisani as Doge, which took place in 1735, the majestic villa hosted illustrious guests such as doges, kings and emperors. Following the fall of the Serenissima, it passed into the hands of several owners, until it was bought by Napoleon in 1807, who gifted it to his stepson Eugenio Beauharnais. Since 1884 it has no longer been inhabited and has become a museum.
Inside it boasts one hundred and fourteen rooms, thirty of which, the only ones accessible to the public, contain original frescoes and furnishings. Among the most impressive, the Hall of the Triumph of Bacchus, and above all the Ballroom, located in the center of the building. It was Giambattista Tiepolo who frescoed the ceiling, depicting the Glory of the Pisani family, an allegorical composition in which the figures seem to float through a pink sky. The Napoleonic apartment is more recent, full of treasures that belonged to the emperor, such as the famous four-poster bed with his initials.
Outside the villa there is a large park: built by Paduan architect Girolamo Frigimelica de ‘Roberti, it covers an area of eleven hectares and is divided into different areas. The famous labyrinth, the exedra with two wisteria tunnels and the area of the stables date back to the eighteenth century; later the tropical greenhouses and the large water tank that occupy the center of the garden were added.