In my previous three posts about Vicenza, I wrote about Palladio’s works not only in the historic center but also in the Veneto region (outside the city wall of Vicenza and in the municipality of Caldogno). Together with another 22 villas, all the works are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. In this post, I’m gonna focus on a villas which, although not designed by Palladio, is one of the top attractions in Vicenza. It is called Villa Valmarana ai Nani, a marvelous complex consisting of two houses frescoed by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo (the father-son team) and stables adjoining a large atrium supported by a colonnade. By the end of this post, I’ll also give you a brief introduction to the most traditional and special dish in Vicenza, Bacalà alla Vicentina, as well as some other attractions such as the wonderful viewpoint on the top of Monte Berico.
Before starting our tour, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Giulio Vallortigara Valmarana, a member of the noble Valmarana family and one of the owners of the villa. I felt really honored when she came to meet me and gave me a warm welcome. Many thanks to her, I even got the rare opportunity to see a special room in which the frescoes are under restoration and are not open to the public. What’s more, I’d also like to thank my personal guide and the staff on site who were really kind, patient, friendly and helpful. My guide gave me a thorough tour of the villa including a detailed introduction to each room in the owner’s house and the guest house as well as a presentation of the gardens and stables. Without her, I definitely wouldn’t have learnt so much about the villa’s history or cultural heritage, or at least not in such a clear, organized, vivid and personalized way. Now let’s check some practical information such as the opening hours, ticket prices and how to get there to make sure we will have a successful and pleasant visit.
1. Villa Valmarana ai Nani
1.1 Practical information
1.1.1 opening hours
- Till 2nd March 2018, Villa Valmarana is open every day from 10:00 to 16:00 (Closed on Christmas Day)
- From 3rd March 2018, Villa Valmarana is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00
If you wanna travel to this villa after the summer in 2018, I suggest you check the official website for a more updated schedule or contact the customer service team by email or phone (Phone: +39 0444321803. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
1.1.2 Ticket prices
- Individual ticket: € 10,00
- Young people (12 – 25): € 5,00
- Children under 12 and disabled people: free
- Disabled person + 1 accompanying person: € 7,00
- Groups (min. 15 people): € 7,00
- Guides accompanying groups: free
- School classes: € 5,00 per pupil (1 teacher for every 15 pupils can enter free of charge)
- Palladio Museum ticket holders: € 8,00
Please note that with 2 € surcharge per person, you can rent a smart guide which is a tablet providing you with detailed information about each room in the owner’s house. It is better than the paper info sheets because it’s more interactive and with pictures, it’s easier to understand which room or which part of the frescoes the guide is talking about.
1.1.3 Guided tours
Villa Valmarana ai Nani offers groups as well as individuals guided tours on different topics and in various languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian). In my experience, the guide was super nice and patient because she not only introduced to me the history and legend of the villa but also took me to go through all the rooms in the owner’s as well as the guest house and explained to me the epic poems as well as the ordinary life frescoed on the walls by Tiepolo the father and the son. Without her it would most likely have taken much longer and required more efforts to understand the magnificent mural paintings. Because I’m originally from China and I haven’t especially studied epic poems, the stories portrayed in the owner’s house were really interesting. For example, do you know the Greek Mythology “Iphigenia’s Sacrifice”? Do you know the ancient Greek epic poem “Iliad”? Do you know the Italian epic poem “The Furious Orlando”? There are some more stories and I’ll talk about all of them in detail in the chapter “The Owner’s Residence”. Now let’s come back to the guided tour. Another thing that I loved about the guided tour was that it was highly interactive. Sometimes the guided asked me questions and I made guesses and then she gave me the right answers. Sometimes she explained to me the techniques that Giambattista Tiepolo and his workshop used and the effects he tried or managed to achieve while painting the frescoes and then we talked about our own feelings towards them. In this process, I felt that the frescoes were live scenes instead of still “dead” paintings. All in all, I think joining a guided tour is the best way to know about the villa based on your interest and in your now way.
Please note that the guided tour costs 120 euro for maximum 30 people (+4 euro for each additional person) and if you are interested, please write to email@example.com or call +39 0444321803 to make a reservation in advance. If you speak Italian, there are also guided tours (no need to book in advance) available on every Sunday at 11:00 and you only need to pay extra 3 euro in addition to you ticket.
1.1.4 How to get to the villa
Villa Valmarana ai Nani is located outside the city wall of Vicenza but is easily accessible by bus or taxi or even by foot. If you wanna take a bus, I suggest you take either bus No.8 or bus No.108 from Vicenza train station to Via Riviera Berica 70 and it takes only 4 mins. Afterwards, you will need to walk up the hill for around 11 mins to reach the villa. Please note that there are two kinds of tickets, one of which is green and is only valid for the town of Vicenza and you can use it for 90 mins from the time you validate it. The other one is red, which you can use to travel to other towns and is valid for 120 mins from the time you validate it. You can either buy the bus cards in the tobacco shops, where they cost around 50 cents less per card or buy them from the bus driver directly (2 euros for both types of cards). DON’T forget to validate the card EACH TIME you board a bus. For reaching Villa Valmarana, the green card is enough.
If you wanna take a taxi or drive there, it takes only 5 mins. You can book the taxi in advance online at www.taxivicenza.com or by calling the number +39 0444 920600 and to reach the villa fro the train station, it costs around 7-8 euros.
If you decide to walk to the villa from the train station or from the historic city center, it takes around 25 mins. However you will walk along the Fiume Retrone River and the Bacchiglione River and the view along the way is great.
Now, after making sure we can arrive at the villa conveniently and the villa will be open, let’s start our adventure and indulge ourselves in a fantastic world created by the incomparable Tiepolo family.
1.2 Explore and discover the “treasures” in Villa Valmarana ai Nani
In fact, visiting Villa Valmarana ai Nani means more than just visiting a house and a garden. It’s about visiting a whole complex which includes rooms frescoed by Giambattista Tiepolo in the Palazzina (Owners’ Residence) and by Giandomenico in the Foresteria (Guest House), the magnificent historical park with rose gardens, the outdoor ancient theatre, the giardino all’italiana and the hornbeam alleys. In the following sections, I’ll give you a rather detailed introduction to these “attractions” accompanied by my personal experiences and tips. Now, let’s start with the history and legend of the villa.
1.2.1 History and legend of the villa
Villa Valmarana stands on the hill of Saint Bastian and overlooks on one side the Riviera Berica and the countryside crossed by the Bacchiglione River and on the other side the so-called Valley of Silence, described in the novel of Antonio Fogazzaro, at the background of Monte Berico. It is a classical countryside dwelling built in 1669 for the lawyer Gian Maria Bertolo. In 1720, the Valmarana family, who still live here, acquired the villa and commissioned the architect Francesco Muttoni for some changes and ornamental embellishments. Currently, the villa consists of four major parts, the Palazzina (Owners’ Residence) built in 1669, the Foresteria (Guest-House) built in 1720, the Scuderia (Stables) built in 1720 and a large historical park with rose gardens, a “giardino all’italiana”, an open air theatre and well and a double hornbeam alley leading to the statue of Neptune. Don’t worry, we will go through all these parts of the villa in the next sections
By the way, when I was walking towards the entrance to the villa, the stone dwarfs dressed in traditional clothes and standing on the wall did make me feel curious. They are said to have inspired the legend of Princess Layana, who was born with deformity. In order to protect her esteem and confidence, her parents left her living in a castle protected by high walls and ordered twenty dwarf servants to take care of her. One day a prince heard that there was a rare beauty confined in a hidden castle and he came to see her and rescue her. After bribing the dwarf servants, the prince entered the castle but saw that the princess was a dwarf. He was repelled and fled the castle immediately. Princess Layana finally realized her deformity and with her self-esteem shattered, threw herself off the tower. As punishment, all her servants were then turned into stones. Nevertheless, a legend is a legend. In reality, the 17 stone dwarfs, originally placed in the garden and now on the walls surrounding the house, were probably sculpted by Francesco Uliaco according the drawings by Giandomenico Tiepolo. They are also where the name of the villa “ai Nani” came from.
What’s especially worth observing in the villa are the frescoes on the walls in both the owner’s house and the guest house commissioned by Giustino Valmarana in 1757 to Giambattista and Giandemenico Tiepolo. Giustino Valmarana died in June in 1757 while the Tiepolo father and son team was finishing the frescoes. It is said that Giambattista, upon the news of his client’s death, left immediately for Venice, fearing that the heirs were not gonna be as generous as the father. However, in Giustino’s will, the foresighted patron had left a good number of “zecchini d’oro” (Venetian gold coins) for the Tiepolos. Thus, on his deathbed, Count Giustino earned the grateful memory of not only his descendants but also the art lovers. As written by Goethe in his “Tagebuecher” on 24th September 1786,
Today I have visited Villa Valmarana that Tiepolo has decorated, giving free course to all his virtues and defects. He didn’t succeed in realizing the sublime style like the natural one, but in this aspect there are splendid things: as a decorator, broadly speaking, he is full of happiness and cleverness.
Now let’s start our journey with the owner’s house and learn about the fabulous frescoes telling Greek, Italian and Latin epic poems.
1.2.2 The owner’s house
The owner’s house is in general composed of 5 rooms, that is to say a central hall with two rooms on both sides. The central hall is also called the Iphigenia’s Hall with frescoes portraying Greek mythology scenes such as “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia“, “Diana and Eolus” and “The Greek Fleet”. The second room will be on your right-hand side when you enter the house from the steps. In this room, you will see frescoes portraying scenes “Agamemnon Welcomes Briseis”, “Achilles challenges Agamemnon”, “Archilles’ Grief” and “Minerva” from the ancient Greek epic poem “Iliad”. If you keep walking you will see in the third room frescoes portraying scenes “Angelica, Prisoner of the Maritime Monster”, “Angelica cures Medor’s Wounds”, “Angelica and Medor in the Shepherd’s Hut” and “Angelica engraves Medor’s name on a tree” from the Italian epic poem “The Furious Orlando”. After crossing the central hall again, you will arrive at the fourth room which is frescoed with scenes “Venus Appearing to Aeneas on the Shores of Carthage”, “Aeneas Introducing Cupid Dressed as Ascanius to Dido”, “Mercury Appearing to Aeneas” and “God Vulcan’s Workshop” from the Latin epic poem “Aeneid”. The last room is featured with frescoes portraying scenes “Armida Sees Rinald”, “Armida is Bewitched by Armida”, “Rinaldo and Ubaldo”, “Rinaldo Abandoned Armida” and “Virtue Predominated over Vice” from the Italian epic poem “The Liberation of Jerusalem”. Now let’s see some examples to have a better understanding of Giambattista and his workshop’s masterpieces.
The central hall (the first room)
The three scenes “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia“, “Diana and Eolus” and “The Greek Fleet” are respectively on the east wall, the ceiling and the west wall. When I was standing in front of “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia”, the knife drew my attention immediately and it creates such tension in the general atmosphere. King Agamemnon offends the goddess Diana, who retaliates by commanding him to kill Iphigenia, his daughter and princess of Argos, as a sacrifice so his ships could sail to Troy. Nevertheless, this is only a test and when the knife, held by the priest is about to hurt the young princess, Diana sends two angels to rescue her and to sacrifice the deer in her place. On the right-hand side, you can see that King Agamemnon hides his face so he won’t see his daughter’s killing. On the ceiling you can see on one side the goddess Diana and on the other side Eolus, god of the wind, who blows a breath so that the fleet can sail. On the west wall, you can see that weapons and life supplies are being prepared for the expedition towards Troy.
The second room
In this room, you will see frescoes portraying scenes “Agamemnon Welcomes Briseis”, “Achilles challenges Agamemnon”, “Archilles’ Grief” and “Minerva” from the ancient Greek epic poem “Iliad“, traditionally attributed to Homer.
Briseis, Achille’s slave, is taken away by force from him and is about to be given to her new owner, King Agamemnon, who is waiting for her as a despot. Achilles, due to his slave’s kidnapping, is taken by anger and flings himself against Agamemnon but is held back by Minerva, goddess of war and knowledge. In the third scene, Achilles is comforted by his mother Tetis, goddess of the sea. Please note that on the last wall, the rural landscape is attributed to Giandomenico Tiepolo, son of Giambattista Tiepolo.
The third room
This room features frescoes portraying scenes “Angelica, Prisoner of the Maritime Monster”, “Angelica Cures Medor’s Wounds”, “Angelica and Medor in the Shepherd’s Hut” and “Angelica Engraves Medor’s Name on a Tree” from the Italian epic poem “The Furious Orlando” by Ludovico Ariosto, which has exerted a wide influence on later culture.
As commented in Wikipedia,
The action takes place against the background of the war between Charlemagne’s Christian paladins and the Saracen army that has invaded Europe and is attempting to overthrow the Christian empire. The poem is about war and love and the romantic ideal of chivalry. It mixes realism and fantasy, humor and tragedy. The large cast of characters features Christians and Saracens, soldiers and sorcerers, and fantastic creatures including a gigantic sea monster called the orc and a flying horse called the hippogriff.
Here in this room, on the first wall, Giambattista mainly tells the story of Angelica, princess of Cathay, who finds herself naked and chained to a rock in the sea, offered as a sacrifice to a sea monster. Fortunately, she is rescued by the African knight Ruggiero, who gives her a ring of invisibility. In the next two scenes, Angelica meets the Saracen soldier Medor and cures his wounds. During this period, love is born between them, but due to poverty, they have to be rescued in a peasants’ house. Upon their leave, as a present, Angelica gives the peasants the ring that Orland offered to her as a token of his love (please note that the two peasants are the works of Giandomenico). On the last wall Angelica engraves Medor’s name on the tree. When you are in this room, don’t forget to take a look at the ceiling where you can see the blindfolded Cupid driving a chariot among the clouds. Doesn’t this scene remind us of the saying that love is blind?
Please note it is also in this room that you can see photos of the noble or royal families or of the celebrities who have visited Villa Valmarana ai nani.
The fourth room
This room features frescoes portraying scenes “Venus Appearing to Aeneas on the Shores of Carthage”, “Aeneas Introducing Cupid Dressed as Ascanius to Dido”, “Mercury Appearing to Aeneas” and “God Vulcan’s Workshop” from the Latin epic poem “Aeneid“. Written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, this epic poem tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. The scenes portrayed here form a very important part of the poem and as I read from Wikipedia, the story is told as follows:
After a brief but fierce storm sent up against the group at Juno’s request, Aeneas and his fleet made landfall at Carthage after six years of wanderings. Aeneas had a year-long affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido (also known as Elissa), who proposed that the Trojans settle in her land and that she and Aeneas reign jointly over their peoples. A marriage of sorts was arranged between Dido and Aeneas at the instigation of Juno, who was told that her favorite city would eventually be defeated by the Trojans’ descendants. Aeneas’s mother Venus (the Roman adaptation of Aphrodite) realized that her son and his company needed a temporary respite to reinforce themselves for the journey to come. However, the messenger god Mercury was sent by Jupiter and Venus to remind Aeneas of his journey and his purpose, compelling him to leave secretly. When Dido learned of this, she uttered a curse that would forever pit Carthage against Rome, an enmity that would culminate in the Punic Wars. She then committed suicide by stabbing herself with the same sword she gave Aeneas when they first met.
To be honest, it’s impossible to tell the entire story of the “Aeneid” in such a short paragraph. Do you know why Cupid dressed like Ascanius, the son of Aeneas and his first wife Creusa? Venus has her own plans. She goes to her son, Aeneas’s half-brother Cupid, and tells him to imitate Ascanius. Disguised as such, Cupid goes to Dido and offers the gifts expected from a guest. With Dido’s motherly love revived as she cradles the boy during a banquet given in honour of the Trojans, Cupid secretly weakens her sworn fidelity to the soul of her late husband, Sychaeus. If you wanna know about the whole story or the epic poem, please click here to read more.
The fifth room
The last room is featured with frescoes portraying scenes “Armida Sees Rinald”, “Armida is Bewitched by Armida”, “Rinaldo and Ubaldo”, “Rinaldo Abandoned Armida” and “Virtue Predominated over Vice” from the Italian epic poem “The Liberation of Jerusalem” by Torquato Tasso, first published in 1581.
The witch Armida, takes Rinaldo, the greatest of the Christian knights, with a chariot away from the war to her magical island. In this luxurious place and with the help of a magical mirror, Armida casts a spell under which the knight falls in love with her and abandons his own duty. Godfrey of Bouillon, the commander of the Christian army sends two soldiers, Carlo and Ubaldo, who are also close companions of Rinaldo, to find him. Rinaldo, thanks to an enchanted shield in which he sees himself, comes to realize his conditions of being the victim of a spell and decides to rejoin the army. On the ceiling, the allegory represents the triumph of virtue over vice, of light over darkness and of good over evil.
It is said that Giustino Valmarana wished for these literary and mythological topics when he commissioned the work to Giambattista Tiepolo. In this house, you can borrow either a set of info sheets which guides you through all the rooms or a smart guide (with 2 euros surcharge) which is more interactive and easier to understand. Besides reading about the epic poems or mythologies depicted on the walls, don’t forget to take a close look at and appreciate Giambattista Tiepolo’s skillful application of light and shadow and try to understand why as commented by Michael Levey, he is “the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman.”
There’s still one more piece of personal advice which is if you can’t entirely understand the story (especially the names of different characters) as written on the info sheets or shown on the smart guide, don’t worry about it. If you haven’t read about these epic poems, it could be difficult to distinguish the names or plots. Nevertheless, when you are in certain rooms, just try to understand what is painted on the walls. Mostly the frescoes only depict certain scenes in these poems so if you wanna know about the whole stories, you can wait and google about them when you are back home. For example, when I was in the third room, I saw so many names such as Angelica, Ruggiero, Medor and Orlando. Who are these characters? What’s the relation between them? It was only when I returned home and finished reading about the whole story did I realize the connections. However, as I said before, it’s not difficult at all to just try to understand what’s portrayed on the walls, especially when I was accompanied by a knowledgable guide.
Now, still in the owner’s house, please follow me and go down the stairs located between the fourth and the fifth room. The gift shop is located here but what I’d like to emphasize is the “Immersive Room” on your left-hand side. In this room, you will have the opportunity to experience the most important periods, which have made the history of the villa from 1757 to the present days, accompanied by 360-degree videos, graphic animations, original music and photos (2.5 euros for watching one theme and 4 euros for watching two themes). Thanks to this project, Villa Valmarana ai Nani becomes one of the first cultural sites where the immersive technology is available to the visitors. If you visit this room before taking a tour in the villa, you will have a basic understanding of the villa and a general idea of what you can expect. I can assure you that this fantastic journey through centuries will make your visit to Villa Valmarana unforgettable.
1.2.3 The guest house
This house was created in 1720 by Muttoni to house the family’s guests. Besides the large hall for receptions and banquets, there are seven frescoed rooms, five of which are open to the public. Luckily, thanks to one of the owners of the villa, I got to see the another room which is currently under restoration.
Once you enter this house, you will be at the main hall (please note that the ticket office is also located here). The most famous portrait of Andrea Palladio, to whom I devoted my previous three posts, hangs on the wall (as you can see in the first picture in this section, it’s the first portrait on the left). Probably painted by Giovanbattista Maganza, the portrait has always remained in the family and has played a key role in telling us what the most famous architect of the last five centuries looked like. In October 2014 the portrait was stolen but fortunately it was retrieved a few months later.
To the west of the big hall are the five frescoed rooms accessible to the pubic. All of them can be accessed from the main hall and are connected to each other. Like in the owner’s house, you can also get a set of info sheets here which explains to you the floor plan and guides you through all the rooms. From north to south, the rooms are: Room I, the “Chinese Room” featuring scenes such as “Fabric Sales”, “The Prince Interviews the Story-teller”, “The Walk of the Mandarin” and “Offering to a Divinity”; Room II, featuring countryside scenes such as “Peasant’s Lunch”, “Country women going to the Market”, “Old Country Woman Resting” and “Landscapes”; Room III, the “Gothic Room” featuring scenes such as “Gallant Courting a Dame”, “Three Dames in Winter” and “Three Nobleman looking at the Landscape”; Room IV, “Gods’ Olympus” featuring Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Apollo and Diana; and Room V, the “Carnival Room” featuring scenes such as “The Ball between Pantalone and Pulcinella”, “The Negro Servant”, “The New World”, “The Charlatan” and “The Monkey”. Please note that Room VI and Room VII are the “Arehitectural Design Room” and “Putti’s Room”, which are not open to the public. I’ll show you some photos when we finish visiting the other five rooms.
At the beginning I thought that all these five rooms were frescoed by Giandomenico Tiepolo, but after visiting them, I found it rather curious that the theme of the fourth room “God’s Olympus” was totally different from the themes of the other rooms which illustrate the life of ordinary people. Later I learnt from the info sheets that the frescoes in the fourth room are actually works of Giambattista Tiepolo, thus making the Foresteria (guest house) the only place in the world where you can compare the works of Giandomenico and Giambattista Tiepolo by going through five connected and entirely frescoed rooms. Now let’s go through all the rooms from north to south and explore the fantastic frescoes by Tiepolo the father and the son.
Room I: The Chinese Room
The frescoes in this room present China as the kind which was popular and fashionable in Venice at that time. Giandomenico Tiepolo had never been to the Celestial Empire or in other words, the Heaven Dynasty (Tian Chao) but from plays performed in the theaters and tales told by the travelers, he created an extraordinary country full of strange animals, insects of enormous size and unimaginable plants. Considering I’m from China, I have to say, what an imagination! Nevertheless, I assume this room also shows how people from western countries in the 18th century thought of China as a place full of mysteries and surprises.
Room II: The Room with Countryside Scenes
In the Arcadian Room, Giandomenico created a peaceful and relaxing rural life in the Venetian countryside. On one wall, a family eat their rustic meal with a huge dish of polenta dominating the white tablecloth. The father eats with his son sitting on his knee and the mother eats from the plate while looking at her beloved ones. On the connecting wall, two women and a girl go to the market dressed up with hats and high-heeled shoes. A hen’s head sticks out from one of the baskets. On the opposite wall, an old woman rests in the shadow of a tree. She is going to town to sell eggs and while taking a rest, she recites the rosary. It is said that this figure (the old woman) was copied from the “Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple” by Titian, which is now hanging on the wall of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice. When I write about this gallery in Venice, you can have a look the original painting and make a comparison by yourself. On the wall connecting this one, you can see a harmonious scene in which probably during the break, several workers or farmers are resting and chatting casually with each other. All in all, compared with the Chinese room, this room brought me back to earth and provided me with an atmosphere of harmony, tranquility and warmth.
Room III: The Gothic Room
In a Neo-Gothic setting, the frescoes in this room show how the members of the noble families take leisurely walks in summer and in winter. On one side an elegant couple, protected from the heat by a parasol, is admiring the beautiful landscape and chatting, while on the other side, three rich ladies, protected from the coldness by hats, thick dresses with fur and long sleeves, are having a stroll. On the central wall between two windows, two lovers, dressed in traditional Kosovo clothes, are exchanging a letter under the Autumn sky. This style of decorations had usually been applied to garden pavillions and this was the first time that it was used to decorate a room.
Room IV: The Hall of the Olympian Gods
The gods are famous for their feasts on the Olympus mountain so it is appropriate to decorate this grand party room with Jupiter seated on the clouds, as if on a throne. Under him is an eagle and his power is symbolized by the thunderbolt and the scepter. On the other walls there are other gods, each with his or her own symbol. For example, Mars and Venus with the apple, Apollo and Diana with the half moon over her head, Saturn with the scythe and the hourglass and Mercury with the winged hat. If you have visited the owner’s house before visiting the guest house, I believe you can tell rather easily that the subject or the theme of this room is more of Giambattista Tiepolo’s style. In fact, this is the only room that he frescoed in the guest house.
Room V: The Carnival Room
Once entering this room, I’m sure your attention will be drawn towards the two big staircases depicted in trompe-l’œil, which make the room appear much more spacious. These are considered to be the works of Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna, a quadraturist, (Perspective theories in the 17th century allowed a more fully integrated approach to architectural illusion, which when used by painters to “open up” the space of a wall or ceiling is known as quadratura.) whose collaborations with Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico spanned over four decades. Under one of the staircases, a monkey hangs while on the other one, Tiepolo’s black servant Alí descends holding a tray with coffee cups on it. The other walls (most likely painted by Giandomenico) show the scenes at the Venetian carnival and it is said that many years later, Giambattista, back from Madrid, reproduced this subject for his own villa in Zianigo. It is now preserved among the treasures in Ca’Rezzonico in Venice. (Please note that based on the info I gathered in Ca’Rezzonico in Venice, I believe that the painting featuring the carnival was actually painted by the son, Giandomenico Tiepolo.)
Room VI: Architectural Design Room
Please note that this room is currently under restoration and is not open to the public. Nevertheless, with kind permission of the owner, I took two photos and now you can take a glimpse of what the room looks like and how the frescoes are being restored. The main theme of the sixth room is architecture and the relating frescoes are attributed to Antonio Visentini, who worked with the greatest Venetian painters of the 18th century and specialised in “Capriccio“, an architectural fantasy, placing together buildings, archaeological ruins and other architectural elements in fictional and often fantastical combinations. However, the small characters in the foreground and in particular a gentleman and a dog are certainly the works of Giandomenico.
The name of the seventh room came from the fresco depicting two children playing with a beautiful parrot with red and blue feather. This scene has also been reproduced by Giandomenico in his villa in Zianigo and is now preserved in Ca’Rezzonico in Venice.
Now we have finally finished the tour in both the owner’s house and the guest house. I’m sure you’re in particular amazed by the frescoes created by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo and the mythologies, the epic poems as well as the daily life of the ordinary people that they tell. All the information that I provided above is an integration of what I learnt from the info sheets on site, from the official website of Villa Valmarana ai Nani and from Wikipedia. If you want know more about the two houses and of course about the frescoes decorating them, I recommend you visiting the official website and click “Villa”. One more thing I’d like to remind you of is that the rooms on the second floor of the owner’s house can actually be rented for accommodation. I had thought that staying in such a villa would be crazy expensive, but I checked and saw that you could actually book the rooms at a reasonable price. Imagine how marvelous it would be to stay in a 17th- 18th-century villa with views towards the gardens, the countryside crossed by the Bacchiglione River and the Silent Valley at the background of Monte Berico.
1.2.4 The gardens
In general, the historical park of the villa is composed of four main parts, namely the entrance garden, the “Giardino all’Italiana“, the old family theatre and the rear garden (the hornbeam alleys and the niphaeum). Upon entering the villa, I arrived at the entrance garden which was embraced by flower beds of multi-colour and scented roses. I visited the villa in late November in 2017 and I was astounded by the elegant and beautiful roses which were still blossoming at that time. With a few drops of water on the petals, they looked like warriors in the rain, glorious and tenacious.
As I walked further, a symmetrical design (as shown in the second picture in the gallery above) situated on the west side of the hill and between the Palazzina (owner’s house) and the Foresteria (guest house), drew my attention. It’s not that often to see places with such fresh and large-scale green in a cold, rainy winter day. Here is called the “Giardino all’Italiana”, within which two large sweet osmanthus trees, native to Asia from the Himalayas through southern China can be admired.
As I walked still the end of the garden, I saw a rectangular area with low walls and bushes defining the borders. Towards the direction of the Silent Valley, it is delimited by a comparatively high wall (As shown in the third picture in the gallery above) fresced by Giandomenico Tiepolo and Girolamo Mengozzi. This area used to be a family theatre and the well in the middle of it used to provide water to the household.
After I passed the theater and the west side of the owner’s house, I arrived at the rear garden delimited by two hornbeam alleys on two sides, which served not only as embellishment but also “shelters” for those who wished for a cool walk in a hot summer day. At the north end of the garden you can see a niphaeum, in the niche of which stands a large statue of Triton, messenger of the sea and son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, riding a dolphin.
Last but not least, the statues standing on the main façade of the owner’s house are “Mercury”, “Winged Victoria” and “Forutna” and the ones on the rear façade are “Apollo”, “Bellerophon” and “Venus”.
1.2.5 The cafeteria
Il Caffe’ della Villa Valmarana is located in the Foresteria’s old kitchen. From the tables on the terrace one can not only see the ancient stables of the villa but also the magnificent Silent Valley against the background of Monte Berico. In fact, the cafeteria welcomes both visitors of the Villa and people enjoying a walk on the Saint Bastian hill. Here you can have light lunches, plates of local cheese, ham and salami, Venitian wines as well as various Apéritifs.
From 5th November 2017, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 15:00, the cafeteria will be open inside the Foresteria, in the beautiful Putti’s Room. Please note that it is closed on Mondays. If you plan to visit the villa in the spring or summer in the coming years, Please click here to visit the official website and click “Visit” for an updated schedule.
Over the years, the villa has welcomed numerous visitors including members of the royal families, various celebrities, artists and writers such as the Scottish architect James Adam, Gothe, Antonio Fogazzaro, Edith Wharton, Goffredo Parise, Carlo Scarpa and so on. Their photos can be seen on the table in the “Hall of the Olympian Gods” in the guest house and in several rooms in the owner’s house. All in all, Villa Valmarana ai nani is a must-visit attraction if you travel to Vicenza or to the close by cities. It is only at the moment when you are in the gardens or in the rooms frescoed by the Tiepolo family that you will truly understand the magic and charm that this villa is possessed of.
2. Bacalà alla Vicentina
In Vicenza, don’t miss the opportunity to try some local special food such as various kinds of cheese and wine. The most special and most famous dish is called Bacalà alla Vicentina (Vicenza-style stockfish). In the winter of 1432, Pietro Querini suffered shipwreck in Røst, northern Norway. Upon his return to Venice, he brought back stockfish and popularized it in the Veneto region. Normally, you can see Bacalà alla Vicentina on the menus in almost all the restaurants in Vicenza and it is a warm dish with dried stockfish served on polenta. I’m not a huge fan of polenta but as for the fish, I have to say it was delicious.
3. The night of Vicenza
I was visiting Vicenza at the end of November in 2017 and I have to say the Piazza dei Signori at night was fabulous not only because of the Basilica Palladiana but also because of the huge Christmas tree and all the Christmas lights. If you wanna have a good panoramic view over the city, I strongly recommend the platform located on the top of Monte Berico and in front of the Santuary of Monte Berico. Though there are no buses going there, it takes only 20 mins to walk up from the train station. Alternately, you can just call a taxi and it costs around 6-7 euros to go from the train station. Trust me, the view is worth the effort made and the money spent.
4. Gallerie d’Italia of Palazzo Leoni Montanari
By the end of this post, I’d like to recommend you visiting one more palazzo called Palazzo Leoni Montanari located in the historic center of Vicenza. What’s worth noticing in this palazzo are the marvelous inner baroque decorations as well as three permanent art collections belonging to the Intesa Sanpaolo bank. The first floor exhibits richly-decorated vases selected from the Attican and Magna Graecia collection and 18th-century Venetian paintings while the second floor is dedicated to Russian icons. Based on my experience, this gallery is very visitor-friendly because you can take a foldable chair with you and sit in front of the artworks that you are interested in and take your time to read in detail about them. What’s more, almost all the information is available both in Italian and in English.
Now I’ve finished all my four posts about Vicenza providing some practical tips, introductions to Andrea Palladio, to the monuments, palaces, public and religious buildings that he designed in the historic city center of Vicenza including Teatro Olimpico, Palazzo Chiericati, Palazzo Barbaran da Porta and the Valmarana Chapel, to Villa Capra “La Rotonda” (designed by Palladio), to Villa Caldogno in the town of Caldogno (designed by Palladio) and to Villa Valmarana ai Nani. Both during the time when I was visiting Vicenza and the time when I was writing about it, I learnt a lot about architecture and in particular Palladianism. If you find any mistakes in my posts please don’t hesitate to contact me and help me correct them. I hope that after reading my posts, you are gonna make the most of your time in Vicenza and have a smooth and meaningful trip.