Take for instance, the other day. Outside my window, a heavy downpour was pelting the park right across the street while a thick fog bank hovered just above the tree line. It was clearly not the best time to go on a photo shoot, but the appointment was already set and I couldn’t bring myself to call my host at the last minute and bail.
Well, as it turned out, the gods — actually Roman Catholic bishops — must’ve heard my expletive deleted rant behind the wheel on the drive over, because, almost on cue, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun peeked out just as Ms. Garmin announced on my car’s GPS, Arrived at destination.
With my camera bag draped over my shoulder, I walked across the street to an ornate, gated archway at #4 Via dei Vescovi in Luvigliano di Torreglia, a small village tucked inside the Euganean Hills, just 12 miles from Padua and within striking distance of Venice.
The clock tower behind me chimed 11 bells. Right on time.
Here to greet me was Lorella Tonellotto-Graham, the knowledgeable and bubbly Italian agent for The Landmark Trust, who took me on a private tour of the Villa dei Vescovi — the Villa of the Bishops — hoping I’d give this iconic mansion plenty of good ink.
From what I saw at first glance, I doubted I’d disappoint.
From the start, the bishop transformed the residence into an intellectual retreat where the most influencial Humanist writers and thinkers gathered — sitting inside rooms and strolling along the loggias adorned by frescoes painted by Flemish artist Lambert Sustris — to further mold and refine the life and culture of the Most Serene Republic of Venice.
In 1962, the Archdiocese of Padua sold the bishop’s estate to Vittorio Olcese, a noted intellectual from Milano, who cherished every moment this marvelous retreat remained his own. Upon his passing, and in his memory, the Olcese family donated the well-kept property to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) — the National Trust of Italy — a non-profit foundation charged with protecting the Bel Paese‘s art, nature and landscape.
But, maintaining these national treasures, as we all know, doesn’t come cheap. That’s why FAI has opened up the gates on 24 of its properties to the public for reasonably-priced visits, special events — from gardening, music concerts and recitals, to outdoor sports and family day activities — and even self-catered, overnight stays. And, it’s on the latter that Lorella and her employer, The Landmark Trust, enter the picture.
A British charity that rescues historic buildings and turns them into competitively priced, self-catered holiday destinations to defray maintenance and upkeep costs — like Palladio’s Villa Saraceno — The Landmark Trust has partnered with FAI to handle the bookings and linen changes for two, elegantly appointed mansarda (attic) apartments at Villa dei Vescovi: the Frutetto, overlooking the orchards, and the Vignetto, with its bird’s-eye view of the vineyards.
Now, close your eyes and visualize this. You, your family and friends relaxing on sofas spread around the loggia, sipping aperitivi (cocktails) and marveling at the setting sun as it casts a pinkish hue across the panoramic landscape that’s changed little since the 16th century.
Well, despite what you may think, this la dolce vita moment is not out of the reach of John and Jane Doe.
According to Lorella, each apartment accommodates four and, depending on the time of year and length of stay, the per-person, per-night average rate ranges between €38-€55 (approximately $50-$70 USD). That’s a reasonable price to pay to relive history during the time of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, without sacrificing air conditioning, indoor plumbing and a modern kitchen.
For complete information on a self-catered stay at the Villa dei Vescovi, or at one of the other 200+ properties in The Landmark Trust catalog, just log on to the official booking page by clicking HERE, or dial +44 1628-825925.
To learn more about FAI and the exciting work it’s doing to preserve some of the great natural and man-made treasures of Italy, just click HERE.
With any luck, the higher-ups at FAI and The Landmark Trust will be thrilled with my 844-word narrative and invite me back for an overnight stay at the Villa dei Vescovi. Like I said at the outset, I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy.
©The Palladian Traveler