The Villas of the Venetian Republic: Villa dei Vescovi

Raining down on Vicenza | ©Tom Palladio ImagesNormally, my glass is half full — with optimism, not wine — but, sometimes I get fooled and lower my expectations when the forces of nature come into play.

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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesWell, 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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio Images

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesDesigned by Giovanni Maria Falconetto, the architect-artist from Verona, the Villa dei Vescovi was built between 1535 and 1542 to serve as the summer home for Francesco Pisani, the Bishop of Padua.

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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOver the years, the villa underwent numerous expansions and enhancements, with a handful of prominent architects leaving their mark.

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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesTo date, FAI serves as the protectorate for more than 45 wonderful properties that include historic houses, castles, gardens, parks and sites of natural beauty.

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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio Images

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesA 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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesImagine having run-of-the-house priviledges to this noble Renaissance villa, with its well-manicured gardens, nestled among the vineyards and orchards of the picturesque Euganean Hills.

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.

Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesNice, huh? Expensive, too, wouldn’t you say?

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.

Villa dei Vescovi_19_WM

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

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images



  1. One of the things I missed the most is the Mediterranean light from 12:00pm to 4:00 pm. That warm tone light is enveloping, lulling and balances soul, body and mind.

  2. I just returned from a short escape from the cold and snow to Costa Rica with our older daughter. It was fabulous! But I don’t feel bad to be back, either. I like both.


      1. I’m hoping to explore more of the Palladian villas over the summer so I’ll keep an eye on your upcoming posts too Tom! Keep ’em coming!! ;o)

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