Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno

Basilica Palladiana | ©Tom Palladio ImagesI’ve been asked on numerous occasions to explain what it was that made me pack up and move to Italy. The answer’s simple. 

I’m inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering around time-tested pavement laid down centuries ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my “Vespa” running.

In Italy, unlike many other places around the world, old buildings don’t die and make way for parking lots and shopping malls. Here in the Bel Paese they’re just painstakingly restored, not replaced.

Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOne such renovation project is our next stop on the “Framing Palladio” series, the Villa Saraceno in Finale di Agugliaro, a small country village midway between Vicenza and Padova in the Basso Vicentino.

Built around 1545 by Andrea Palladio, the father of western architecture, as the centerpiece for an existing farm owned by Biagio Saraceno, the villa caught fire in 1798 and was severely damaged, partitioned off and used as a community farm house in the late 1800s, converted to tenement dwellings during World War II, and by the 1980s Villa Saraceno was totally abandoned, derelict and, sadly, forgotten.

Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno | ©Tom Palladio ImagesBut, this little history lesson about a Palladian villa doesn’t end on a sour footnote. No, Villa Saraceno has a Hollywood-like happy ending.

With barely a pulse left in its facade, the Villa Saraceno was plucked off the building emporium scrap heap by The Landmark Trust, a British charity charged with rescuing significant historic buildings at risk.

Purchased in 1989, The Landmark Trust breathed new life into Villa Saraceno with a tedious five-year restoration project that culminated with the reopening of its doors and windows in 1994.

Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOne of the earliest and most modest of High Renaissance master builder Palladio’s manors, the Villa Saraceno is one of 22 venerable estates still in existence today that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.”

The villa house was erected on the preexisting farm with great precision, facing due south to maximize sunlight and frame the view of the mountains far in the distance, and raised five feet above ground to avoid occasional floodwaters.

Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno | ©Tom Palladio ImagesInside, masterful high-beamed ceilings adorned with frescoes take your breath away, and the large rooms and spacious accommodations tell you immediately that once upon a time some noble family occupied the space.

A sturdy granary stretches underneath the roofline where it once preserved the fruits of this working estate’s labor, while a long, underground cellar kept wooden barriques of locally produced wines tucked quietly away.

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Today, thanks to the Herculean efforts of The Landmark Trust, parts of the fully restored Villa Saraceno are open to the public. You can view the villa Wednesday afternoons between April 1st and October 31st. Entry is free and reservations are not required.

Framing Palladio: Villa Saraceno | ©Tom Palladio ImagesWhile most Palladian villas are for viewing only, the Villa Saraceno is also available for self-catering holidays. Accommodating up to 16 people, you and your extended family can experience the villa as if it were your very own.

To book a stay at Villa Saracino, or any one of the more than 200 restored properties of The Landmark Trust, just click HERE, or call +44 1628-825925, or contact The Landmark Trust’s Italian representative at +39 041-5222481.

The Villa Saraceno: built by Andrea Palladio, rejuvenated by The Landmark Trust.

©The Palladian Traveler



  1. Great pictures as usual, Tom. It always takes me by surprise to see the lovely green grass with the bare trees. And it’s such a vibrant color of green. Something I always look forward to every spring here in Kansas – there you must have it year around. I think if gives a person such a lift.

  2. Tom, my passion for Italy is very similar to yours….seeing beauty in the old historical places that haven’t changed in centuries. Italy doesn’t replace, they restore!

  3. I too appreciate the pride and respect the Italians have in restoring, and in their attention to quality. Really loved the photos! Grazie!

  4. I love the clean lines of a Palladian structure and minimalist gardening, such as here. Glad to see it restored and still useful.

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