Villa dei Vescovi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesIn its heyday, when the Lion of St. Mark roared and everyone listened, the Doges and aristocrats of the Most Serene Republic of Venice built like crazy their sprawling warm-weather estates in the countryside that enhanced the coffers of the money-mad merchants of Venice: those splendid Venetian villas that we’ve come to love and admire.

When the paint finally dried, there were over 4,300 Venetian villas dotting the landscape, monumental agricultural centers of architectural fame filled with great art that collectively became known as Civiltà delle Ville Venete (Civilization of the Venetian Villas) and redefined the old Republic.

The Villas of the Venetian Republic: Villa Barbarigo Garden | ©2014 Tom Palladio ImagesToday, the general public has a wonderful opportunity to stroll into the past and sample the trappings of those movers and shakers of La Serenissima who ruled the roost back in the day.

Thanks to the Associazione Ville Venete (Association of Venetian Villas, AVV) — a network of owners and curators that readily swing open the iron gates on more than 150 of these restored, public and privately-owned pieces of real estate heritage — you’re invited inside for tours, special events, dining, hospitality and, at some properties, overnight stays.

Open House in La Serenissima: Villa Tiepolo Passi | ©Tom Palladio Images

Open House in La Serenissima: Villa Tiepolo Passi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOne such sprawling manor is the early 16th century Villa Tiepolo Passi, in Carbonera just outside Treviso. It’s where I find myself on a bright, sunny winter’s day, being shown around by Count Alberto Passi de Preposulo, the current head of the estate — a working organic farm and vineyard — that’s been in his family since it took possession during the mid 1800s.

Passionate about the history of his family, dating all the way back to 973 A.D., and the preservation of the Villa Tiepolo Passi, Count Passi, a fellow journalist, leads the way as the President of the AAV, charged with protecting and promoting the artistic and architectural heritage and landscape that defined the labor-intense Venetian villas and their collective contributions to the old Republic.

Open House in La Serenissima: Villa Tiepolo Passi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesInside the main house, on the piano nobile (noble floor), the living area is covered with frescoes by Pietro Antonio Cerva, known as Il Bolognese, and accented by fully restored period furniture and accent pieces laid out just the way it looked centuries ago. Unfortunately, due to security reasons, I was unable to remove the lens cap on my camera inside the villa or the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary and its exemplary frescoes by Giambattista Canal.

Once outside, I was able to shoot away at any exterior scene I found interesting: the double L-shaped winged villa, with sculptures by Torretto; the wide, perfectly manicured, symmetrical garden; the chapel bell tower; the renovated stables; and, the lush, surrounding fields.

Open House in La Serenissima: Villa Tiepolo Passi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesFollowing the estate tour, we were led inside one of the renovated scuderie (stables) used by the villa for hospitality.

On display for sampling and purchase were the estate’s organically grown and produced preserves and jams, candied fruits, sweets and mostarda veneta (Venetian mustard), all prepared just like they were back in the 1300s. Also available for tasting and purchase were the Tiepolo Passi label Prosecco and Merlot wines.

Following the nibbles and sips, we sat down with Count Passi for a “light,” three-course lunch of locally produced cheeses, salami and the famed baked radicchio trevigiano (chicory), followed by gnocchi in a creamy poppy seed sauce, a mouthwatering meringue topped semifreddo (half frozen) dessert drizzled with a cherry coulis, and the obligatory cup of espresso signaling the end of the meal.

The price for my afternoon at the Villa Tiepolo Passi, the informative guided tour and delicious lunch, was a reasonable 30€ ($39 USD).

Open House in La Serenissima: Villa Tiepolo Passi | ©Tom Palladio ImagesFor complete information on how to experience the 150+ countryside villas that are open to the public — for individual and group tours, one and two-day excursions, overnight stays and special events — just log on to the Association of Venetian Villas’ travel site by clicking HERE.

You’ve got an open invitation to join me again next time when I walk through the gates, take off the lens cap and frame another historic piece of real estate from the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

ARRIVEDERCI!

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

12 comments

  1. I so enjoy these tours. This villa seems to somehow have a grand rural elegance; beauty in scale and form without overdoing. It really adds to the landscape in this way. Bellissima veramente, grazie!

    Like

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