For over a millennium, the Most Serene Republic of Venice was a super rich, majestic and innovative maritime power that was the leader in trade and diplomacy between Europe and the Orient, and bridged the social, political and cultural divide between the two geographies like no other.
Along with its many sea routes and trading partners, the Republic sought expansion of its economy on land, too; and, at its peak, between the 16th and 18th centuries, La Serenissima included all the lands of modern-day Italy’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions.
Sadly, like all great powers, the Republic lost its strength, alliances fell apart, and, while the rest of maritime Europe headed west following the discovery of the New World, La Serenissima stayed close to home.
Over time, the Republic returned to its roots as just a small jewel of a city built on wood pilings spread across a lagoon that empties into the Adriatic Sea.
But, in its heyday, when the Lion of St. Mark roared and everyone listened, the Doges and aristocrats built like crazy their sprawling warm-weather estates in the countryside of the Republic that enhanced the coffers of the money-mad merchants of Venice: those splendid Venetian villas.
When the paint finally dried and the last fresco unveiled, 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 Most Serene Republic of Venice.
Today, the general public has a wonderful opportunity to stroll into the past and sample the trappings of those movers and shakers who ruled the roost back in the day.
With the aid of my car’s GPS, along with willing curators clutching keys, I’ve been photographing many of these fine examples of real estate, and will continue to do so, one ornate iron gate at a time.
To relive my photo shoots and read the history behind the brick and mortar of individual villas, gardens and iconic landmarks of the old Venetian Republic, just click on one of the story title links below.
©The Palladian Traveler