Wednesday morning we headed back inland to the town and region of Vicenza.
Vicenza is perhaps best known as the home of Andrea Palladio - a 16th century
architect best known for his villas. Palladio also designed the rotunda just
south of Vicenza which strongly influenced the design of Washington D.C.
While most of his famous works are villas in the countryside around Vicenza,
he designed a number of villas and public buildings in the city itself. Palladio
incorporated this 12th century tower into his huge basilica in the center of town.
We left Vicenza to visit several of his villas, scattered amongst the Berici Hills
south of Vicenza. Most of them are open to public, but often only a few hours each
week. The villa we actually toured (because it was open, among other things)
shown here, is the Villa Saraceno. In the 1500s, the powerful Venetians forbade
the nobles of Vicenza from building forts and castles. So instead they developed
the villa. The basic layout has a low stone wall forming a square. The buildings
themselves are part of the wall and all face inwards.
Along with the main house, which was expanded several times over the years, there
is a barn/stables, a small gate house, and even a silkworm cot. At first glance
the architecture appears consistent throughout the villa, though considerable
portions of this were built by the family which owned it well after Palladio
did the original work.
In this picture, taken from just outside the front gate, you can actually see
right through the main house. The central house is actually not particularly large.
Like most of Palladio's designs it is a rectangle, subdivided into smaller
rectangular rooms. The walls of the front porch are completely frescoed as was
much of the interior once. Today only a few fragments of the frescoes remain in
some rooms. We were not allowed upstairs or into the auxiliary buildings as
they are actually rooms which can be rented through the Landmark Trust organization.
This picture is taken from inside the barn looking towards the watchtower
and yes, that is Melanie hiding against the column. Apart from the buildings
and the dirt path leading from the gate to the front porch, the rest of
the courtyard is grass with a couple of trees scattered about. Outside the
walls, crops are planted in all directions which at one point would've
been owned and run from the villa.
After the villa, we drove back to Venice via a rather scenic and circuitous route.
The Berici Hills are the northernmost extension of the Apennine mountains and the
slopes are terraced with vineyards.
We spent our last evening in Venice much like the previous two. Mostly just
wandering through the alleyways eating gelato and visiting osterias for the
occasional glass of wine. This was our last night in Italy outside of the alpine
regions where gelato is not as popular, so we had for our final flavors
Finally, the gondola ride. You just can't visit Venice without a gondola ride, or
so they say. But it turns out that a 20-minute ride costs around 100,000 Lire, or
about $60. Half an hour costs almost $100. Well what can you do, we signed up
for the 'short' ride and once on the canals negotiated for the half hour ride for
a little less than that. It was late at night and we saw no other gondolas the
entire time which was very nice compared to the day when there are gondola traffic
jams. We cruised through the Dosoduro region which is quiet that time of night, and
we could hear various domestic sounds from inside the canal-front residences as we
went past. It was also high tide when the gondola's curved bow was too high to fit
under the bridges as is, so we got to pass under bridges at a 45 degree sideways angle.
Afterwards we had another gondolier take a picture of us in with our gondolier.
Unfortunately either the one-use Italian camera, or the generally poor lighting
conditions ruined the picture. So after extensive processing, this is the best we
could get. Besides not being able to see our gondolier, you can also not see the
Rialto bridge directly behind us. Oh well. For the record, we do recommend the
gondola experience but definately late at night when the canals are less crowded.