Villa Contarini at Piazzola sul Brenta
Piazzola sul Brenta
The visitor reaches Villa Contarini through the Padua countryside along a long avenue and it immediately appears as a vast, complicated complex of buildings, which is hard to understand at first glance. Piazzola sul Brenta belonged to the city of Venice until 1268 and originally there was a castle there, which became the property of the noble Contarini family from Venice in the second decade of the 15th century. The building must have seemed a real fort, standing on a rampart plinth and probably surrounded by moats and canals. As the date shows on the stairway leading to the external terrace, in 1546 Francesco and Paolo Contarini decided to build the central part of the villa, incorporating the plinth of the old castle, and began reclamation work and channelling of the surrounding land. The name of Andrea Palladio has often been given in historic documents as author of the project. However the effective paternity is uncertain, also because the villa was changed on various occasions during the second half of the 17th century. In fact, the monumental appearance of the complex is owed to Marco Contarini: the work that was carried out between 1671 and 1676 extended the 16th century layout, building two large loggia wings at the sides of the previous main building, which are decorated with sumptuous sculptures. The eastern wing has a long series of reception halls and was completed at that time, while the western wing was not completed until 1900. In the space in front of the villa, which was still to the eastern side of the complex, work began for building the square with semi-circle arcades, which were never completed on the western side. The spectacular intentions of the designs can only be partly seen in the fresco decorations in the west wing, painted in 1684 by Michele Primon, who was inspired by the work of Pirro Ligorio and Giulio Romano. The theatrical air of the villa culminates in the interiors, in the so-called reverse guitar hall, where an octagonal opening in the centre of the ceiling links the ground floor to the piano nobile, giving perfect even acoustics on both levels of the music that is being played below. The Camerini family completed and renovated the complex in the 19th century, while the projects for strengthening the villa and changing its use mark its more recent history.