Villa dei Vescovi at Luvigliano
Harmoniously incorporated into a hilly setting, it stands as a perfect union between Renaissance elegance and Roman classicism.
The splendid Villa dei Vescovi is set in the hamlet of Luvigliano, municipality of Torreglia, and is one of the most charming and elegant villas of the Renaissance around Paduan territory.
The edifice is situated on a hillock, surrounded by a natural amphitheater formed by the mounts Pendice, Pirio and Rina, on one side, and stretching out towards the plain of Torreglia and Abano on the other side. In ancient times this knoll was called Livianum and deemed to be the place chosen by the Roman historian Livy as his country residence. For this further literary suggestion, the hill, owned by the bishops of Padua since the eleventh century, was designed to accommodate a manorial house: the document certifying this first building dates back to 1474. In that period, the humanist bishop Jacopo Zeno, demolished and rebuilt the ancient Pieve di San Martino – that flanked the palace – in the same area where the parish church currently stands.
However, the veritable villa was created in the following century: it was conceived as a holiday home and a meeting place for intellectuals and writers. The decision of rebuilding the construction by developing new forms, was taken by the Cardinal Francesco Pisani, a Venetian noble who grew up in Rome and was therefore fascinated by the classical art of his time; he was the bishop of Padua from 1524 to 1564. The supervision of works was entrusted to the curial administrator Alvise Cornaro, while the operational work was begun by the Veronese architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto. When the latter died in 1535 and his pupil Andrea Da Valle succeeded him, an important role was also played by the architect of the Gonzaga lords (rulers of Mantua): his name was Giulio Romano, met in Rome by Cardinal Pisani who charged him with the modification of the project. This led therefore to the creation of a square building, laid on a high base in ashlar, with outer loggias (lodges) on three sides, central opening on the pattern of ancient villae romane (Roman villas with compluvium) and the main entrance to the south.
In the years 1565-1579 the bishops, who succeeded Cardinal Francesco Pisani, ie Alvise Pisani and Federico Cornaro, commissioned the architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Da Valle to implement some changes: the main entrance was moved to the west, namely towards the church and the small hilly village. Furthermore, a square courtyard was built on this side, surrounded by a crenellated wall where three monumental arches open. Even today the villa is accessible from the western courtyard, through a double staircase that leads directly to piano nobile (main storey). Later the central opening in the building was also closed.
The interior of the villa _whose main floor was divided into Sala delle figure all’antica (hall of the ancient-style figures), Sala del Putto (Cherub room), Sala da Pranzo or di Apollo e Orfeo (Dining room or of Apollo and Orpheus) and the bishop’s private rooms_ was painted in the years 1542 to 1543 by the Flemish painter (working in Venice) Lambert Sustris, with the advice of the aforementioned Giulio Romano. Only a portion of the impressive wall decorations – depicting mythological subjects, rural landscapes and ancient buildings in ruins – was rescued from the heavy tampering of the internal spaces set by Bishop Giustiniani in the 18th century.
During the Second World War, Villa dei Vescovi was used as a place of refuge for displaced people; after the war it hosted spiritual retreats and training activities. The Paduan curia retained the ownership of the property until 1962, when it was sold to Vittorio and Giuliana Olcese who undertook a first relevant restoration of the interior, even in the sixties.
In 2005 Villa dei Vescovi was donated to the FAI (Italian Environment Fund) by Maria Teresa Valoti Olcese.
New and decisive works of restoration were started in 2007 and concluded in June 2011 allowing the opening of the monument to the public. Nowadays the interior of the villa is fitted out with antique furniture and a series of panels illustrate to visitors the various construction stages and the recent recovery of the building. The surrounding gardens and loggias with portico of the villa offer a relaxing immersion in the beautiful nature of the Euganean Hills, while near the entrance, the rustic buildings house the ticket office, a bookshop and a wine cellar.