Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda

June 3, 2015 / Places
Vicenza, Veneto
Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comOf all the iconic buildings, churches and monuments spread across the Veneto region of northeastern Italy that bear the imprint of Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio, there is but one that fully encapsulates his vision of an architectural design and associated lifestyle: Villa Almerico Capra, better known as La Rotonda.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comConsidered Palladio’s capolavoro, La Rotonda, the capstone of Palladianism, stands proudly atop Collina San Sebastiano, a small, terraced hill on the outskirts of Vicenza along the Riviera Berica.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAnd, that’s where I am right now, inside the main gate ready for a private tour with one of the owners, Niccolò Valmarana.

Commissioned by Paolo Almerico — a prelate of the Papal Court in Rome (read, spy for the Pope), an intellectual, a poet and a member of a refined cultural circle — Palladio set to work on Almerico’s retirement home in 1567 and completed La Rotonda in 1571.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.com  Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAfter Almerico’s death, La Rotonda’s ownership was passed to his son Virginio, who then sold it in 1591 to Odorico and Mario Capra. And, La Rotonda changed hands once more when the Valmarana family of Venice took ownership of Palladio’s masterpiece on the hill in 1911, and it has remained with them for safe keeping ever since.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comOf the 24 Palladian villas of the Veneto labeled UNESCO World Heritage sites, only La Rotonda has the temple-like feel that sets it apart from all of the other countryside estates that dotted the landscape of the then Most Serene Republic of Venice.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAs Niccolò points out, “The central round hall, with its impressive domed vault, is framed outside by four, equally-balanced and identical facades, each accented by six Ionic columns that support the airy porticos and wide steps.”

Inside, where I’m not allowed to remove the lens cap, I attempt to grasp the genius of Palladio, and the precision workmanship of his army of artisan craftsmen, as everywhere I turn I just can’t believe my eyes. It is, in a word, MAGNIFICO!

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comThe raising of the villa-temple is all Palladio, but many of the interior decorations — frescos by father-son painters Giambattista and Alessandro Magnaza and Frenchman Louis Dorigny and stuccoes by Agostino Rubini — along with the barchessa fronting the villa and the property wall surrounding it, both designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, were all added after the Maestro’s passing.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©2014 N. ValmaranaThe centerpiece of La Rotonda’s interior is, believe it or not, a decorative air-duct cover on the floor, directly underneath the frescoed cupola. It is here, on this spot, that La Rotonda’s honored guests would be positioned to receive those in attendance who came to admire and applaud their achievements.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.comAs Niccolò explains, “Being placed on this ‘pedestal’ inside La Rotonda was quite an honor for the select few, and indicated, at least for the moment, that they were standing symbolically at the center of the known universe with all eyes upon them.”

The gates of La Rotonda are open to visitors — group or private tours — most of year, on various days of the week and at varying times. For complete information, just click HERE.

Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian Traveler.com, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based TravelingBoy.com, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

12 Responses to “Framing Palladio: Villa La Rotonda”

  1. Jack Litewka

    Interesting. Another site to add to my ever-growing list of things to see in Italy.

    Reply
  2. Mairin O'Mahony

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures of La Rotonda. When I was last there it was shrouded for ‘il restauro’ — very disappointing! But it certainly is a gem inside and out. Grazie!

    Reply
  3. Tom Nordby

    Closed on the day we went, though web site said it was open.

    Reply
    • Tom — Despite the unexpected closure, I hope you walked around outside to get glimpses of Palladio’s masterpiece on the hill.

      Reply
  4. Mary Ellen Gadski

    As an architectural historian who has tried hard to photograph the Villa Rotonda for personal pleasure, I am dazzled by just how beautiful these photos are. As always , the text is intelligent, especially in explaining why the villa is a masterpiece. But the lens cap did come off once, didn’t it? Lucky you with the private tour. Did you go upstairs?

    Reply
    • Mary — The lone interior shot was provided by Sig. Valmarana. No upstairs tour as Niccolo’s father was in residence when we visited.

      Reply

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