Down at the bottom of a serpentine secondary state road, where a shallow lagoon fronts the striped asphalt, sits an ornate pavilion where once upon a time small craft, negotiating the shallow waters of the Valle di San Eusebio in the volcano-dotted landscape of the Colli Euganei (Eugenean Hills), came to rest to offload their cargo: provisions and VIP guests.
It’s the grand entryway — Diana’s Pavilion — to the peace and quiet of Villa Barbarigo in Valsanzibio di Galzignano Terme and it’s stately, fountain-filled, park-like gardens that don’t lack for superlatives.
This was the time back when High Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio’s clear and sober imprint across La Serenissima begrudgingly gave way to a new idea in architectural design: Baroque and its flair for the dramatic. And there’s no better place to sample this 17th century, new-kid-on-the-block movement than by taking a stroll around the gardens of Villa Barbarigo, the so-called Versailles of the Colli Euganei.
Located just 15 km south of Padova, the greenery of the Villa Barbarigo, honored as one of Europe’s most beautiful gardens, sprung to life back in 1669 when the villa’s owner, Zuane Francesco Barbarigo, a Venetian nobleman, commissioned Luigi Bernini, the Vatican’s architect-in-residence and fountain builder extraordinaire, to draw up a design and put in place a fairytale-like setting that would turn heads and clearly announce that the Baroque movement had arrived in the Most Serene Republic of Venice.
The gardens meander across 40 acres of terraced land in one of the valleys of the Colli Euganei, divided into well-manicured, thematic parcels and mazes accented by ornate fountains, fish ponds, cascades and streams — 33 water features in all — and 60 life-size statues sprinkled around for good measure.
It’s really poetry in motion the moment you step out from underneath Sileno’s Archway and begin to wind your way around and through the 17th century that ends at the spear-tipped, wrought-iron fence fronting the Villa Barbarigo.
The gardens of the Villa Barbarigo are open to the public Monday-Saturday from March 1-November 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. until sunset. Sundays and major Italian holidays the park is open continuously from 10:00 a.m. until sunset. For complete information, visit the official Villa Barbarigo website.