Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

March 9, 2015 / Places
Piombino Dese, Veneto
Framing Palladio: Villa CornaroDuring its heyday, the Doges and aristocrats of Venice built like crazy more than 4,300 sprawling, warm-weather estates in the countryside that enhanced the coffers of the money-mad merchants of La Serenissima. Of these, only 22 still stand today that were designed by Andrea Palladio, the most influential individual in the history of western architecture.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro“Arriving at destination,” Ms. Garman announces as I come to a halt right outside Via Roma 35 in Piombino Dese, the address of Villa Cornaro and the latest stop on my “Framing Palladio” photo-shoot series.

Here to greet me are Carl and Sally Gable, an American couple from Atlanta, GA and the proud owners of Villa Cornaro, who agree to show me around their May-to-September humble abode.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

Framing Palladio: Villa CornaroLocated about 30 km (18 mi.) from Venice, Villa Cornaro was designed by Palladio in 1551 for Giorgio Cornaro, the son of a Procurator of San Marco — the second most-prestigious life appointment, just below a Doge of Venice — and the brother of Catherine Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus. The initial move-in construction of the villa was quickly completed in 1553.

Framing Palladio: Villa CornaroA design challenge from the start, the land to support the villa was narrow, bookended by a barchese (barn) and a pre-existing villa; so, Palladio had to design upward, not outward like he did with his previous villa projects.

The result was the introduction of the first-ever, two-tier, projected portico-loggia at the front, which steps out from the main structure. This elegant, innovative paradigm shift greatly influenced Western architecture, becoming a dominant theme in Georgian, Adam and Colonial American architectural styles.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

Framing Palladio: Villa CornaroThe harmonious arrangement of interior space — approximately 20,000 ft2 (1,858 m2) — consists of 14 major rooms, 4 minor ones, a cantina (cellar), a granaro (granary), 160+ windows and 44 pairs of shutters.

The rooms are adorned with an 18th century fresco cycle of 104 New Testament-themed panels, with their surprising freemason symbolism, painted by Mattia Bortoloni, along with a private, family portrait gallery of stuccos by Camillo Mariani that include full-figure statues of Doge Marco Cornaro and the aforementioned Queen Catherine.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

Outside, the beauty of Villa Cornaro’s exterior shines. From the small, labyrinthine front garden to the spacious, you-can-see-forever backyard with its grass-covered brick footbridge that crosses over what used to be a peschiera (fishpond) to the ornate gate at the property’s edge.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro
Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro
Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

The scenes are so atmospheric that I’m almost tempted to ask the Gables if they’d consider taking me on as a renter. One of the broom closets will do just fine.

Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro

NOTE: Villa Cornaro is open year-round to groups of ten or more by appointment only. To book, email mioriky@gmail.com or call +39 049-936-5017. Visits by individuals are limited to the May-September period on Saturdays only from 3:30-6:00 p.m. For more information on Villa Cornaro, visit the official Villa Cornaro website, or read the book Palladian Days: Finding a New Life in a Venetian Country House by Sally and Carl Gable.

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.”

11 Responses to “Framing Palladio: Villa Cornaro”

  1. Hi Tom, as ever a great article. I am fascinated with Palladio and love reading your interesting posts. A couple of years ago, I saw in the Internet an old ruin of Palladio’s, not too big, in need of repair. It was located up your way. Do you know anything about that building. I think it was for sale at the time.

    Reply
    • Ave — Thanks for your comments. Villa Emo sold in 2004. It’s located in Fanzolo di Vedelago near Treviso. Perhaps that’s the Palladian villa you came across that was for sale.

      Reply
  2. Dr Micael Kissane

    “Andrea Palladio, the most influential individual in the history of western architecture.” Tom I love Palladio and his buildings, but I think you have gone too far with your claim. In terms of influence on western architecture he was not as influential as Brunelleschi of Alberti, upon whose shoulders he stands, nor indeed Vitruvius, who, although not as great an architect as Palladio, has been far more influential due to his collection and publication of classical motifs which have affected architects now for 2000 years and indeed was crucial to Palladio himself. Great photos – mille grazie.

    Reply
    • Micael — Granted, Palladio was greatly influenced by Greek-Roman classicism in his designs, primarily by Vitruvius, but he is considered by scholars, historians and UNESCO to be the most influential person in the history of WESTERN architecture.

      His treatise, “The Four Books of Architecture,” have had a profound influence on Western design, and his well imitated style gave rise to the movement known as Palladianism that lasted for the better part of three centuries. The city of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto are one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. I love Palladio, too. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Reply
  3. David Barneby

    Thanks for your interesting article and beautiful photos . Carl and Sally Gable have done a wonderful job restoring this beautiful villa . Palladio was really famous for his imposing porticos , but here we see behind it the simplicity of the simple Italian country house architecture . The interior looks magnificent , even with some fine paintings , no matter if not of the period , it is lovely to see a house well furnished .

    Reply
    • Anne — Thanks for the reply. You definitely must come up to the land of the Most Serene Republic of Venice soon.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to louise

Click here to cancel reply.