In Italy, unlike many other places around the world, old buildings don’t die and make way for parking lots and shopping malls, they’re painstakingly restored.
One such renovation project is the Villa Saraceno in Finale di Agugliaro, a small country village midway between Vicenza and Padova in the Basso Vicentino.
Built by Andrea Palladio, the father of western architecture, around 1545 as the centerpiece for an existing farm owned by Biagio Saraceno, the villa caught fire in 1798 and was severely damaged, partitioned off and used as a community farmhouse in the late 1800s, converted into tenement dwellings during World War II, and by the 1980s it was totally abandoned, derelict and forgotten.
With barely a pulse left in its facade, Villa Saraceno was plucked off the building emporium scrap heap by The Landmark Trust, a British charity charged with rescuing significant historic buildings at risk.
Purchased in 1989, The Landmark Trust breathed new life into Villa Saraceno with a tedious five-year restoration project that culminated with the reopening of its doors and windows in 1994.
One of the earliest and most modest of High Renaissance master builder Palladio’s manors, the Villa Saraceno is one of 24 venerable estates still in existence today that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.”
The villa house was erected on the preexisting farm with great precision, facing due south to maximize sunlight and frame the views of the mountains in the distance.
Inside, masterful high-beamed ceilings adorned with frescoes take your breath away, and the large rooms and spacious accommodations tell you immediately that once upon a time some noble family occupied the space.
A sturdy granary stretches underneath the roofline where it once preserved the fruits of this working estate’s labor, while a long, underground cellar kept wooden barriques of locally produced wines tucked quietly away.
Today, thanks to The Landmark Trust, parts of the villa are open to the public. While most Palladian villas are for viewing only, the Villa Saraceno is also available for self-catered holidays. Accommodating up to 16 people, an extended family can experience the villa as if it were their very own.
For more information on the Villa Saracino, visit The Landmark Trust website.
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
, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based The Palladian Traveler.com , and is a member of the TravelingBoy.com . Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.” International Travel Writers Alliance