The Economy of The Venetian Villas

I wrote about the Villas of the Veneto Region in Palladio ”Unhappy Villa, and Villa La Rotonda, or about Villa Pisani.

These villas are a fundamental component of the historical and cultural heritage of the Veneto region and their importance has been recognized by UNESCO, which included 24 villas by Andrea Palladio among the world heritage sites between 1994 and 1996.

Their diffusion in the territory, beginning in the fifteenth century, influenced the region, contributing profoundly to the characteristics of its landscape, and in particular, it’s economy.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century Venice started to extend its domains to the hinterland, creating a vast domain that extended into the Veneto, Trentino, Friuli and part of Lombardy.

The Venetian nobility gradually acquired vast possessions and invested huge amounts of capital in agriculture, hence favoring the local farmers whoo were running the farms.

These new properties gave rise to villas that took on the dual function of a place of pleasure and the center of farm life, to both benefit the life at the estate in summer months, and back in the palazzi in Venice.

The oldest villas of the nobility, for security reasons, had preserved a structure that reflected their feudal origins. The rural dwellings were generally surrounded by high walls and towers that had a defensive function due to the insecurity of the surrounding area (see the Soave Castle).

The affirmation of the dominion of Venice on the mainland, on the one handd made the territory safer by eliminating the need for such isolation, on the other extended to the regional territory the use of the villa as a place of delight and rest.

In this regard, a central role was played (again), by Andrea Palladio. He resumed the classical conception of the Roman villa of the imperial age seen as a place of rest and philosophical reflection for the noble in which a fundamental function was carried out by the contact with nature and with the surrounding of natural or cultivated landscape.

According to Palladio a prestigious building must have been clearly visible from the countryside, but, at the same time, it had to guarantee good visibility of the surrounding landscape both for economic and aesthetic reasons. The villa, however, always maintained a very close link with agriculture and was often the center of a farm as evidenced by its architectural structure.

The central manor house was always flanked by productive structures such as the large barns that were used for the storage of vehicles and products and the dovecot towers.

The villas spread widely throughout the Veneto, favoring the development of agriculture and the creation of a new landscape. They helped shape the economy and society.

The villas, taken together represent a unique testimony in the national and international panorama in rooting an urban civilization (the Republic of Venice) in a rural territory. Process that favorred the birth of an absolutely unique landscape design.

In short, Venetian villas are not the environment in the landscape, but are part of it, almost like natural forms of the place where they are built.

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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