The mainland region surrounding Venice is called the Veneto. This is where the nobility of Venice would escape to when the canals became too stinky to bear in the hottest months. Most of us think of escaping to the beach in summer but sometimes green hills and pastures provide much needed shady trees and evening breezes. Nobles had lovely villas built for their perfect getaway homes.
During the 16th century, the architect of choice was Andrea Palladio. He revived the classical style and built many villas which still dot the countryside of the Veneto. His work is considered so significant that in the 1990’s they were given a UNESCO World Heritage Listing; this includes 24 villas and 23 buildings in the city of Vincenza.
In summer many of these buildings open to the public. Probably the best known is Villa Rotonda, a wonderful example of the symmetrically classical style of Palladio This building has been copied in palaces and mansions throughout Europe and England, plus being influential on the US White House and Thomas Jefferson’s own home, Monticello. Villa Rotonda perches on a hillside and is elaborately decorated with frescoes on the inside. It’s open Wednesdays and Saturdays in summer, and the gardens are open every day.
The support of the noble families of Venice meant that Palladio became Chief Architect of the Republic of Venice. If you don’t have time to head inland to see his villas, Palladio also designed Il Redentore church and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, two of the city’s most important and visible buildings. His writings about architecture made him one of the most influential figures in western architecture. If you’re planning to visit the villas, you’ll find it easiest by car as they are dotted throughout the countryside, though it is possible by train, bus and foot. Also, do your research and plan your itinerary as the opening hours vary.