The Brenta Riviera is made up of districts and green spots along the ancient course of a river linking Padova to Venice. This was the ideal extension of Venice onto the mainland, almost a continuation of the lagoon city: between the 16th and 18th centuries the Brenta Riviera experienced a golden age which turned it into a privileged holiday resort for rich Venetian nobles.
They built dozens and dozens of villas along its riverbanks, designed and decorated by masters of Italian art, visited by artists, popes, kings and men of culture, envied for their beauty, inhabited as country seats where they celebrated with ritual floating processions, sumptuous dinners and festivities lasting until dawn. Buildings of the villas along the Riviera began in the 15th century, when Venice extended its dominion over the mainland.
Already by the 16th century, there were gems such as villa Foscari at Malcontenta, designed by Palladio, or villa Soranzo at Fiesso with its outside frescoed by Paolo Veronese’s brother. In the subsequent century, the flights steps down onto the water’s edge increased, gardens were peopled with busts and baroque decorations such as in villa Morosini in Mirano and villa Sagredo in Vigonovo.
In the 18th century these spaces were expanded through ingenious perspectives creating triumphs such as villa Widmann at Mira Porte and villa Pisani at Stra, a genuine Doge’s palace on dry land.
Lovers of Italian art forms can find an infinite number of attractions on the Brenta Riviera. The architecture of the villas is remarkable for the variety of styles which go from the 16th-century austerity to the unleashed fantasies of the 17th century, then on to the rational style of the 18th century. It is also worth recalling the churches Villa Angeliwith their wealth of precious paintings and the simple but interesting examples of lesser architecture. Inside the villas there are whole cycles of paintings.
From March to October, the stately homes are best admired from the water’s edge; the opportunity is provided by the Burchiello, the legendary boat mentioned by Goldoni which daily links Padua to Venice, stopping off to enable visits to the most beautiful villas on the Riviera.