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The waterway between Venice and Padua

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Daniel Tesfamikael

Villa Pisani bike rideIt is perhaps the most famous and attended itinerary among those suggested to visit the Venetian villas. A waterway long about forty kilometers, which links Venice to Padua by tracing the course of an ancient branch of the river Brenta. From the fifteenth century, it was channeled and harnessed by locks for navigation. Along the Brenta Riviera waterway, directly accessible from the lagoon, we can find the Venetian nobility villas. They are one next to the other, so beautiful and impressive. As a result, this waterway is defined as an extension of the Grand Canal in the mainland.

The Venetian Villas and the Brenta riviera waterway

Vew on the Brenta canal in OriagoThe villas of the Brenta riviera waterway were the “place of delight”. In the modern sense of the term a pure “holiday” residence. Most of all adorned with statues, fountains, aviaries, ornamental gardens, parks, etc … And as today’s tourist resort, the local economy was founded on the “holiday-makers” stay. For sure to satisfy the needs of the rich nobles arriving in their luxurious villas with their private gondola. As well as of those coming up the riviera on a public boat (the Burchiello that ran through the canal regularly), staying in small hotels, rented houses, friends houses.

The villas along the Brenta Riviera waterway are numerous. But in this post I report the most notable for artistic or environmental merits.

From Padua to Venice

Brenta canal DoloThe villas are described starting from the area of Padua descending toward the lagoon. An itinerary that, in some ways, contradicts the historical tradition. In fact, the Venetians were riding up the canal to arrive at their mainland villas. But this solution is more suitable for the needs of modern tourists. First of all, for the progress of the route from a normal environment, through the magic of the waterway until the incomparable spectacle of the lagoon.

This journey starts in the town of Strà and ends at the river mouth, where it opens the Venetian lagoon.
The first villa is Foscarini Rossi that recalls Palladio‘s patterns, and today it’s a shoe museum. Just after, Villa Pisani (now National museum), huge and imposing complex built in the eighteenth century on the site of an earlier villa. The original project was by Girolamo Frigimelica. At his death, in 1732, the assignment of the work passed to Francesco Maria Preti. That completes it in time to celebrate the nomination of Alvise Pisani as doge of Venice.

The towns along the waterway

Continuing, always in Strà, Villa Pisani “la Barbariga” of the 18th century. After a short break in Dolo, to find an angle that still maintains a well-preserved ancient charm with its mill, you arrive in the town of Mira. You pass by villa Venier Contarini, villa Alessandri, Villa Contarini “Dei Leoni”, villa Widmann Rezzonico Foscari. In the village of Oriago you will see villa Priuli Perale, and finally you get to Villa Foscari called “La Malcontenta”. Of all the Venetian villas is, at least in the name, one of the most well known. It’s also one of the most romantically beautiful. Hence its charm is, to some extent, increased even by painful mutilation that the villa had to suffer from the mid-nineteenth century and the first decades of the last century.

Today we can rediscover this wonderful testimony of past centuries in different ways: by car, by bus, by bike, by canoe.

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