The architectural style of Palladio, Veneto, Italy

The Veneto region of Italy is filled with elegant, historic, country houses – many built in the Palladian architectural style, developed in the 16th century by Andrea Palladio.

Andrea Palladio was a young man from Vicenza, just north-west of Venice. He started life as a stonemason. He was supported and helped by humanist and writer Gian Giorgio Trissino. Trissino recognised Palladio’s talent and sent him to Rome to learn about the classical Roman principles of architecture. In Rome, the young architect learned about Vitruvius, the most famous Roman master builder and designer. He learned too about the importance of symmetry and balance when planning a large house, palace or public building. Palladio’s legacy lives on today five hundred years after his death. Even now in north-eastern Italy there are more than forty country houses (villas) still standing that are attributed to Palladio.

He was the Frank Lloyd Wright of his day. The darling of the wealthy merchant class. Aristocratic Venetian families were queuing to have a country house designed by the great Palladio. After his travels to Rome, he returned back to his home region of north-east Italy where he designed & built country houses, public buildings and churches over a career that spanned the 16th century. His customers were families like the Barbaro Brothers (at Maser), Leonardo Emo (at Fanzolo) and the Foscari family at Malcontenta (very near Venice). These families were in search of the very best architect of the day to create magnificent country estates where they could entertain and impress important guests and live in significant style and elegance, befitting their status and importance.

Palladio has influenced generations of architects. At the time of his death he left a legacy of more than forty country houses, many palaces and several churches. His design and style was copied extensively. Today the Villas of the Veneto of significant ‘historic interest’ number about 4500 properties. Villa Emo is a firm favourite of mine, built as the family home of Leonardo Emo, at the time of his marriage in 1558, it was owned by the Emo family for almost five centuries. The house is a delightful symmetric construction about a central square portico. Inside the house is filled with colour, frescoes, fun and joy. The Zelotti frescoes are sparkling and brilliant. The numerous examples of trompe l’oeil paintings are a visual feast for the eyes.

Palladio often worked in association with the great painters of the day. A perfect example is Villa Barbaro at Maser. Paolo Veronese, a fantastic artist and contemporary of Palladio was commissioned to decorate the inside of Villa Barbaro whilst Palladio designed the magnificent building itself. Here are just a few of the charming and whimsical paintings that line the walls of Villa Barbaro. There is comedy and joy around every corner.

The amazing thing about Palladio is the modernity and popularity of his legacy even today. Over the last few years the almost unknown Villa Forni Cerato, located in the small town of Montecchio Precalcino has been protected and it’s future secured by a group of local people creating a foundation to organise funding for maintenance and restoration works. I will be visiting this fantastic project soon.

Over the next eighteen months I’ll be planning and conducting a variety of visits to the Palladian Villas of the Veneto region including lesser known properties. If you’d like to join me drop me a line, my contact details are at the end of this article.

The Veneto region is green and lush. Snow capped mountains to the north and emerald green fields to the south. Rivers dissect the plains carrying Alpine water out to the lagoon of Venice and the Adriatic Sea. It is a magical and verdant land. I’d strongly recommend a visit.

Over the last few years I’ve written extensively about Palladio and the Palladian villas of the Veneto. Here are a selection of my articles:

Villa Malcontenta – mysterious Palladian masterpiece

Villa Emo –

Villa Barbaro, Maser – More here on:

To discover more about Villa Forni Cerato – here’s the web site:

For general background on the Veneto villas: Palladian Villas of Veneto

To learn more about the Veneto – browse this blog

Author Janet Simmonds – e-mail: – I welcome enquiries for specialist travel throughout Italy, especially Venice and the Veneto area. Happy Travels in 2020.