Take last Saturday, for example.
The sun was shining bright high up in the skies above Vicenza. A leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs, Asiago cheese and speck was made even better by us deciding on the plan for the day without any uh-ming, ah-ing and constantly changing our minds.
We knew we didn’t want to travel too far or engage in a strenuous sightseeing programme, so we quickly pinpointed the target for the day.
Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’.
Designed by Palladio, the villa is one of the most copied architectural works in the Western world due to its symmetrical construction and perfect alignment with the four cardinal points. We have glimpsed it often driving in and out of Vicenza – harmoniously perched on top of a hill, arresting the eyes with its elegant colonnades, identically repeated on all four sides of the building.
In less than ten minutes after piling into our little red car, we were at the gate of La Rotonda, eager to experience for ourselves this architectural gem.
A gravel driveway led us from the road all the way up to the building.
We started with a walk around the villa, savouring the warm day and experiencing for ourselves the wonder many famous (like Goethe) and not so famous (like the constant touristic stream) people have felt when faced with Palladio’s sublime work.
The garden which surrounds the building is not overly landscaped. There are green lawns with some flower beds, some rose bushes and not much else. I was slightly surprised by this. On the other hand, the lack of pernickety landscaping work allows you to concentrate on the building itself and appreciate its utmost symmetry.
Up close and personal the villa felt slightly heavier and more angular than the elegant shape which seems to float on top of the hill when you see it from the road passing at the bottom of it. At the same time, once you are on the green lawns and by the steep stairs leading to the villa’s front doors, you can truly appreciate the fabulous views it commands towards the Monte Berico’s Sanctuary, the river Bacchiglione and the fields surrounding Vicenza.
A real visual delight awaits you once you enter the villa. It is like no other living space I have ever seen. There is an internal balcony circumnavigating the circular main hall; steep spiral staircases hidden behind heavy doors slotted in the walls; and sumptuous frescoes and statues adorning every inch of available space.
The ceilings are fabulously painted, too. Huge fireplaces with richly decorated mantelpieces feature in each room. Tiny windows look down into the main hall.
The dome crowning the villa had been originally meant to be left open in the fashion of the oculus of the Pantheon in Rome. Hence right in the middle of the floor of the main hall there is a pothole designed to collect any incoming rain water and snow. The original plans for the dome were eventually changed and it was fully covered, but the pothole remains with the most whimsical cover in the shape of a smiling satyr’s face.
Photos are not allowed inside the villa, so, please, use your imagination and paint in your mind the most extravagant and sumptuous living space you could ever think of.
Right next to it, is what looks like an old cellar. It was empty and slightly eerie. See for yourselves.
After that we waved good-bye to Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’ – this most amazing building that has inspired and informed architectural choices through the four and a half centuries since it was built.
It was time for us to enjoy our morning in a different way.
We found a great pasticceria right at the bottom of the hill crowned by La Rotonda.
There was no time to take a proper photo of our careful selection of cakes and sweets – so eager we were to dig in. My coffee con panna was pure perfection – with the cream whipped into a light cloud which enhanced the flavour of the coffee and melted satisfyingly on the tongue.
Well, what can I say?!
A bit of culture and a bit of sugar… It was a perfect morning, just how all mornings should be.
Tips for Optimising Your Visit to Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’
1. Parking is restricted. You can park for free at the bottom of the hill, right after the above mentioned pasticceria, for up to one hour.
2. The villa is open for interior visits only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check the villa’s website for precise opening times, as there is a three-hour long lunch break on those days.
3. The price of the ticket giving you access to both the grounds and the interior of the villa is 10 euros per person.
4. The villa is on top of a hill, there is a slight slope to navigate from the parking at the bottom of the hill to the villa itself. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
5. Photos and videos are not allowed inside the villa itself.
6. After you visit the villa, make sure that you drive or walk past it on the road which goes by the bottom of the hill for some spectacular panoramic views.