Listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996, this Palladian building is both a town palace and a villa. It was commissioned to the greatest architect of the time by Francesco Pisani, representative of one of the noblest families in Venice, whose coat of arms stands out on the main façade. It was built around the middle of the 16th century to become not only a centre for the farming activities on the lands owned by the noble household, but also a holiday home. It would seem that Pisani wanted his palace to be built near St. Zeno Castle to challenge its size.

Villa Pisani Placco is on two floors: the owner’s apartments occupy the upper floor,still featuring a special coffered ceiling, while the groundfloor was used to do business or receive tenants. This is the first time a villa shows a double order of semi-columns and a double loggia crowned by a tympanum, a Palladian solution which can also be seen in Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza. Some elegant sculptures with allegories of the Four Seasons in the entrance hall deserve attention from the artistic point of view. They are the work of Alessandro Vittoria, an artist who had shortly before been working in the Palladian Palazzo Thiene in Vicenza.

CURIOSITIES:

  • A room in the villa used to house  an oil painting by Veronese, entitled Dario’s family at the feet of Alessandro [Magno], which is now preserved in the National Gallery in London.
  • The villa, which is privately owned, can be visited inside only on certain days of the year when the owner’s family opens its doors, organizing guided tours with the help of the town’s cultural associations.

Palladio, known to most for his works in the Vicenza area, but actually of Paduan origin, describes the villa in The Four Books of Architecture:

La seguente fabrica è appresso la porta di Montagnana castello del Padoano, e fu edificata dal magnifico signor Francesco Pisani: il quale passato a miglior vita non la ha potuta finire. Le stanze maggiori sono lunghe un quadro e tre quarti: i volti sono a schiffo, alti secondo il secondo modo delle altezze de’ volti; le mediocri sono quadre, & involtate a cadino. I camerini, e l’andito sono di uguale larghezza: i volti loro sono alti due quadri. La entrata ha quattro colonne, il quinto più sottili di quelle di fuori: le quali sostentano il pavimento della sala, e fanno l’altezza del volto bella, e secura. Nei quattro nicchi, che vi si veggono sono stati scolpiti i quattro tempi dell’anno da messer Alessandro Vittoria scultore eccellente. Il primo ordine delle colonne è dorico, il secondo ionico. Le stanze di sopra sono in solaro. L’altezza della sala giunge fin sotto il tetto. Ha questa fabrica due strade dai fianchi, dove sono due porte, sopra le quali vi sono anditi, che conducono in cucina, e luoghi per servitori.

Poet and painter Giambattista Maganza, the so-called Magagnò, callsthe place a “Paraiso” (Heaven). He was among the artists that used to be invited to the villa by Francesco Pisani, who loved to surround himself with a small court of men of letters and artists, including Palladio, Veronese, playwright Ruzante and sculptor Alessandro Vittoria:

El Pallabio, Menon, e Magagnò,
Pianze con pianzerae tanti puttieggi
El so Pisan, ch’è sotto a sti quarieggi,
E el pianzerà fin che g’harà el fiò.

Vegniesia è ricca, e grande con se sà,
Tamentre un vertuoso poueretto
Solamen da un Pisan g’heua recetto
Ch’a bella forza el se’l tiraua in chà.

Chiue è un Pisan pì slibral verso agnon
De sier Mezenà, perche quel nascé
A i buoni tiempi, e questo a’n tempo chè,
L’iera tegnù virtù l’esser poltron.

Dasche Pisan tiè morto el m’è deuiso,
Che’l pianza inchin le prì de’l to pallazzo
Da Montagnana, ch’iera de solazzo,
E de vertù, e de requie un Paraiso

The area around the villa is called Borgo Veneziano as it housed luxurious residences of Venetian patricians. Across the road from Villa Pisani is the imposing Palazzo Giusti-Chinaglia, now home to the city’s disabled center, which houses a park behind with original greenhouses and iceboxes. On the same side of Villa Placco, instead, stands Palazzo Giusti Sammartini and the fifteenth-century Gatteschi house, linked to the great captain of fortune Gattamelata. Note the delicacy of shapes of Ca ’Mocenigo, the hunting lodge known as the Loggetta del Veneziano, which recalls the small Tuscan hospitals of the ‘400 with its colonnaded portico and its proportions.

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