Riviera del Brenta
As the Venetian Republic began to sense a decline in trade with the Orient due to the opening of new trade routes, it recognized the value of expanding its influence on the mainland. By the 14th and 15th centuries, it began acquiring territories on the mainland in order to shift its investments and secure itself both politically and economically.
In doing so they stimulated agricultural development in these mainland territories and with that came a wave of construction of agricultural estates, primarily along the Brenta Canal that flows between the cultural centers of Padua and Venice. Their location along the canal facilitated both transportation and communication.
Over time, the concept of functional estates evolved into holiday residences and Venetian patricians began commissioning famous architects like Palladio, Scamozzi, Longhena and Frigimelica to construct lavish villas along the banks of the Brenta between the 15th and 18th centuries that were embellished with sumptuous frescoes, statues, fountains and gardens.
And so was born villegiatura, the period between June and November when noble Venetians fled to the countryside and engaged in lavish parties, entertainment, and a variety of excesses that preceded Venice’s 18th-century decline.
A great many of the villas still exist today between Malcontenta and Stra, several of which are open to the public. While they can be reached by car, the most scenic way of discovering the Brenta Riviera and its villas is by boat.
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