Paolo Almerico

A home for an only person

The Rotonda is the happy result of the encounter between the genius Andrea Palladio, who was at the peak of his career, and Paolo Almerico (1514-1589), a cultured and ambitious nobleman from Vicenza. The latter was a member of the clergy who, after his role as an apostolic referendar, decided to retreat to a private life to his city of birth. In 1565 he entrusted Palladio with building his new home on a hill in the outskirts of Vicenza. He wished for a pastoral refuge where he could spend the last years of his life away from the city aristocracy’s hostility, whilst being in a symbolic and visible place.

«The interior can certainly be described as habitable, but not made to be lived in. The main hall’s proportions are beautiful, just like the floors and the bedrooms, nonetheless it could barely be accepted as a summer residence for a distinguished family»: Goethe’s words after his visit to the villa in 1786 highlight the eccentricity of this architectural project in comparison to other palladian villas. The interiors, infact, are designed for a single person, just like the building’s geometry and the symbolic references that continuously celebrate its owner, Paolo Almerico. The rotonda unites within itself both the agricultural purposes typical of a rural Veneto villa, and the sacral dimension of a pagan temple (as shown by the four pronai’s columns) and placing the 16th century man in the center. This is therefore a temple-villa, where antiquity meets the renaissance’s  nobleman and where, just like in a microcosm, natural and cosmic forces are manifested.

Neither Palladio nor Almerico lived to see the finished villa: when the architect died, Vincenzo Scamozzi (1548-1616) took charge of the building site in 1580. Scamozzi, disciple and refined designer added both long barchessa along the path in the entrance and completed the dome, not in a hemispherical shape but with a lowered vault with a central oculo inspired by Rome’s Pantheon.



Paolo Almerico

A home for an only person

The Rotonda is the happy result of the encounter between the genius Andrea Palladio, who was at the peak of his career, and Paolo Almerico (1514-1589), a cultured and ambitious nobleman from Vicenza. The latter was a member of the clergy who, after his role as an apostolic referendar, decided to retreat to a private life to his city of birth. In 1565 he entrusted Palladio with building his new home on a hill in the outskirts of Vicenza. He wished for a pastoral refuge where he could spend the last years of his life away from the city aristocracy’s hostility, whilst being in a symbolic and visible place.

«The interior can certainly be described as habitable, but not made to be lived in. The main hall’s proportions are beautiful, just like the floors and the bedrooms, nonetheless it could barely be accepted as a summer residence for a distinguished family»: Goethe’s words after his visit to the villa in 1786 highlight the eccentricity of this architectural project in comparison to other palladian villas. The interiors, infact, are designed for a single person, just like the building’s geometry and the symbolic references that continuously celebrate its owner, Paolo Almerico. The rotonda unites within itself both the agricultural purposes typical of a rural Veneto villa, and the sacral dimension of a pagan temple (as shown by the four pronai’s columns) and placing the 16th century man in the center. This is therefore a temple-villa, where antiquity meets the renaissance’s nobleman and where, just like in a microcosm, natural and cosmic forces are manifested.

Neither Palladio nor Almerico lived to see the finished villa: when the architect died, Vincenzo Scamozzi (1548-1616) took charge of the building site in 1580. Scamozzi, disciple and refined designer added both long barchessa along the path in the entrance and completed the dome, not in a hemispherical shape but with a lowered vault with a central oculo inspired by Rome’s Pantheon.



The Capra Family

A 200 year old ownership

When Paolo Almerico died, the villa was passed on to his son Virgilio, who kept it for two years before ceding it to his brothers Odorico and Mario Capra: in 1605 all construction work terminated.

The Capra family, members of the local nobility, kept the villa until the start of the 16th century. Many interventions and transformations took place to keep the villa up to the latest fashion standards: the fresco decorations in the dome and in the corner room in the late 16th century, the realisation of the stucco and the positioning of the sculptures on the acroteria between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, the construction of the chapel designed by Girolamo Albanese around 1650 (today in the nearby Villa Valmarana’s part in Nani), the painter Louis Dorigny’s contribution on the central hall’s walls in honor of Marzio and Cecilia Capra’s wedding in the first years of the 18th century to the more complex structural interventions by Francesco Muttoni between 1725 and 1740. He subdivided the attic, which in the palladian era was conceived as an open space granary.

From 1818 Villa Almerico Capra underwent various changes of ownership. It was damaged during the austrian attacks on Vicenza in 1948 and was renovated numerous times until it was purchased by the Valmarana family in 1912.



The Capra Family

A 200 year old ownership

When Paolo Almerico died, the villa was passed on to his son Virgilio, who kept it for two years before ceding it to his brothers Odorico and Mario Capra: in 1605 all construction work terminated.

The Capra family, members of the local nobility, kept the villa until the start of the 16th century. Many interventions and transformations took place to keep the villa up to the latest fashion standards: the fresco decorations in the dome and in the corner room in the late 16th century, the realisation of the stucco and the positioning of the sculptures on the acroteria between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, the construction of the chapel designed by Girolamo Albanese around 1650 (today in the nearby Villa Valmarana’s part in Nani), the painter Louis Dorigny’s contribution on the central hall’s walls in honor of Marzio and Cecilia Capra’s wedding in the first years of the 18th century to the more complex structural interventions by Francesco Muttoni between 1725 and 1740. He subdivided the attic, which in the palladian era was conceived as an open space granary.

From 1818 Villa Almerico Capra underwent various changes of ownership. It was damaged during the austrian attacks on Vicenza in 1948 and was renovated numerous times until it was purchased by the Valmarana family in 1912.



The villa's chronology

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The villa's chronology

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The decoration

Frescos, stucco and sculptures

Upon entering the noble floor one can’t help but notice the jubilation of frescos and stucco: the villa’s interior is different to what Palladio must have imagined, since each generation of owners brought new decorations in line with the fashion of their time period.

Statues had been placed on the stair’s buttress before 1570 by Lorenzo Rubini; only those on the south-west pronao were replaced due to the damage caused by the austrian attack in 1848. In the first years of the 17th century sculptures of male and female deities were placed on Giambattista Albanese’s workshop acroteria, while those placed on Scamozzi’s barchesse and along the boundary wall that runs along the north-west entry path belong to the 18th century, just like the group with Ercole che uccide il leone Nemeo in the garden’s nymphaeum.

Between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century the ceilings in the four corner rooms, the noble floor’s dressing rooms and the dome were decorated with frescoes of allegories of religion and virtues painted by Alessandro Maganza a painter who clearly studied in Verona. Only the eastern hall had been painted in earlier days, possibly by Anselmo Canera.

The stucco belong for the most part to two distinct eras: the rich and imaginative chimney hoods, the ceiling (with contributions by Ottavio Ridolfi, Ruggero Bascapè, Domenico Fontana and maybe Alessandro Vittoria) and dome (perhaps made by Agostino Rubini) stucco; whilst the sumptuous overdoors, clearly different from palladian designs and made by artists from Valsorda, belong to the beginning of the 19th century.

The intervention by the Valsolda modelists is part of the great redecoration in honor of Marzio and Cecilia Capra, along with the decorations and frescoes by Louis Dorigny, famous french painter who mainly worked in the Venetian Republic, in the central round hall: here eight gigantic Olympian deities raise surrounded by a tromp-l’oeil architectural design. This room’s floor is finished with a low relief grotesque mask.



The decoration

Frescos, stucco and sculptures

Upon entering the noble floor one can’t help but notice the jubilation of frescos and stucco: the villa’s interior is different to what Palladio must have imagined, since each generation of owners brought new decorations in line with the fashion of their time period.

Statues had been placed on the stair’s buttress before 1570 by Lorenzo Rubini; only those on the south-west pronao were replaced due to the damage caused by the austrian attack in 1848. In the first years of the 17th century sculptures of male and female deities were placed on Giambattista Albanese’s workshop acroteria, while those placed on Scamozzi’s barchesse and along the boundary wall that runs along the north-west entry path belong to the 18th century, just like the group with Ercole che uccide il leone Nemeo in the garden’s nymphaeum.

Between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century the ceilings in the four corner rooms, the noble floor’s dressing rooms and the dome were decorated with frescoes of allegories of religion and virtues painted by Alessandro Maganza a painter who clearly studied in Verona. Only the eastern hall had been painted in earlier days, possibly by Anselmo Canera.

The stucco belong for the most part to two distinct eras: the rich and imaginative chimney hoods, the ceiling (with contributions by Ottavio Ridolfi, Ruggero Bascapè, Domenico Fontana and maybe Alessandro Vittoria) and dome (perhaps made by Agostino Rubini) stucco; whilst the sumptuous overdoors, clearly different from palladian designs and made by artists from Valsorda, belong to the beginning of the 19th century.

The intervention by the Valsolda modelists is part of the great redecoration in honor of Marzio and Cecilia Capra, along with the decorations and frescoes by Louis Dorigny, famous french painter who mainly worked in the Venetian Republic, in the central round hall: here eight gigantic Olympian deities raise surrounded by a tromp-l’oeil architectural design. This room’s floor is finished with a low relief grotesque mask.



The villa today

A new destiny with the Valmarana family

La Rotonda is a world famous icon, but for the Valmaranas it’s also a home. The count Andrea Valmarana purchased it in terrible conditions in 1912, inhabiting it during summer months until the 70s. During the Second World War it was partially occupied by germans and damaged due to the numerous nearby bombings.

Major restoration works, financed by the owners, started in 1976. In 1980 La Rotonda was opened to the public, the villa’s interiors followed in 1986. In 1994 the villa was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first palladian monument to receive such recognition, followed by the “city of Vicenza and Palladio’s villas in Veneto”.

Throughout the centuries the villa received many illustrious visitors: artists, architects, writers but also statesmen and monarchs like the King of England Edward VIII accompanied by his wife in 1936.

Villa Rotonda Rotonda is also a suitable film set: some may remember the famous 18th century scene shot on the steps in Joseph Losey’s Don Giovanni in 1979.

The current landowners will follow count Adrea’s footsteps, integrating his will to upkeep the villa from an architectural perspective whilst also keeping it alive, not only as a private residence but also as something precious to hand down to future generations.



The villa today

A new destiny with the Valmarana family

La Rotonda is a world famous icon, but for the Valmaranas it’s also a home. The count Andrea Valmarana purchased it in terrible conditions in 1912, inhabiting it during summer months until the 70s. During the Second World War it was partially occupied by germans and damaged due to the numerous nearby bombings.

Major restoration works, financed by the owners, started in 1976. In 1980 La Rotonda was opened to the public, the villa’s interiors followed in 1986. In 1994 the villa was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first palladian monument to receive such recognition, followed by the “city of Vicenza and Palladio’s villas in Veneto”.

Throughout the centuries the villa received many illustrious visitors: artists, architects, writers but also statesmen and monarchs like the King of England Edward VIII accompanied by his wife in 1936.

Villa Rotonda Rotonda is also a suitable film set: some may remember the famous 18th century scene shot on the steps in Joseph Losey’s Don Giovanni in 1979.

The current landowners will follow count Adrea’s footsteps, integrating his will to upkeep the villa from an architectural perspective whilst also keeping it alive, not only as a private residence but also as something precious to hand down to future generations.



La Rotonda as a model

Palladianism in the world

«Perhaps architecture has never reached such a level of magnificence». J.W. Goethe after visiting the Rotonda in 1786

Villa Rotonda, an unprecedented and unique architectural work by Palladio, has been extraordinarily popular since the end of the 16th century (its first imitation, although with substantial modifications, is Rocca Pisana built by Vincenzo Scamozzi around 1577) and inspired loyal reproductions and derivations to the present day. Its structure, perfectly classic and modern at the same time, has made it a universal icon of equilibrium and harmony of proportions, a model for many projects well beyond Vicenza and Veneto.

During a trip to Italy in the XVII century, the english architect Inigo Jones was astounded by the Rotonda and Palladio’s villas: it was him who spread Palladianesim over the channel, reaching its peak with Lord Burlington in the 18th century and then extending to the rest of Europe and to Russia’s architects such asQuarenghi, Cameron and Rossi up to the United States and its colonies.

Palladian architecture was perceived as the result of a highly moral and aesthetic era: for this reason Palladio represented the ideal founder for the new american state’s independence. He was in fact nominated “father of american architecture” in 2010.

Thomas Jefferson, architect and third president of the United States, fully comprehended the worthiness of the palladian principles for a new nation and saw in Villa Rotonda a replicable and adaptable construction model. The most dazzling examples of american palladianism are Jefferson’s villa in Charlottesville (1770’1775), The University of Virginia, with the Rotunda as emblematic building for the campus, the unique details of Paolo Almerico’s villa, brought to the extreme, can still be seen in the White House and the Capitol in Washington.

The universal teachings of the Rotonda has inspired famous XX century architects: in Le Corbusier’s (1928-1931) Villa Savoye’s background, so abstract and clear, you can still feel the mathematical and geometrical rigor of the villa that symbolises Palladio



La Rotonda as a model

Palladianism in the world

«Perhaps architecture has never reached such a level of magnificence». J.W. Goethe after visiting the Rotonda in 1786.

Villa Rotonda, an unprecedented and unique architectural work by Palladio, has been extraordinarily popular since the end of the 16th century (its first imitation, although with substantial modifications, is Rocca Pisana built by Vincenzo Scamozzi around 1577) and inspired loyal reproductions and derivations to the present day. Its structure, perfectly classic and modern at the same time, has made it a universal icon of equilibrium and harmony of proportions, a model for many projects well beyond Vicenza and Veneto.

During a trip to Italy in the XVII century, the english architect Inigo Jones was astounded by the Rotonda and Palladio’s villas: it was him who spread Palladianesim over the channel, reaching its peak with Lord Burlington in the 18th century and then extending to the rest of Europe and to Russia’s architects such asQuarenghi, Cameron and Rossi up to the United States and its colonies.

Palladian architecture was perceived as the result of a highly moral and aesthetic era: for this reason Palladio represented the ideal founder for the new american state’s independence. He was in fact nominated “father of american architecture” in 2010.

Thomas Jefferson, architect and third president of the United States, fully comprehended the worthiness of the palladian principles for a new nation and saw in Villa Rotonda a replicable and adaptable construction model. The most dazzling examples of american palladianism are Jefferson’s villa in Charlottesville (1770’1775), The University of Virginia, with the Rotunda as emblematic building for the campus, the unique details of Paolo Almerico’s villa, brought to the extreme, can still be seen in the White House and the Capitol in Washington.

The universal teachings of the Rotonda has inspired famous XX century architects: in Le Corbusier’s (1928-1931) Villa Savoye’s background, so abstract and clear, you can still feel the mathematical and geometrical rigor of the villa that symbolises Palladio