Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Laura Teso
Villa Malcontenta was designed by architect Andrea Palladio in 1558 for the Foscari family as a suburban mansion, easy to reach from Venice by boat. It is in fact located along the Brenta river, 13 km from Venice.
Its actual name would be Villa Foscari, but everybody calls it Villa Malcontenta. The name is due to a legend. A lady of the Foscari family, Elisabetta, was here confined in solitude for her last 30 years to serve the sentence for her licentious conduct (in the 1800). Malcontenta means in fact discontent or sad. Many people still say they have seen the ghost of a beautiful red haired lady gracefully moving in the park on new moon nights. Actually it seems that Venetians already called this area Malcontenta in the Middle Ages with the meaning of “mal contenuta” (badly contained) referring to the frequent river overflowing.
After a long state of abandon, the Villa was restored twice in the past century and, since 1973, has returned to the Foscari family thanks to the acquistion by Antonio Tonci Foscari.
Despite its fame, I had never visited this villa before so I was very curious to see it and learn more about it. We arrived at the Malcontena suburb and parked along via Pallada. The sun was shining but some threatening grey clouds were already approaching. And that’s when we made an optimistic mistake: we decided to leave the umbrella in the car.
Whenever the weather is changeable, always bring the umbrella. It normally assures you to maintain the sun. And to have the burden of the umbrella of course. But it is somehow a fair retribution. When you leave the umbrella home/in the car… è matematico che piova (it is a scientific fact that it will rain).
Villa Malcontenta – The visit
We reached the villa gate and read the sign: To visit the villa ring the bell. An actual bell with a long chain. So don’t look for a modern doorbell. Soon a lady arrived to open the gate and collect the 10€ fee (each).
The first thing you see is the rear façade embellished by a creeper plant and surrounded by the park.
You then reach the front. Villa Foscari stands proudly on a pedestal, with its ionic Roman temple style façade and the two sides staircases. It is even more remarkable if you think to the poor raw materials used to build it: mainly bricks and plaster.
Villa Malcontenta has three levels (but you basically visit only the first floor):
- ground floor for functional activities
- first floor called noble floor where the family lived
- top floor that was the goods deposit
At the so called noble floor (reachable on the rear side, climbing the stairs – no lift) you can admire a fine frescoes cycle by Zelotti and Franco inspired to the Metamorphosis by Ovidio (as I already wrote in a previous post, a true best seller of the time). The frescoes cover both the walls and the ceilings with scenes such as
- Prometheus steals fire to Jupiter
- The Fall of the Giants
- Arts and Virtues
- Aurora’s chariot pulled by the Hours
- Bacchus and Venus
Pity I could not take photos of the interior! So you have to trust my words. And I declare: Frescoes are beautiful, worth a visit but maybe it would be better to follow a guided tour to fully enjoy them rather than just reading the short leaflet you are provided with at the entrance (to be returned). Unless you’re an art expert, of course. I particularly appreciated the Giants room, the Bacchus room and the Aurora’s chariot room.
We had just finished watching the frescoes, when the umbrella curse triggered. It started raining heavily. As you can see in the next photo, everyone took advantage of the portico’s shelter.
Somehow it was fun. Cause people started talking each other. Many people, like us, had not brought the umbrella. So the recurring phrases were:
Damn, I was sure the sun would have resisted more!
Yesterday the sky was worse but in the end it didn’t rain! – obvious (I thought) we had the umbrella THEN 😉
I never saw a similar rainy period in all my life!
Do you think it is better to go immediately and face the rain or to wait for it to stop?
At noon the villa closes so we will be forced to go out anyway so it is better to go.
What can I use as rain protector?
Any other business
The best one was a lady who started to put up a turban using her foulard and, despite this premises, ended up being very elegant, in my opinion. I used my foulard as a veil instead… and go!
Did you know that…
Many celebrities have visited Villa Foscari over the centuries:
Enrico III di Valois, Ferdinando de’ Medici, Truman Capote, Winston Churchill, Peggy Guggenheim, Le Corbusier, Igor Stravinskij, Edward and Wallis, Charles of Wales, Frank O. Gehry and Andy Warhol.
via dei Turisti, 9 – Mira (VE)
From May 1s to October 31
Tuesday and Saturday 9 – 12
Warning: Disabled can not reach the noble floor. There is no lift.
To reach Malcontenta by bus look at actv.it/urban-lines