Last Updated on November 11, 2023 by Laura Teso
Villa Rotonda by Palladio is a beautiful villa at a stone’s throw from Vicenza. Villa Almerico Capra also called Villa Rotonda is one of the most famous Renaissance Venetian Villas, 3 km from Vicenza. Together with other Palladian works, it is part of UNESCO heritage entitled to “City of Vicenza and Palladian Villas of the Veneto”.
Both when you see it from a distance and when you are close, you do not have the feeling of entering a building designed to be a private residence. It seems a temple.
I had been here as a child with my older brother, but get there by bike was much more satisfying! Besides at that time we didn’t see interiors, which, in my opinion, are really beautiful, it is worth visiting them!
Villa Rotonda by Palladio
The villa was commissioned to Palladio by Paolo Almerico, ecclesiastic and poet who wanted a place to retire from his job at the Vatican. The works began in 1567. After the death of Paolo Almerico the Villa was sold to Odorico Capra. Hence the name. The Valmarana family owns it since 1911.
Among the Palladian villas this is the only one with:
- domed ceiling
- circular room
- four equal facades
In realizing Palladio combined a sacred model (similar to a small temple) to a civilian one. The plant is square, inscribed in a circle. The four facades are equal; each has a loggia with Ionic columns. The four corners of the building are oriented to North, South, East and West. After the death of Palladio (1580), Vincenzo Scamozzi completed it in 1585. Scamozzi (also architect of the National Library in Venice and the wooden scenes of the Olimpic Theater in Vicenza) added the barns (accomodations for the farmers and stables). Once you enter you walk along them.
The villa is surrounded by a small garden, very plain and without a few trees and flowering shrubs. This contributes to create an almost sacred atmosphere. Maybe a little too calm and perfect.
At the 4 corners of the Villa there are 4 rooms, each with fireplace. You can visit only 2 of them, while the other two (with beautiful furniture, curtains, paintings, etc) can only looked at from the threshold. These rooms and the central one are connected by smaller decorated rooms and corridors. I found some of the rooms decorations particularly refined and elegant.
The main room is round, hence the name Rotonda, with a dome on top. It is all covered by frescoes depicting the Greek gods (Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus, Pluto, Apollo, Diana, Mars and Mercury) and other subjects (like Fame, Religion and Kindness).
Since I couldn’t take pictures inside (they ask you to put the camera in a bag or purse), I inserted Wikipedia pics.
Through four openings on the sides you can see the spiral staircases leading to the upper floor (closed to the public). The frescoes have bright colours and it is magnificent wandering and peering through the windows the view of the surrounding countryside.
Did you know that….
- Entering the villa, if you look in the first room to the right (left of the door) on a table there is a picture of the Queen Mother on a visit to the villa.
- The villa was the model for subsequent buildings, including Chiswick House in London, Monticello, the estate in Virginia of Thomas Jefferson, and Krolikarnia Palace in Warsaw.
- You can rent the villa for private events (dinners, concerts, business meetings).
- Villa Capra in Italian sounds a little bit funny because capra means goat.
- The interior is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- How to find bookshop and toilets: Coming from the Villa and facing the Entrance gate, walk towards the barns. The first door on the left is that of the bookshop (there’s no sign indicating it). A little further on, there’s an open door on the left. There, down a long steep staircase you can reach a beautiful porch. On the left you will find the toilets: large and clean. On the right there are tables and chairs. It is very nice.
- Sublime architectural example
- Beautiful views of the surrounding landscape (except some building, alas)
- Beautiful decorations in the rooms
- Short visit (in 40 minutes you see everything)
- Parking almost non-existent, down a narrow and uphill road. Pay attention because I read that many people in a few days and times have also got a ticket for parking there.
- As regards the staff, I read that many people found it rude. I personally found the ticket clerk rather curt. At the entrance I greeted him and ask for two tickets. He told me: “20 €”. That’s it. Not even a hello, thank you, please, nothing. The guy at the entrance of the villa, however, in charge to communicate the impossibility to take pictures, was at least smiling!
- Pay attention to the opening times. They close for lunch!
- The ticket is not cheap but I imagine that maintaining the villa is very expensive. The problem however is to charge full price even children and students. This is exaggerated.
- To enter the villa and to reach the toilets there are stairs and I saw no ramps.
- There’s no bar.
- Inside the villa there are some sheets explaining something about the building but there’s nothing about frescoes and decorations. We wanted to find something about it in the internet via Smartphone but a staff member came immediately saying us to put it away because we couldn’t take photos. But we did not want to take pictures! Anyway, we explained that so she lent us a booklet.
Is it worth a visit?
Despite these flaws, I think if you’re anywhere near it is worth coming. Each to his own taste, it’s true, but I do not understand those who wrote on the Internet that the interiors aren’t worth a visit. Yes, the visit is short, but I liked it a lot. I found the place fascinating and well-groomed. On the contrary, I wouldn’t spend money just to see only the exterior! If so, I would only watch the villa from the street for free. I think, if you come here you must as well see it all.
Here it is what Goethe wrote after a visit to Villa Rotonda by Palladio:
Maybe never architectural art has reached such a level of magnificence.
Palladio himself described this place:
The site is one of the most pleasing and delightful that one could
find because it is on top of a small hill which is easy to ascend; on
one side it is bathed by the Bacchiglione, a navigable river, and
on the other is surrounded by other pleasant hills which resemble
a vast theater and are completely cultivated and abound with
wonderful fruit and excellent vines; so, because it enjoys the most
beautiful vistas on every side, some of which are restricted, others
more extensive, and yet others which end at the horizon…
Via della Rotonda, 45
36100 Vicenza VI
The grounds are open from Tuesday to Sunday.
The interior is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays (from February 21 to November 8). At other times you can book private tours.
From March 12th to November 5th 10 am – 12 / 3 pm – 6 pm
From November to March 15th 10 am – 12.30 pm / 2.30 pm – 5 pm
Closed on Mondays, December 25, January 1