Villas of the Veneto - Architecture and lifestyle in the age of Palladio

Prices from £2,240


21 Apr 2020 - 26 Apr 2020
Duration: 5 nights
Ref: 20VILA
With: Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite


Prices from £2,240
Single Supplement: £325
Deposit: £200

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Andrea Palladio is one of the most influential architects of all time. To a large extent, his enduring fame was the result of his publication in 1570 of the Quattro Libri dell’Architettura which made his designs available to architects all over the world. But it is Palladio’s homeland, the rich countryside surrounding Padua, Vicenza and Verona, where we can admire his most famous buildings: the stately villas of the Veneto. From the middle of the 14th century, wealthy Venetians and mainland aristocrats alike wanted grand buildings from which to overlook and manage their vast farmlands, whether in the river plains of the rivers Brenta, Adige and Po, or in the hills between the Valpolicella, Bassano del Grappa and Asolo. Since Petrarch’s times, these country houses answered agricultural needs and reflected social status, but they were also places of relaxation and pleasurable pursuits, where their owners withdrew from the busy life in town. All these aspects found perfect expression in Palladio’s buildings. Moreover, they were beautifully proportioned and drew on the prestigious vocabulary of Classical architecture. This Art Pursuits Abroad study tour will visit most of this architect’s surviving villas and compare them with their mediaeval precedents, contemporary designs, as well as with 18th century reinterpretations.


“This tour includes visits to some of the most well-known and celebrated of Palladio’s villas, as well as those that are difficult to reach and only open by special appointment. Through the course of the visits we will observe Palladio’s talent for combining beauty with functionality, spanning from his early Villa Godi to the majestic Villa Emo. These villas served as countryside retreats that reflected the good taste and humanist notions of their patrons, but they could also be highly practical and their designs often incorporated elements tied to the farming of the land by the families that owned them.”

Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite is a lecturer in History at Keble College Oxford, and in History of Art at Middlebury College. Her research focuses particularly on sacred art and architecture in early-modern Venice, as well as on the arts and material culture of the Jesuit Order in Southeast Asia. She has lived, studied and taught in Venice for many years. Prior to moving to Oxford she worked for the History of Art Department at the University of Warwick in Venice, teaching courses on the artistic and architectural history of Northern Italy from c. 1100-1600. She enjoys studying Venetian artworks in situ and understanding the physical, political and social context of the city in which they were made.

DAY 1:

Early afternoon flight from London Gatwick to Venice. We then make our way to our four star hotel in Vicenza where all five nights of the tour will be spent.

DAY 2:

In-depth exploration of Vicenza to admire Palladio’s handsome town architecture, from his ingenious town hall, better known as the Basilica, to the fabulous Teatro Olimpico, the first purpose-built secular theatre building since Antiquity. After lunch, visit Palladio’s most famous building, the Villa La Rotonda with four identical temple fronts. A short walk through enchanting countryside will take us to the nearby 17th century Villa Valmarana at Nani, frescoed by Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Domenico in the 1750s.

DAY 3:

Morning coach excursion to Villa Godi, Palladio’s earliest house in the country, austere on the outside, but with beautiful frescoed interiors. After lunch in the outbuildings of the Villa, continue to Piombino Dese to visit the royal Villa Cornaro, where an innovative portico-loggia projects out from the building to offer a flexible shaded living space open to cooling breezes. Return to Vicenza.

DAY 4:

The 1550s were the period of Palladio’s greatest activity as a Villa architect. Our first visit today takes us to the monumental Villa Emo at Fanzolo, a perfectly proportioned manor house, with its splendid fresco decoration by Gambattista Zelotti. Continue to Villa Barbaro at Maser, arguably the most beautiful of them all, with its magnificent fresco cycle by Paolo Veronese. We travel on to Asolo, the picturesque hillside town once dubbed the ‘city of a hundred horizons’, for a relaxing group lunch. In the afternoon, some free time for your own explorations.

DAY 5:

Three grand Villas situated to the south and southwest of Vicenza are today’s destinations. Palladio’s Villa Pisani at Bagnolo and Villa Pojana at Pojana Maggiore embody the perfect symbiosis of farmstead and country palace. The nearby Rocca Pisana by Palladio’s pupil Vincenzo Scamozzi, majestically placed on the top of a hill, demonstrates Palladio’s influence on the next generation. Return to Vicenza.

DAY 6:

By coach toward Venice where the palatial Villa Foscari at Malcontenta is picturesquely reflected in the smooth waters of the Brenta canal. We’ll also visit the magnificent 18th century Villa Pisani at Stra with its garden follies and fantastic trompe-l’oeil Tiepolo ceiling. From there coach transfer to Venice airport for a late afternoon flight from Venice to London Gatwick.


Twin/double share: £2240 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £325
Price of the tour without flights: £2040 per person
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Return flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Venice
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Five nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Hotel Campo Marzio, Venice
  • Three dinners and two lunches
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Hotel Campo Marzio, Venice ****

The four star Hotel Campo Marzio is situated right in the city centre and borders the Campo Marzo gardens, the largest that can be found in Vicenza. Rooms are fully equipped and feature complimentary WiFi, a safe, telephone, minibar, complimentary toiletries, satellite TV and air conditioning.