Villa Saraceno

Finale, Vicenza, Italy


This spectacular villa was built by Andrea Palladio around 1550, as a cultured country retreat and a working farm. It is now part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. 

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Beds 2 Single, 2 Twin, 3 Double ...

4 nights from
£1716 equivalent to £26.81 per person, per night

A Unesco World Heritage Site

Villa Saraceno has historically been a place of refuge for those seeking respite, a short distance from the excitement of Padua, Vicenza or Venice. Today, you can do the same. The villa was built for Biagio Saraceno, a minor nobleman from Vicenza. During the peaceful years in the middle of the sixteenth century, Italian nobles and merchants sought time away from the bustle of the city much as we might today.

Andrea Palladio designed for a peaceful but cultured rural existence. Villa Saraceno is archetypal of his villa designs; a strictly symmetrical plan with grand portico and generously proportioned rooms. The fertile plain of the Veneto is sprinkled with archetypal Palladian villas like our own Villa Saraceno; some of these you can visit, but no other can you have to yourselves to taste this life of fulfilled recreation.

Just like the Renaissance noblemen for whom these villas were built, you can easily dip into urban sophistication if you wish.Our villa is little more than an hour from Venice and the towns of Padua and Vicenza are even closer, all full of architectural and modern day delights to discover.

During restoration, to our delight, beneath later layers of limewash, we found lively frescoed friezes running around the cornices of the lofty sala, loggia and sitting-room which also has an open hearth for log fires on cooler evenings.

‘Late night walks by the cornfields with miniature fireflies lighting your way.’

‘Magical evenings dining al fresco in the loggia.’

From the logbook

Floor Plan


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Map & local info

Palladio’s villas are world renowned. Living in your own, you’ll be eager to compare with others. Make the most of this World Heritage Site and take a coach tour with one of the many operators available in the area, or even embark on a cruise on the Brenta Canal, to appreciate the major Palladio Villas. Finish off with more Palladian buildings in Vicenza, such as the Teatro Olimpico, Palazzo Chiericati, Basilica Palladiana, and Palazzo Thiene.

A half-hour drive takes you to Padua to admire the magnificent Cappella degli Scrovegni, the XIV century chapel realised by Giotto and considered one of the most significant achievements of medieval art in Europe. You might also want to visit the Basilica di Sant’Antonio, one of the biggest churches in the world, key destination for millions of Christian pilgrims every year.

In the opposite direction, only an hour away, Verona beckons with its many Roman buildings, such as Porta Borsari, Arco dei Gavi and, of course, the world famous Amphitheatre, host of the Arena di Verona Opera Festival. Don’t forget you are in Shakespearean territory! You might want to go to 23, Via Cappello to drop off a love letter to Juliet’s statue (heard of the Juliet Club?) and stroke her right breast for good luck in love! A little bit further West, the charming Lake Garda offers spectacular views and walks. Explore Gardaland, the largest amusement park in Italy, for day of fun for all the family.

End your Landmark holiday with a memorable trip to Venice! An hour-and-a-half drive, give or take few minutes on the vaporetto and you could be sipping an aperitivo outside the antique Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco, or admiring Titian’s ‘Assumption’ in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. What more could one wish for?

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What you need to know about this building
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog.

    Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • Via a short driveway from the main road.
  • There are buses (about 50 minutes) from Vicenza railway station to the ss247/via Finale junction, which is about 200 metres from Villa Saraceno.
  • Yes – there are plenty of parking spaces in the car park adjacent to the property.
  • There is gas central heating throughout the Villa and underfloor heating in the Sala and Drawing Room. There are three open fires. Fuel for the fires can be purchased from the housekeeper.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also a gas cooker, two fridges with a freezer each, two dishwashers and a microwave.
  • There are six bathrooms, three with free-standing shower units, one with a free-standing shower and a bath and two with baths.
  • The internal stairs are steep and narrow in places.
  • There is an enclosed garden.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

Do you have other questions?

Our Booking Enquiries team can help with information about each building.

Booking Enquiries
01628 825925
[email protected]

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm


Built by Andrea Palladio

The Villa Saraceno was built in c.1545 (and finished by 1555) for Biagio Saraceno. It is one of the earliest and most modest of Andrea Palladio’s twenty or so surviving villas. Palladio (1508-80) was one of the greatest Italian architects of the Renaissance, whose influence spread across the world in the following centuries. Through his careful studies of ancient Roman architecture, Palladio aimed to recapture the splendour of antiquity.

His reinvention of the concept of the villa, a place to recapture the Roman ideal of escaping the bustle of the city in a cultured but self-sufficient existence in the country, had particular resonance for the humanist nobility and gentry of the Veneto.

The Saraceno family had come to Vicenza from Rome in the late 13th century. They were members of the minor nobility and pursued professional careers in the Church, law and medicine. They also built up agricultural estates, improving the land and introducing new crops and methods, in this case at Finale near Agugliaro. Their first fine house there is the Palazzo delle Trombe (early 16th-century) at the crossroads in the hamlet of Finale (turn left at the entrance to Villa Saraceno), so named after its rainwater spouts in the shape of trumpets.

The villa house Palladio built for Biagio Saraceno was added to a much older working courtyard. Biagio (whose portrait is thought to be above the door from the loggia) commissioned Palladio to build a new house on the main axis of his existing farm courtyard. This house outshines the other buildings on the site, but did not replace them, as it appeared Palladio originally intended in the design he published retrospectively in his Quattro libri dell’architettura (1570).

This means that the evolution of a typical villa farm of the Veneto can be clearly seen in the Villa Saraceno, with the survival of much-altered medieval structures like the dovecot (colombara) of c1500, the old house (casa vecchia) of c1520, the barns surviving on the east side of the courtyard (c1500 with later alterations) and the 17th to 19th-century colonnaded barn (barchessa). Although the Quattro libri tells us that Palladio envisaged symmetrical barchesse and pavilions clasping the beautifully proportioned principal house on either side, these were never built. Rather, as O. Scamozzi observed in 1778, ‘it was added to as necessary, either with buildings that already existed or by later ones.’ The current barchessa is therefore the latest version of several well-meaning but rather clumsy attempts to realise Palladio’s elegant scheme at least partially.

The villa house is placed on the site with great precision: it faces roughly due south and is carefully aligned to frame the view of the Dolomite mountains through the loggia entrance and north door of the sala, an alignment that also acts functionally to catch the breeze. The house is raised by five Vicentine feet to avoid floodwater. The owner’s dwelling (corpo padronale) had two sets of formal steps up to the south-facing loggia and hall (sala), and also down to the orchard (brolo) beyond (both sets today are later, and altered, replacements). To either side were two-room apartments, each with a smaller vaulted room (camerini) overlooking the court, and a larger one, (stanza maggiore and cucina grande) to the north with a fireplace. The proportions of the larger rooms as built match those given in the Quattro libri : ‘a square and five eighths long and as high as they are wide.’ There is a cellar beneath the cucina grande and another beneath the east camerino. A granary above is reached by an ingenious staircase tower within the sala.

The villa house was considerably altered over the centuries. Soon after it was built, the loggia vault was decorated with frescoes, as were the sala and west stanza maggiore and camerino, probably for Biagio’s son Pietro in the late 16th century. The sala frescoes have been identified as depicting Pietro Aretino’s play, Orazia (1546) and, on the basis of a letter written in 1552 by Aretino to Lucietta Saraceno, it has been suggested not only that Aretino (a leading writer of the time) visited the Villa Saraceno, but also that Orazia might have written at Finale.

In 1604, the Saraceno heiress Euriemma married Scipione Caldogno and improvements continued. The vaults of the east camerino were knocked down in 1659 by Lucietta Thiene Caldogno, when a mezzanine floor was inserted in the east apartment and an east wing was added; this upset the harmony of Palladio’s fenestration on the north and south facades. A bad fire in 1798 in the barchessa spread to the villa house, so that the east roofs and all the rooms beneath, and later the barchessa itself, had to be rebuilt. This fire explains the asymmetry of the roofs to the villa, with further damaging modernisation around 1900. The villa and its farm remained in the ownership of the Caldogno family until 1838. From the late 18th century, the Villa Saraceno was mostly used as a farmhouse, with consequent utilitarian alterations and partitioning of its rooms. It was used as tenements during the Second World War and by the 1980s had been left empty and derelict.

In 1989, the villa was bought by the Landmark Trust, a British charity. Landmark was established in 1965 to rescue significant historic buildings at risk. By restoring them and offering them for self catering holidays, these buildings bring enjoyment and education to those who stay there and also generate income for their future maintenance. Today, the Landmark Trust has almost 200 buildings in its care, four of them in Italy.

The Frescoes at the Villa Saraceno

(based on Antonio Verlato’s book, Agugliaro, 1999).

The Loggia

Biagio Saraceno himself welcomes the visitor, positioned above the entrance door. He has just received the Palatine crown from the goddess above. In his left hand he holds the staff of command. He wears a plumed helmet and the short, green tunic of the ‘ancient’ condottiere. Above the inside arches of the loggia, winged Victories in ochre monochrome gather to glorify the patron, some sounding trumpets, others holding laurel crowns.

In the centre of the vault above is the goddess of Abundance against a blue sky in an elaborate octagonal frame. She holds the crown of a knight of the empire and an olive twig to symbolise peace, which she hands to Biagio. The winged wand with two serpents in her left hand symbolises peace and economic prosperity (a symbol also associated with Mercury, god of messengers and trade). In two side frames dance two winged putti or cherubs.

Framing this octagon in each corner are four monochrome female figures (Floras) representing the four states of ‘Holy Agriculture’. From right to left, these are: Working the Land (the ox yoke); Irrigation (the tipped jug); Harvest (a sheaf of canes or ears of wheat) and the Glorification of Peace (an olive garland).

The Floras look at four oval scenes, in black monochrome, of tales embodying Virtus Romana, or the virtues of the Roman citizen, and also perhaps the four cardinal Christian virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

From the right:

1. Camillo, nominated Dictator by the Senate says to Brenno, chief of the Gauls, the fateful phrase that ‘Rome is conquered by iron, not gold.’

2. Muzio burns his right hand over a sacrificial flame as he tells King Porsenna ‘Look and understand how the Romans scorn life.’

3. Marco Curzio, a young Roman knight, sacrifices himself by leaping into a crevasse in the Forum to fulfil an oracle that the abyss can only be filled with that which was most precious to Rome. Curzio realised that this meant its youth and soldiers, and after his sacrifice the precipice did indeed miraculously close.

4. The subject of the fourth scene is less certain. A Roman warrior draws his sword at a person on a throne, who tries to calm the soldier with his right hand. It may represent The Error of Muzio, contrasting self-restraint with anger.

The fresco on the west end wall of the loggia is probably 18th-century. A Corinthian colonnade with high entablature stands against a sky with scattered clouds. No sign remains of any matching scene on the east wall. This loggia cycle is attributed to the Verona artist Anselmo Canera (1522-83). That in the vault is similar to the one at nearby Villa Pojana, also by Palladio c.1550.

Sala (main entrance hall)

The cycle of frescoes in the sala depicts the tragedy Orazia (1546) by Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), one of the most colourful literary figures of mid-16th-century Italy. The cycle begins above the rear door. A lord sits writing at a desk in a room recognisable as the sala at this very villa. On the basis of a letter written in 1552 by Aretino to Lucietta Chiericati Saraceno, (Biagio’s cousin by marriage, married to Gasparo Saraceno, owner of the Villa delle Trombe) it is suggested that the lord represents Aretino himself, shown writing Orazia in a room recognisable as the sala at the Villa Saraceno. Through an open door, the story begins. Orazio has conquered the Curiazi tribe and gallops towards the Roman army near Rome, while the Alban army waits on the other side. The tragedy of how Orazio murders his sister Celia unfolds through the cycle, which runs anticlockwise from the left of the entrance from the loggia:

1. The old nurse brings news that Celia’s Curiazio husband has been slain by Orazio and shows her as proof her husband’s golden collar.

2. In a Roman street (though depicted with Renaissance palazzi), Celia laments the death of her husband to her father, Publio. Her brother Orazio, angry with his sister for her disloyalty, is restrained by his friends on the right. On the left, Marco Valerio, a Roman fecial, invokes the response of a high magistrate.

3. Celia, still with her nurse, is taken by her father before the magistrate, flanked by Roman officials. (The fourth image has been described above).

5. The Roman people follow Celia and her nurse, while Orazio speaks to Spurio, a friend of his father. The perfect perspective of the buildings and crowd culminates in the triumphal arch bearing the letters S P Q R, the motto of the Roman Empire.

6. Publio calls for the sentence from one of the duumviri, who is seated on a throne between lictors with fasces. On his left are his Orazio, Celia and her nurse.

7. The climax of the tragedy: Celia is stabbed by her brother. The nurse screams, covering her eyes. A butcher’s shop is placed symbolically placed behind the victim.

8. Celia’s bloody body is carried away, accompanied by her loyal, distraught nurse. On the right, Orazio, the fratricide, closes the scene exclaiming: This is the fate of one who dares to lament the death of our enemies.’ (third act).

The finely painted and coffered ceiling in the sala is original, its fine detail the crowning richness of this late-Renaissance space.

Stanza Maggiore (today’s sitting room)

The frieze in this room seems to be dedicated to the myth of the foundation of Rome, with scenes from Virgil’s Aeneid in six panels, flanked by images of imprisoned men (east and west walls), goddesses, winged putti and festoons of fruit. Four corner ovals in blue monochrome (now indistinct) link the sections.

1. Anticlockwise from the south wall: The Judgement of Paris. Seated on a rock, he hands the prize for beauty, a golden apple, to Aphrodite above Hera and Athene – a choice that eventually led to the Trojan War.

2. The cave where Dido and Aeneas, caught by a sudden downpour, made love (Aeneid, Book IV). Hunters with their dogs pass above the cave. Dido wears the royal crown, as the lovers make their way toward distant Carthage.

3. Aeneas lands at Carthage (Aeneid, Book I). The hero and three companions look down at their ships anchored in the port, as soldiers descend a long ladder.

The remaining three scenes are now hard to decipher. The sixth may show the Glorious Descendants met by Aeneas in the Elysian Fields (Aeneid Book 6).

A bust of a young man dressed as a Roman dignitary, who may be one of Biagio’s sons (Leonardo or Pietro), is shown in a shell at the centre of the east wall. Verlato attributes the frieze in the stanza maggiore to Giovanni Antonio Fasolo (1530-72), though Battista Zelotti’s (1526-78) style is also suggested. There are also fragments of decoration in the camerino beyond.

A short history of Villa Saraceno

Read the full history album for Villa Saraceno:
Volume I: A tour and brief history
Volume II: The repair of the buildings


Unlived in for 15 years

By 1989, when Landmark intervened, the Villa Saraceno had been unlived in and neglected for fifteen years. The 16th- and 17th-century surfaces in the house were decaying and the farm buildings were near to collapse. First, all the roofs were renewed and a custodian’s cottage created out of the farm buildings while the fabric of the buildings and documentary evidence were carefully studied. As a result, the original arrangement and noble proportions of the sala and west apartment in Palladio’s house were recovered, with remarkably complete late 16th-century frescoes and ceilings.

Conservation of these frescoes and the careful repair of external and internal plasters formed a major part of the work carried out. To keep interventions to Palladio’s house to a minimum, the new kitchen is sited in the adjoining west room of the barchessa and much of the modern accommodation is contained within the casa vecchia.

The main restoration was completed in March 1994. Since then, thousands have been able to experience life in a Palladian villa by staying here for a holiday. The income generated helps to fund the site’s ongoing maintenance and conservation. The main rooms are open to the general public every Wednesday afternoon from 1st April to 31st October, from 2-4pm.

In 1998, the global importance of Palladio’s work was recognised when Palladio’s Villas in the Veneto Region were included in Vicenza’s designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Availability & booking

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What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.