Cardinal Francesco Pisani, Bishop of Padua
In 1524, Francesco Pisani was appointed Bishop of Padua, where he initiated the construction of many fine buildings. He also decided to develop an earlier episcopal residence outside the city, here at Luvigliano, as a villa. Luvigliano was named after Roman historian Livy, who also chose the place for his own villa. Livy and Francesco could not have chosen a more beautiful spot, a natural amphitheatre surrounded by the green, conical, ancient volcanic Euganean Hills with views far across the landscape.
The circle of Alvise Cornaro
Bishop Francesco Pisani was at the heart of the circle of important cultural patron, Alvise Cornaro. Cornaro was a generous and sentient sponsor, who nurtured the talents of many, including, from about 1538, a young stonemason born in Padua whom he nicknamed Palladio. Another protégé was architect Giovanni Falconetto.
Designed by Giovanni Falconetto
In 1535, Falconetto designed an elegant square villa on a raised terrace, with shady flanking loggias to make the most of the views out across the countryside. Architect Giulio Romano completed this first phase and Flemish artist Lambert Sustris covered its walls with frescoes (which mostly survive), a hugely important early survival of the Renaissance cult of the ancient world. The building as a whole similarly epitomises the mature Renaissance villa form, built just before Palladio put his characteristic stamp upon the genre. As such, Villa dei Vescovi (or Villa of the Bishops) is an important counterpoint in Landmark’s portfolio to our own Palladio villa, Villa Saraceno, which lies just 15km to the west of Villa dei Vescovi.
Made still more magnificent
Villa dei Vescovi became ever more imposing under successive bishops through the 16th century. Architect Andrea da Valle added stately Doric and Ionic portals as entrances though the estate’s containing walls, and later Vicenzo Scamozzi added external stairs and a grotto. Through the 18th century, beautiful gardens and grounds were developed.
A generous gift to the Italian nation
Villa dei Vescovi remained under the episcopate, largely unchanged, until 1962 when it was sold to Vittorio Olcese. After his death, in 2005 his second wife Maria Teresa Olcese Valoti and son Pierpaolo generously donated the villa to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI, the equivalent of the National Trust in Italy). FAI carried out an exemplary archaeological investigation of the site and completed the restoration before opening the main villa to day visitors. They also created two holiday apartments on the top floor, tucked under the eaves, which Landmark has furnished. Through our partnership, these are now offered as the first Landmarks in what we hope will be a long and fruitful partnership.