Villa Almerica “la Rotonda”, Vicenza (VI)


Vicenza, altitude [of the villa] 55 m/180 feet above sea level; Via della Rotonda 45; train station at Vicenza 2 km/1.2 miles to the north.  By bicycle the villa is easily reached by way of the Vicenza-Noventa Vicentina bike route which follows along Viale Riviera Berica.

The most famous of the Palladio villas was started in 1556 commissioned by the Vicentine ecclesiastic, Paolo Almerico; with Palladio’s death in 1580 it was still incomplete and lacking a roof , which was completed in 1585 by Vincenzo Scamozzi, with a rotund dome, although a little flatter than the original Palladio design; the nickname Rotonda became associated with the entire structure, further emphasized by the centralized symmetry that characterizes the floor plan: the four elevations are virtually identical, each with a pronaos [portico or porch] with six columns.

In presenting this villa in his Second Book of Architecture Palladio justifies this by writing: “…therefore, as it enjoys from every part most beautiful views, some of which are limited, some more extended, and others that terminate with the horizon; there are loggia’s [sic] made in all the four fronts”.

In 1591 the villa passed to the Capra family; in 1911 it became the property of the Valmarana family from Venice; the interior is open to the public between March and October and year round to visit the grounds; more information is available on the official villa website.

Goethe visits la Rotonda

Today I visited, just a half hour outside the city, a splendid house set on a hill, called la Rotonda.  It is a square structure that embodies a circular room illuminated from above.  From all four sides one ascends broad staircases and each leads to a porch, formed by six Corinthian columns.  Perhaps architecture has never achieved a higher level of magnificence.  The space taken up by staircases and porches is much greater than that of the house itself; and each side would look impressive as the facade of a temple.

22 September 1786.  Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Italian Journey: 1786-1788

All photos by Paolo Bonavoglia, unless indicated otherwise.

For an overall interactive map of the Veneto, showing all these villas and many more, please see this custom Google map