Verona

Guided tours and itineraries to Andrea Palladio’s and Renaissance architecture in Verona historical center and surroundings.

Andrea Palladio’s works are mainly concentrated in Vicenza, city and province, and in the eastern Veneto, including Venice. Nevertheless, even Verona, at the western end of Veneto region, bears interesting traces of the architecture of Andrea Palladio.
In the territory of Verona, in Valpolicella more precisely, there is one of the most unusual and particular villas of the great architect: Villa Serego Santa Sofia. In the city center of Verona, almost completely hidden at the end of a small alley are the small remains of a huge Palladian project never completed: Palazzo della Torre. Other traces of Palladio’s presence in Verona are inside the church of St. Anastasia with the Fregoso monument, and his researches into the then hidden Roman theater.

Itineraries

  • Half day – Verona city center – Palladio
    A guided itinerary in the city center of Verona to discover all the few traces of Palladio’s architecture (Palazzo della Torre and Fregoso altar) together with the ancient Roman remains that became source of inspiration for Renaissance art and architecture such as the Roman theater.
  • Full day – Verona city center – Palladio Vs Sanmicheli
    An itinerary that will compare the Renaissance architecture of Palladio wiht the style of Verona most important architect: Michele Sanmicheli, that leave and woked in Veneto in the same years. The tour will include a visit to: Palazzo Bevilacqua, Palazzo Canossa, Palazzo Pompei, Palazzo Guastaverza, San Giorgio church, San Bernardino church with the Pellegrini chapel and much more.
  • Half day – Valpolicella, Palladio and the Serego family
    The tour will include a visit to Villa Serego in Pedemonte, Palladio most unusual project, and a visit at Villa Serego Alighieri owned by the same owner that entrusted Palladio the design of Villa della Torre. Both villas nowadays have a winery in the premises. The visit will be followed by a wine tasting of Valpolicella wines and Amarone.
  • Full day – Palladio and Renaissanece Architecture in Valpolicella
    It will be possible to compare Villa Serego with Villa della Torre, another masterpiece of Renaissance architecture designed by Giulio Romano, that also tried to recreate the ancient Roman villa as Palladio did for Villa Santa Sofia. Another stop in the full day itinerary will be Villa Mosconi Bertani that will allow to understand the evolution of the Renaissance style villa into the shapes of Baroque and Neoclassic architecture. All the villas became wineries so it will be possible to enjoy also some goog Valpolicella and Amarone wines.

Historical Background

In 1405 the city of Verona became part of the state of Venice, and remained there almost continuously for the next 400 years. Even though Verona lost its political independence, it wanted to maintain a proud autonomy, at least in the cultural and artistic field. For this reason, Verona’s clients generally preferred to rely on local artists.
In Verona, most of the public, private and religious building sites were entrusted to the main Renaissance artist of the city: Michele Sanmicheli, a few decades older than Andrea Palladio.
In order to be appreciated by the Veronese clientele, Palladio had to develop projects that differed from his previous works.

Villa Santa Sofia

Andrea Palladio’s most important project in the Verona area is certainly Villa Serego, or Villa Santa Sofia. The building represents an absolute unicum in his production.

Villa Santa Sofia - Serego

The draft of Villa Serego from the Four Books of Architecture.

The villa was commissioned to Palladio by Marcantonio Serego, a member of a family of ancient nobility. One of his ancestors had been at the service of Cansignorio della Scala, the lord of Verona in late 1300s, and married one of his daughters. As a dowry he received the a fertile land in the heart of Valpolicella where, almost 200 hundred years later, his decendant decided to build a new villa.
The hypothesis that Marcantonio Serego thought of a new construction, in 1555, on the occasion of his marriage to Ginevra Alighieri, the last descendant of Dante’s lineage, is only valid as an assumption.

First of all, Villa Santa Sofia lacks the pronaos, which is a characteristic element of Palladio’s style, together with the smooth, white, finished forms. In the case of Villa Serego the columns are made of solid stone, with blocks that have a very rustic finish and a cream color.
Unlike most of Palladio’s villas that will take their cue from the features of the classic temple, for Villa Santa Sofia, Palladio took up the concept of Roman villa rustica.

The rustic buildings of the villa now house a winery that produces Valpolicella and Amarone wines. The visit to Villa Santa Sofia is normally combined with a visit to the winery and a with a tasting of the excellent wines produced.

Palazzo della Torre

palazzo della torre by palladio in verona

All that is left of Palazzo della Torre is a small courtyard with gigantic columns.

Palazzo Della Torre is the only urban project of Andrea Palladio in the city of Verona. It was realized, although only partially, between 1555 and 1568, for Giombattista Della Torre, member of a very influential family in Veneto region.

palazzo della torre draft

Palazzo della Torre draft from Palladio’s Quattro Libri.

Palazzo della Torre remained unfinished due to the death of the enlightened client. Centuries later it ended up under the bombs of the Second World War. Of Palazzo della Torre today remains only a mysterious small courtyard with gigantic columns and trabeation, hidden at the bottom of a blind alley in the heart of Verona city center. At the moment the site is completely abandoned. The real appearance of this project that must have been huge, can only be infered from the drawings in the Quattro Libri.

Fregoso Monument

Then there is the attribution of a monument inside a church in Verona. This is the Fregoso altar at the church of Santa Anastasia, made by the sculptor Daniele Cattaneo. Some art historians believe that the work, which represents the Resurrection of Christ, derives from a drawing by Palladio, friend of Danese Cattaneo. The attribution to Palladio is even more plausible considering the classical layout of the Roman triumphal arch representing Jesus’ tomb, the posture of the sculptures, the black and white contrast of the stone with which it is made.

The Roman Theater

Palladio Verona Roman Theater

Palladio drawing of Verona Roman theater as he imagined it from the remains he found.

Andrea Palladio came to Verona also to study its Roman theatre. At that time the theatre was not visible, covered with structures built over the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Palladio, was able to make a design reconstruction by inspecting the basements of these buildings where he could see the seats and other structures of the ancient place of entertainment. The Roman theatre was brought to light at the end of the 19th century and is now a museum. In a small room at the entrance is exhibited a three-dimensional model reproducing the project by Andrea Palladio. Archaeologists imagined that on the top of the hill the theater was built on, the Romans had a military fortress. Pallagio, instead, imagined a temple. Few years ago, a new campaign of archaeological excavations proved that Palladio was right since they found the remains of a Roman temple pretty much where he had imagined it. The study of Palladio for the Roman theatre of Verona certainly merged into the project of the Olympic Theatre of Vicenza.

Michele Sanmicheli

For lovers of Renaissance architecture, Verona actually offers the opportunity to admire the works of another great Venetian architect, originally from Verona: Michele Sanmicheli.
He preceded Andrea Palladio by a few decades, and in some ways was a forerunner, enjoying great success both in Verona and in other areas of the Serenissima. Nevertheless, the immense fame of Andrea Palladio overshadowed Michele Sanmicheli.
Verona, home of Michele Sanmicheli, has an incredible abundance of his works. He was mainly a military architect, and designed the sixteenth-century fortifications of Verona with their monumental doors, Porta Nuova, Porta Palio, Porta San Zeno. Many are the projects for private clients, such as the noble palaces Palazzo Guastaverza, Palazzo Canossa, Palazzo Bevilacqua. Numerous interventions were made in the churches, with the dome and bell tower of San Giorgio, the bell tower and the choir of the Duomo.