Villa Pisani: Cruising the Brenta Canal from Padua to Venice, part 2

I recently posted about this day-long cruise here (here, here and here) and now I pick up where I left off. Our first stop on the cruise after leaving Padua was in Stra at Villa Pisani.  This incredible villa is now a state museum and very much work a visit.  It was built by a very popular Venetian Doge.

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The facade of the Villa is decorated with enormous statues and the interior was painted by some of the greatest artists of the 18th century.

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Villa Pisani at Stra refers is a monumental, late-Baroque rural palace located along the Brenta Canal (Riviera del Brenta) at Via Doge Pisani 7 near the town of Stra, on the mainland of the Veneto, northern Italy. This villa is one of the largest examples of Villa Veneta located in the Riviera del Brenta, the canal linking Venice to Padua. It is to be noted that the patrician Pisani family of Venice commissioned a number of villas, also known as Villa Pisani across the Venetian mainland. The villa and gardens now operate as a national museum, and the site sponsors art exhibitions.

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Construction of this palace began in the early 18th century for Alvise Pisani, the most prominent member of the Pisani family, who was appointed doge in 1735.

The initial models of the palace by Paduan architect Girolamo Frigimelica still exist, but the design of the main building was ultimately completed by Francesco Maria Preti. When it was completed, the building had 114 rooms, in honor of its owner, the 114th Doge of Venice Alvise Pisani.

In 1807 it was bought by Napoleon from the Pisani Family, now in poverty due to great losses in gambling. In 1814 the building became the property of the House of Habsburg who transformed the villa into a place of vacation for the European aristocracy of that period. In 1934 it was partially restored to host the first meeting of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, after the riots in Austria.

 

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From the outside, the facade of the oversized palace appears to command the site, facing the Brenta River some 30 kilometers from Venice. The villa is of many villas along the canal, which the Venetian noble families and merchants started to build as early as the 15th century. The broad façade is topped with statuary, and presents an exuberantly decorated center entrance with monumental columns shouldered by caryatids. It shelters a large complex with two inner courts and acres of gardens, stables, and a garden maze.

The largest room is the ballroom, where the 18th-century painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo frescoed the two-story ceiling with a massive allegorical depiction of the Apotheosis or Glory of the Pisani family (painted 1760–1762).[2] Tiepolo’s son Gian Domenico Tiepolo, Crostato, Jacopo Guarana, Jacopo Amigoni, P.A. Novelli, and Gaspare Diziani also completed frescoes for various rooms in the villa. Another room of importance in the villa is now known as the “Napoleon Room” (after his occupant), furnished with pieces from the Napoleonic and Habsburg periods and others from when the house was lived by the Pisani.

The most riotously splendid Tiepolo ceiling would influence his later depiction of the Glory of Spain for the throne room of the Royal Palace of Madrid; however, the grandeur and bombastic ambitions of the ceiling echo now contrast with the mainly uninhabited shell of a palace. The remainder of its nearly 100 rooms are now empty. The Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni described the palace in its day as a place of great fun, served meals, dance and shows.

 

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Check out this sunken bathtub below:

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Bear with me: in the next few photos I am trying out all of the fancy settings on my new camera:

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To be continued.

My cruise through the Brenta Canal, Padova a Venezia; locks and villas and art, oh my!

Would you ever want to sail down a canal in Northern Italy that was built during the Renaissance?  I really wanted to and I did!

The Brenta Canal stretches for many miles between Chioggia on the coast, to Padua where it turns into the Brenta River. Created in the 15th century, the canal expanded trading routes for Venice and the other major cities in Northern Italy.

I was lucky enough to cruise through the canal last week, beginning at Porta Portello in Padova and ending at San Marco, Venezia.  A day to remember!  It was a beautiful fall day with mild temperatures.  A great day to be on the water.  And, what waters!  OMG.

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My cruising companions and I met our boat, il Burchiello, on the stairway at Porta Portello, the ancient river port of Padua.  We would cruise along the original course of the old Venetian Burchielli of the 18th century, passing in front of the beautiful Villa Giovanelli at Noventa Padovana.

Below: we are departing Padua itself, just outside the Renaissance era city walls:

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Below, coming upon the first of so many villas located along the canal.

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We glided through the Noventa Padovana and Stra lock systems. This system of locks on the canal were really interesting to experience and to watch from the boat. The next 2 videos show the locks closing behind the boat.

 

 

 

We passed under some low bridges and buildings!  Watch you head!

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Now, at the front of the boat, the locks are opening:

 

 

Scenes along the canal on such a peaceful September Sunday morning. A lot of fishing going on:

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A sighting of the next villa:

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My next post will talk about the villa seen below:

 

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To be continued, here, here and here.

 

Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua; once is never enough

 

I had to go back to Padua to see the masterpiece of Medieval fresco painting and I’m so happy I did.  One, two, even three times in a lifetime is not enough.  I’m now at 4 times and counting.

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Tuscan sculptor, Giovanni Pisano, is also well-represented in the chapel.

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The brochure for the Chapel tells us this about the Scrovegni Chapel: “In 1300, the rich nobleman Enrico Scrovegni acquired the area of the Roman Arena [in Padova], on which he intended to build a fine town house.  Next to it, he had a chapel built and dedicated to the Holy Virgin, for the soul of his father Reginaldo, the usurer mentioned in the 17th canto of Dante’s ‘Inferno.’  Scrovegni commissioned Giotto to decorate the chapel with frescoes which, according to most reliable information, was done between 1303-05. The frescoes cover the interior walls and ceiling of the building completely.  The lower part of the blue star-spangled vaulted ceiling depicts the prophets and the important episodes in the lives of the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ.  Above the main door is ‘The Last Judgment:’ Christ, as judge, is surrounded by the angels and the apostles; below him, to the right, are the Blessed; to the left, the Damned are depicted as suffering eternal punishment, according to medieval tradition.”

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Some snapshots of Padua in September 2019 and playing around with my new camera

Last weekend I returned to Padua for another opportunity to see the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel.  Since the visits are only 20 minutes long, it takes me more than one trip to Padua to really see the frescoes as I want to see them.

But, I also wanted to return to Padua to enjoy more of the city, now that I have discovered it fully.  I went armed with my new fancy smartphone and its powerful camera.  Some of the pictures below are of pretty Padova and some are just experiments with my camera.

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I love any city with a street named for one of my favorite sculptors, Donatello.

 

The Botanic Garden of Padua dates back to 1545 and is regarded as the most ancient university garden in the world. Founded to foster the growth of medicinal plants, in Italian called semplice, since the remedies were obtained directly from nature without any manipulation. The garden was named Hortus Simplicium. The first keeper of the garden was Luigi Squalermo called Anguillara.

 

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Nymphaea:

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Below, fall blooming crocus:

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More water lilies:

 

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Random plant life:

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Nature with a background of Italian church bells:

 

 

Gigantic lily pads:

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The horticultural complex in Padua is very impressive and state of the art.

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Porta Portello:

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Reminders of the influence of Venice on Padua are everywhere in this city:

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Padova is surrounded by water.  The canals make lovely views. I love to think back to the times when people and goods moved here by gondole, burci and mascarete, all typical boats, along internal canals, following the waterways and floating under bridges.

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Padua has a lot of beautiful architecture.  I want to make another trip there to enjoy and photograph all the great sculptural embellishments on the palazzi.

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Piazza Sant’ Ambrogio, Florence and Pope Pius VII

I recently met a friend in front of the church in Piazza Sant’ Ambrogio, near Santa Croce, in a spot that is the terminus for 3 streets : via de’ Pilastri, via di Mezzo, and Borgo la Croce e via Carducci.

While waiting, I noticed for the first time, although I’ve been in this piazza a hundred times before, something new.

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Looking a bit higher than I normally do, I saw a glazed terra-cotta tabernacle, in the style of the Della Robbia, of a figure that I assumed was a priest or even a pope, making a sign of blessing.

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I ventured nearer to photograph the inscription below, and was rewarded with this information:

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Loosely translated, the inscription reads: “Stop, you passers by, and read this. Know that 2 neighborhoods were passed by the immortal Pope Pius VII on 8 May, 1807, where he devotedly and humbly gave an apostolic blessing to the inhabitants.”

I seldom have occasion to discuss the Catholic Church, that foundational stone of Italian culture, in my blog, so let’s do a little something about that now.

Who was Pope Pius VII?

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Portrait of Pius VII painted by Jacques-Louis David

He was born in 1742 as Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti. He would rise all the way to head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1800 until his death in 1823. Chiaramonti was also a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict in addition to being a well-known theologian and bishop throughout his life.

Chiaramonti was born in Cesena, about 30 miles south of Ravenna, in 1742, the youngest son of Count Scipione Chiaramonti (1698 – 1750) and Giovanna Coronata (d. 1777). His mother was the daughter of the Marquess Ghini; though his family was of noble status, they were not wealthy.

Like his brothers, he attended the Collegio dei Nobili in Ravenna but decided to join the Order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14 on 2 October 1756 as a novice at the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte in Cesena. In 1758, he became a professed member and assumed the name of Gregorio. He taught at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome, and was ordained a priest on 21 September 1765.

In 1789, as the French Revolution took place, a series of anti-clerical governments came into power. During the French Revolutionary Wars, troops under Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Rome and took Pope Pius VI as a prisoner. He was taken as prisoner to France, where he died in 1799. The following year, after a sede vacante period lasting approximately six months, Chiaramonti was elected to the papacy, and took as his pontifical name Pius VII, in honor of his immediate predecessor.

He was crowned on 21 March 1800 in a rather unusual ceremony, wearing a papier-mâché papal tiara as the French had seized the tiaras held by the Holy See when occupying Rome and forcing Pius VI into exile. Pius VII then left for Rome, sailing on a barely seaworthy Austrian ship, the Bellona. The twelve-day voyage ended at Pesaro and he proceeded to Rome.

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Pius at first attempted to take a cautious approach in dealing with Napoleon. He signed the Concordat of 1801, through which he succeeded in guaranteeing religious freedom for Catholics living in France, and presided over his coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804. Pius VII presided at the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804.

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Once again, in 1809, Napoleon invaded the Papal States during the Napoleonic Wars; this earned him ex-communication. Pius VII was taken prisoner and transported to France. He remained there until Napoleon abdicated in 1813 and Pius VII returned to Rome.  He was greeted warmly as a hero and defender of the faith and immediately revived the Inquisition and the Index of Condemned Books.

His works, some notable, some to be regretted:

Pius VII joined the declaration of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, represented by Cardinal Secretary of State Ercole Consalvi, and urged the suppression of the slave trade. This pertained particularly to places such as Spain and Portugal where slavery was economically important. The pope wrote a letter to King Louis XVIII of France dated 20 September 1814 and to the King John VI of Portugal in 1823 to urge the end of slavery. He condemned the slave trade and defined the sale of people as an injustice to the dignity of the human person. In his letter to the King of Portugal, he wrote: “the Pope regrets that this trade in blacks, that he believed having ceased, is still exercised in some regions and even more cruel way. He begs and begs the King of Portugal that it implement all its authority and wisdom to extirpate this unholy and abominable shame.”

Under Napoleonic rule, the Jewish Ghetto had been abolished and Jews were free to live and move where they would. Following the restoration of Papal rule, Pius VII re-instituted the confinement of Jews to the Ghetto, having the doors closed at nighttime.

Pius VII was a man of culture and attempted to reinvigorate Rome with archaeological excavations in Ostia which revealed ruins and icons from ancient times. He also had walls and other buildings rebuilt and restored the Arch of Constantine. He ordered the construction of fountains and piazzas and erected the obelisk at Monte Pincio.

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The pope also made sure Rome was a place for artists and the leading artists of the time like Antonio Canova and Peter von Cornelius. He also enriched the Vatican Library with numerous manuscripts and books.

 
The so-called “miracle” of Pius VII. On 15 August 1811 – the Feast of the Assumption – it is recorded that the pope celebrated Mass and was said to have entered a trance and began to levitate in a manner that drew him to the altar. This particular episode aroused great wonder and awe among attendants which included the French soldiers guarding him who were in disbelief of what had occurred.

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Relationship with the United States. On the United States’ undertaking of the First Barbary War to suppress the Muslim Barbary pirates along the southern Mediterranean coast, ending their kidnapping of Europeans for ransom and slavery, Pius VII declared that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”

For the United States, he established several new dioceses in 1808 for Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. In 1821, he also established the dioceses of Charleston, Richmond and Cincinnati.

Pius VII died in 1823 at the age of 81. He was later buried in a monument in Saint Peter’s Basilica by the leading sculptor of the day, the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen.

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