The History of Villa Roberti

Villa Roberti is an extraordinary testimony of the so-called civilization of the Venetian villas. It is 20 minutes driving distance from Padova. Even today, the internal and external settings are preserved almost intact and contribute to telling the villa’s fascinating past.

In the land that nowadays houses Villa Roberti, once stood the small medieval castle of the Maccaruffos, built during the fourteenth century. The Maccaruffo was an ancient family allied to the Carraresi in the war for the borders of the Paduan Signoria against the Venetians. When in 1405 the Serenissima defeated the Carraresi and put an end to the Paduan Lordship, the possessions of their supporters were auctioned to pay the war expenses of Venice. Among these lands, the village of Brugine was included and the property was purchased on August 15 1422 by Antonio Roberti.

The Roberti family was a family of bankers originally from Reggio Emilia. Starting from the thirteenth century the family had begun to expand their influence in the Veneto, so much that some family members played the roles as podestàs and bishops in the main cities of the region. Antonio Roberti bought the lands of Brugine and made them the center of a vast farmh, whose heart was represented by a wooden “colonnade”, the original nucleus of the current Barchessa.

Between 15th and 16th centuries the Roberti family grew enormously. Girolamo Roberti decided to build a new brick house that would replace the previous one, which appeared too modest. He did so in 1553, on the occasion of the marriage of his nephew Francesco to a local noblewoman, Lucia da Rio. He commissioned the project and construction of the palace to the young architect Andrea da Valle, a coeval of Palladio and Falconetto. Da Valle then became famous for the works in Villa dei Vescovi in Luvigliano, for the project of the Basilica of Santa Giustina and the church of Torresino, both in Padova

Girolamo Roberti then entrusted the decoration of the villa to a group of young Veronese artists, whose main members were Giambattista Zelotti and Paolo Veronese. They both were young and began in those years to receive important commissions, such as the ceiling of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, the famous Villa Emo in Fanzolo (TV) and the Catajo Castle of Battaglia Terme (PD). According to the art historian Federico Zeri, he long-debated intervention by Paolo Veronese, is clear and evident in the characters that adorn the overhead doors of the Great Hall. These figures of women and Giants are fine workmanship and inserted in recurring compositional schemes in the production of Veronese

The result of the collaboration of the three artists was valuable. The villa is richly decorated both in the internal halls of the Piano Nobile and in all the external walls of the building. Even today the frescoes of the Great Salone is the main reasons why Villa Roberti is famous. The frescoes still arose in their extraordinary beauty: thanks to them, the villa is mentioned in numerous guides and art books as valuable and rare example of 16th-century fresco painting in the province of Padova

Concurently with the construction of the villa, the huge Roberti farm began to take shape: as early as the sixteenth century, the land owned by the villa exceeded three hundred fields, reaching as far as the Venice Lagoon. The Brolo measured five hectares: in this vast property there were spaces dedicated exclusively to work. The barn, the large farmyard, the stable, the pigsty and the chicken coop, but also the bread oven, the herb garden, the greenhouse, the fishpond and the grove of fruit trees: all environments that still survive and they are testimony to a past never completely past.

After the extinction of the Roberti family in 1638, many other families acquired the property: the Frigimelica family inherited it by marriage and with the addition of white and pastel colored stuccos they transformed it into an elegant eighteenth-century palace. The complex then passed to Alvise Selvatico and then to the De Lazara – Brusantini family, to Stefano Breda, to the Salom and to the Treves de Bonfili, who worked for the creation of a splendid English garden, of which we can guess the beauty in the precious Rose Garden.

The Ville Venete Authority purchased Villa Roberti in 1964. Ten years later Giampiero Bozzolato, the last owner, alienated the property. The Professor made the villa a cultural hub at the highest level, with the creation of the International Center for the History of Space and Time. Many Italian and foreign great personalities in the field of humanistic and scientific matters attended the International Center and the Villas, such as Federico Zeri, Ludovico Geymonat, Jacques Le Goff, and William Shea, and the Nobel laureates Carlo Rubbia, Riccardo Giacconi, Ilya Prigogine

Villa Roberti is still a point of reference not only for the cultural panorama, to which it contributes with a rich calendar of concerts, theatrical performances, cultural meetings, presentations of books and authors, but also for the surrounding area, which right from the villa can be explored, discovered and … loved