From Venice To Padua, A Trip Along The Brenta Canal

Visiting villas, huge luxurious summer homes that resembled palaces.


For a day, I lived the life of wealthy Venetian nobles, slowly cruising along the Brenta Canal from Venice to Padua on a burchiello, which translates literally into “beautiful boat,” visiting villas, huge luxurious summer homes that resembled palaces. The burchiello I stood on was different from the wooden ones from the past, a product of technological advances. The view, I suppose, has much changed as well – most of it is an endless field of green, with the occasional tractor plowing through them. The canal is narrow, perhaps twenty feet wide, a small interruption to the pleasant scenery. It’s a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of Venice, which rarely has any green – with the exception of Castello (one of the six neighborhoods), there seems to be a severe lack of trees. Venice is a city whose inhabitants have conquered nature almost completely, successful building a city on swampland, essentially water. Here, less than an hour away from Venice, exists a world where nature dominates – flourishes.

The canal stands as one of the few exceptions. Somehow, we’ve come up with the technology to manipulate bodies of water, raising the sea level to suit our fancies. It used to be drawn by horses, but now those horses have been replaced with buttons and gears and levers. But before that, these horses and structures helped take the Venetians who could afford it up to Padua to their luxurious summer homes.

The Villa Foscari detta La Malcontenta was one such home. It was built by the famous architect Palladio for the brothers Foscari, Nicolo and Alvise (their names are engraved on its façade). The grounds help make this estate impressive: acres and acres of green photo opportunities: lines of trees and landscaped bushes and shrubs laid out in symmetry. Inside, the walls are adorned with paint telling the stories of gods, the patrons of the arts and sciences frolicking in the skies. Fragile, dust-covered furniture bear signs reading, “DO NOT SIT” and “NON SEDERSI.” It’s a pity that nobody lives here today: the place is begging for social affairs: parties, weddings, and balls – even just a simple dinner. As a museum, it impresses visitors, but the awe only goes so far before it becomes boring. It should continued to be used for its original purpose: meant to awe peers, visitors who are not strangers to the proud owners, to whom this awe might mean little. Of course, that’s always the dilemma with museums and its inhabitants: should these pieces be put on display next to “Do Not Touch” signs or should they be used for their intended purposes, appreciated not just for its aesthetic value but its utilitarian ones as well?

Villa Foscari detta La Malcontenta is located: Via dei Turisti, 9  30034 Mira, Province of Venice, Italy

Becky Chao

A graduate from Duke University, Becky lived in Venice for several months. She traveled throughout Italy, Barcelona and other countries in Europe.

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