The main body of Villa Emo is, as is customary in the Palladian villas, split into three storeys in accordance with the operational functions of the Venetian villa. On the ground floor there were the kitchens, now replaced by modern kitchens that were used for the catering service of the disused hotel. Currently they can be used for events at the villa. On the main floor (piano nobile) there were the rooms where the noble man, his family and their guests lived. They were completely decorated with frescoes by Battista Zelotti between 1561 and 1565. The living spaces are distributed in accordance with the precise geometrical rules set out by Palladio; a basic module suitably reproduced as a half or a whole which generates perfect spaces in harmony with one another. In the 1500s the noble Venetian patrician would enter the house from the wide rectangular loggia; from there he would go directly to the large square central Hall, the largest and highest room in the entire house, passing through the arch of the vestibule beside the passageway and areas intended for the servants hidden by doors that were in harmony with the frescoes. This space too, for a short period, underwent changes to adapt it to the tastes of the period as Bertotti Scamozzi again tells us:
The hall, which is square, is wider than higher and once had a wooden ceiling with lacunars;
this has presently been covered with a light vault of a small portion of a circle.
Between 1937 and 1940, Count Corrado Emo of his own initiative and at his own expense, asked Mario Botter to restore the Palladian ceilings with lacunars in the loggia and in the hall. The latter had been replaced by a ceiling in simple plaster, says Bertotti Scamozzi and then, in the 1800s by a heavy lacunar false ceiling. This discovery shows the stylistic, decorative continuity in the ceiling of the loggia.
The master’s life continued in the nearby symmetrical rectangular rooms, heated by large fireplaces surrounded by marbles and internally lined with small decorative tiles. From these large north facing rooms he would go to the small central Grotesque rooms, also symmetrical, and then reach the southern square rooms at the front of the house. They were also heated by large fireplaces surrounded by marbles and internally lined with small decorated tiles.
Harmonious shapes and proportions are also to be found in the passageways hidden between the Grotesque rooms and the vestibule. The one in the west part has a little wooden staircase leading to a mezzanine gallery whereas the more inspirational east space has another masterpiece by the genius of the sixteenth century architecture: the spiral staircase. Palladio is a rational innovator with regard to the use of space. He manages to meet the needs of the villa-farm even when the space is limited. The spiral staircase, taking very little room, allows the master’s servants to go about their work without being seen: from the kitchen on the ground floor to the main floor and up to the dwellings and granaries in the roof space, without disturbing anybody.
The roof space is the last floor of the villa; once it housed granaries and the servants’ dwellings. They were changed into suites for the clients of the hotel which was opened and run by the Emo family for a short time.
The extreme simplicity and rhythmic elegance of the façade goes well with the grandeur of the frescoes that completely decorate the main floor (piano). The spatial expansions in the villa which are the result of Andrea Palladio’s simple and skilled architecture are successfully juxtaposed with the interior wealth of frescoes by Battista Zelotti.
Despite the altered proportions applied by Palladio, this lovely building is extremely elegant and beautiful due
to the correspondence between the parts and the whole and it is so gracious that experts are fascinated by it.
This could teach other architects that sometimes one can break away from the rules set out by the great Masters
but without crossing the boundaries dictated by one’s own reason and common sense.
Bartolomeo Bertotti Scamozzi