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The barchesse

The barchesse, that is the two long porticoed side wings which start from the main body of the villa, are at the core of the agricultural company: they are two identical blocks, each with eleven big rounded arches. In Palladio’s design, visible in his treatise, The Four Books on Architecture, the eleven arches on each side only join the Villa perspectively because in actual fact the lateral bodies and the central one are separated by the measurement of three spans. Palladio creates in this manner a purely optical connection between the two elements of the villa: the manor house on the one side and the rural, agricultural part on the other. Besides, the arches that face directly the open countryside at the back of the house, mark even further this division of use and make the central body more aulic and light which, from an architectural point of view, is very different from the barchesse.

The originality of the initial Palladian design, was lost for ever in the first half of the 1700s, following an adaptation to the new intended uses of the villa. The transformation from villa-farm of Palladian conception to villa-noble residence where to spend holidays and welcome guests was more of a priority, is probably to be ascribed to the architect Francesco Muttoni (1667-1747). The date was not chosen at random, in fact it appears in a mosaic inscription located in the villa’s mezzanine, an area that is not open to the public and the date represents the year in which work was carried out to make the villa more consistent with the fashion and demands of Venetian society and its craziness for holidays, as depicted in one of Goldoni’s play. In the same period a small oratory dedicated to St John the Baptist was built in the west barchessa. Fortunately, this did not alter the look of the Palladian façade and can only be seen from the architrave entrance gate and from a little bell placed on the roof of the barchessa.

Due to these new architectural works, the villa not only lost the arched opening towards the countryside at the back, nowadays the access corridor to the main body of the villa used for tourists’ visits, but also lost the windows that illuminated with direct sunlight the two small rooms of the Grotesque. These adaptations to new forms of living were duly recorded by Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi (1719-1790) in his book ,’The Buildings and Drawings’, by Andrea Palladio, printed in Vicenza in 1796.

The adjacencies that flank the central body are significantly long in comparison to the main building and were designed

by Palladio to house, as he himself points out, the cellars, the granaries, the stables and other farm places;

now they are intended for a nobler use, that is rooms and box rooms which make the House

more comfortable and capable to accommodate beside the Masters of the House also the guests that happen to be there.

The barchesse in fact were originally used for agricultural purposes only and housed stables, cellars and a shelter for tools; on the southern side they are totally porticoed for aesthetic and functional reasons, because in this manner the farmers could work all day long and under any weather conditions as they were protected from both rain and burning sun in the summer season. Even the two arches of the porticoes at both ends facing the park, which were used as side entrances to the carts shelter, were walled up over the centuries and replaced by two doors.

At the two ends of the barchesse, slightly set back, are two dovecote towers in which farmers bred pigeons for consumption and for selling. Testimony to the ancient use are the ‘oculi’ (openings) that allowed the birds to get in and out of the dovecote. They were, however, blocked between the 1700 and 1800 following a change in the use of these spaces.

As a result of the 1700s transformation by Muttoni, the rooms in the barchesse currently house : in the west wing, multifunctional rooms and in the east wing the entrance to the museum area with all the services that go along with its designated use: ticket office, book shop and teaching halls. Furthermore in this area on the ground floor there are three large rooms with fireplaces decorated with big paintings of landscapes, with stucco frames, that are now intended for commercial and hospitality use for the events organized at the villa: conferences, buffets, catering service, exhibitions and concerts. The west wing and the first floor of both barchesse which were changed to hotel rooms over twenty years ago, are not open to the public.

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