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The original Palladian garden between the 16th and the 17th century

There is no certain documentary testimony to the original layout of Villa Emo’s garden apart from a brief description by Palladio himself in his famous treatise The Four Books on Architecture, where the architect states: Behind this building there is a square garden measuring eighty campi Trevigiani: in the middle a little river flows and makes the place very beautiful and enjoyable. Unfortunately in this brief description he does not give any details regarding the planting, the walks, the tree-crops and the flowers in this garden; however, it does not mean that Palladio was not aware that, as he himself writes in his treatise, gardens and orchards […..] are the soul and recreation of the villa.

It is important to remember that Palladio behaves in the same manner with the ornaments, that is the sculptural and pictorial apparatuses that decorate the interior spaces of villas and palaces built by him. He admits and justifies decoration, he mentions it and praises the executors but he never describes it. Therefore we can assume that, as the interior decoration is authorised by Andrea Palladio as long as it does not disturb the sense of spatial order of the building but rather underlines it, so the ornament represented by gardens and orchards is well accepted by him on condition that it does not interfere with the volumetric structure of the building, nor unbalances it, nor disturbs the relationship between the building and the morphology of the surrounding environment in which it is placed.

The change implemented by Palladio is that the rural parts are physically joined to the palace, introducing a new way to keep together spaces with different uses and at the same time establishing a coherent relationship with the pre-existent landscape; this was characterized by the geometry determined by the route of the ancient Postumia Road and by what was left of the Roman centuriazione (land division system). The centre of this structured and complex landscape is the villa’s central hall from which physically and visually we can perceive not only the extension of the agricultural land that belongs to the farm but also the accomplished sense of the construction and its real nature.

Antonio Callegaris’s map dated 28 February 1677 and kept in the State Archives in Treviso, illustrates the network of the Brentella’s seriole in the Fanzolo area showing both the source and the course through the brolo and then the way it flows on both sides of the villa, like a tong and continues in the fields toward the Postumia road, beyond the road that takes you to Barcon. The map, on the basis of what we presently know, is the first that indicates the two Ca’ Emo’s wide roads to the north and south of the villa as well as the constructions realized in front of the villa, in the course of the century, for workers and farmers, which form what today is called the ancient village (antico borgo).

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