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Villa Contarini Giovanelli Venier

Villa Contarini Giovanelli Venier

Villa Contarini Giovanelli Venier

Significant Venetian villa, home to the Museum of Landscape and place of the Holocaust Memorial

Villa Contarini Giovanelli-Venier is set in the center of the borough of Vo’ Vecchio, the ancient municipal seat, that later became a hamlet of the municipality of Vo’ Euganeo. The importance of the whole place, both in terms of historical value and architectural quality of the buildings as well as for the landscape and environmental setting, is manifest/clear to anyone who visits the site. 

The villa is located in a privileged border and passing point, that since the Middle Ages -and probably even earlier- has been a sort of opening between the Berici and Euganean hills. The area was redeemed from swamps thanks to massive reclamation works promoted by the Republic of Venice since 1400. These lands were the property of the Contarini, a rich and powerful family of the lagoon nobility. 

The building of the villa likely dates back to the end of 16th century, with changes and additions carried out in the following centuries. In its original design, the main body of the structure re-proposed the courtly image of the Venetian palace. As a matter of fact, the edifice has a tripartite square plan with superimposed central halls. In the nineteenth century, the property passed to the family Giovanelli-Venier which undertook works of major renovation and modernization, changing the orientation of the main façade. This latter was moved from the side facing the square to the southern side, in front of the barchessas (a barchessa is a porticoed structure with round arches, used as shed). The interior also underwent a radical reorganization and the gorgeous half spiral staircase (still existing) was built to connect the different floors of the edifice. 

The outside space has maintained its original baroque setting: the double-flight staircase opens in a semicircle facing the courtyard, where two massive lateral “barchessas” are set in diverging position. Together with the boundary walls, rounded at the bottom of the garden, they create a peculiar "drop" shape. 

Starting from 1927, the property was transferred to other families and during the Second World War it was requisitioned and used by the Nazis as a concentration camp for Jews from the provinces of Padua and Rovigo. About sixty people were locked up inside the building, between the end of 1943 and July 1944: men, women, children, often whole families, that after a few months of captivity, suffered the sad fate of millions of other Jews exterminated in the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

In the ‘50s the villa was purchased by the town of Vo’, which divided it to get homes for their employees and elementary school teachers. One of the barchessas was used as elementary school for many years, while the other one, privately owned, is still home to a bar-restaurant. 

In 2012 a major renovation was implemented so to fulfil a restoring of the former glory of Villa Contarini Giovanelli-Venier. The inner rooms currently contain an interesting museal path: the main floor (piano nobile) houses the Museum of the Landscape with an ample display of copies of ancient maps of the area, the second floor is devoted to the fitting out of temporary exhibitions, while the ground floor has become Place of Holocaust Remembrance, with the remains of the kitchens used by inmates and panels that describe the tragedy they experienced.

Iniziativa finanziata dal Programma di sviluppo rurale per il Veneto 2014-2020
Organismo responsabile dell'informazione: GAL Patavino.
Autorità di gestione: Regione del Veneto
- Direzione AdG FEASR Parchi e Foreste -