Cruise Along The Brenta River in Veneto
A unique experience to do in Veneto for those interested in discovering some of the most interesting and characteristic aspects of this region, namely the Venetian villas along the River Brenta, while at the same time spending a day in the middle of nature.
River tourism is not so widespread and, as in this case, the pleasure of navigation can also be amplified by the discovery of places of absolute charm.
This excursion by boat, more than a trip, is a very special fascinating journey, which will make you step back in time, savoring long gone eras, reliving those sensations “of other times”, which we often read in history books or novels.
Discover the Brenta River Cruise
And back in those old days the boat, which was used to navigate the Brenta, was the Burchiello.
The Burchiello, was considered the means of transport by the Venetian high society of the times, who used this boat for the journey that, from Venice, led them to the Venetian villas on the Riviera del Brenta, the same journey which I was very lucky to take thanks to San Marco Events aboard the riverboat Tiepolo a few weeks ago.
We were met in Malcontenta, by the entrance of the Villa Foscari by Daniela, our guide through this enchanting ride!
As we slowly slid along the calm water of the Naviglio del Brenta, Daniela explained about the history of Villa Foscari, also known as Villa Malcontenta.
Villa Foscari called La Malcontenta
La Malcontenta: it is the only Villa of Palladio on the Riviera del Brenta. A masterpiece of sixteenth-century architecture, but also of Venetian hydraulic politics.
Villa Foscari was designed in 1559 on commission by Niccolò Foscari, owner of Ca’ Foscari on the Grand Canal, prestigious seat of the University of Venice.
Nicolò Foscari died in 1560 and his brother Alvise took care of the works, that were completed around 1566, when it was visited by Giorgio Vasari. The frescoes are the work of Gianbattista Zelotti, a favorite artist of Palladio, and Battista Franco, who died in 1561 before completing his “Fall of the Giants”.
The villa is then famous for its legend. The “Malcontenta” seems to have been a lady of the Foscari family, relegated in solitude inside the villa, punished for her licentious conduct and who was never seen, even through the windows, by anyone, to the point that mystery, legends and anecdotes spread in the course of the centuries.
Villa Foscari “La Malcontenta” is a splendid example of how Palladio was able to obtain great results, even with “poor” materials, such as bricks and plaster. The monumental effect, worthy of a family as powerful as the Foscari, is guaranteed to the point that the villa seems almost a Greek temple, with mighty columns and the raised base (to protect the floods of the river) and moist soil and large symmetrical stairways on either side of the entrance.
It is called “Malcontenta” from “malcanton”, meaning unhealthy, poisonous place; and it develops in height so that its guests could admire from above the result of that reclamation which we still benefit from.
The Villa was in fact erected on marshy land, to become the center of one of the largest hydraulic reclamation operations of the sixteenth century.
The Naviglio del Brenta
The Naviglio del Brenta, in fact, in the seventeenth/eighteenth century, had become an extension of the Grand Canal and many families decided to build their villa on its shores.
It is a natural branch of the river Brenta, La vecchia Brenta, that is what it was called before the fascism, which masculinized even the names of the rivers.
It was transformed into a canal with the construction of four locks that facilitates the navigation.
Over the years it became a prestigious place chosen by the most influential families of Venice to erect their home for the “summer holiday”.
The Villas of the Brenta River
Venetian villas, between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, originated the “going on holiday” phenomenon. If previously they were agricultural villas, useful for the management of the countryside, then they were built or restored to become luxurious holiday homes and, sailing along the Brenta, allowed to view them one after the other. It is estimated there were more than 120 Venetian villas, many now destroyed, others restored over the centuries for uses in step with the times, intended for hotels, restaurants etc., but whose architecture can still be appreciated along this cruise on the Brenta.
Of 80 villas which are still standing, 50 are still in good preservation state.
Those of the Venetian Villas is a priceless cultural, artistic, architectural heritage and to take care of its protection and enhancement is the Regional Institute of Venetian Villas (IRVV).
A boat cruise on the Brenta River
A boat service called Burchiello connected Padua and Venice and was at the service of the noble Venetians, owners of the magnificent Venetian villas built along the river. The boat fell into disuse with the end of the Serenissima.
Of course we sailed on a modern, comfortable motorboat, but in the old days, for the Venetian to reach their villas from Venice, it took much longer and when sailing from Venice to Padua, the burchiello was pulled by horses on the banks of the canal, the so-called “cavallanti”. Along the way we noticed various places, called locanda, which used to be the restoring places for travellers with the possibility of resting the horses in the stables. – most of them now are restaurants!
I would like to emphasize above all the relaxed atmosphere of the trip. We are always too focused on reaching the end of the journey, when instead a slow boat trip brings the traveler to reconsider and enjoy the trip as it happens.
Malcontenta, Oriago, Mira, Dolo, Stra are all towns crossed by the Naviglio del Brenta, whose history has been characterized for centuries by the presence of this very important river traffic artery.
In the stretch from Malcontenta to Oriago the landscape is more bucolic and the view from the terrace of the boat opens to the countryside and a natural environment, where the predominant colors are the green of the vegetation and the brown of the earth.
The Riviera del Brenta
The Riviera del Brenta is not only the most beautiful exhibition of Villas in the world and the most famous waterway: with its five navigation basins, ten mobile bridges and two river crossings, it is is also a jewel of technology, quality of life and environmental culture.
The navigation basins are called Conche: these are “lifts” of water that allow to overcome the differences in height of the river by boat. On the Riviera del Brenta there are five Conche for a total difference in height of about seven meters.
Mobile bridges: there are ten and all types- drawers, revolving, retractable, manual, electric.
The “Island” of Dolo: it is called “Isola” since, in the Thirties, the great loop that encloses the historic center of the village of Dolo was “cut” by opening a new branch of the Naviglio Brenta and thus creating an island.
Inside the “Island” lies the heart of Dolo: the Squero (an ancient shipyard) from the 17th century, the 16th century mills, the ancient navigation basin now abandoned, the point where the aqueduct that brought water to Venice began.
Nowadays Dolo is a fervent little town, full of quaint cafes, bars and cute shops. Perfect stop for lunch during this boat trip!
The cruise usually goes all the way to the town of Stra and Villa Pisani. Yu can read about Villa Pisani here.
In this occasion, the boat turned around and we headed back toward Malcontenta, stopping at Villa Widmann on the way.
Villa Widmann on the Brenta
Villa Widmann, also known as Villa Seriman or Villa Wildmann Rezzonico Foscari according to the various owners who have succeeded over time. Today the property belongs to the Province of Venice and is used as a venue for exhibitions and events.
It is the Villa della Riviera that is richest in aesthetic contrasts: in fact a very sober façade contrasts with a hall with elegant rococo French stuccos; to the Venetian splendor is opposed the “style” Hollywood of many too recent details.
It was built in 1719 by the Venetian designer Andrea Tirali, on behalf of the Seriman family, a noble Venetian family of Persian origin. The villa has a square plan, as tradition for the Venetian villas, but what you admire today is not the original plan of the building.
After the second half of the eighteenth century the villa passed to the Wildmanns who provided for the enlargement and restructuring according to the rococo and to the construction of the curvilinear tympanum that characterizes its shape.
Obviously the dimensions have nothing to do with Villa Pisani, but Villa Wildmann stands out for the elegance of its shape, for the park with the many statues depicting the classical world of Arcadia, the barchessa with the collection of carriages and especially for the Splendid Salone delle feste frescoed by Giuseppe Angeli around 1765. Although small in size the Villa Wildmann party hall has a decorative richness among the most surprising of all the Venetian villas on the Brenta Riviera.
Among the most illustrious guests who frequented Villa Wildmann Carlo Goldoni, the musicians Malipiero, Igor Stravinski and the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio.
Villa Valmarana: it was a humble barchessa, or a shelter for tools and grains destined for agricultural use, and became a villa.
The food of the Riviera del Brenta
Discovering a territory without sampling its gastronomic culture is, in my opinion, “doing things by half”. The desire and the curiosity to taste the dishes and typical products of the place you are visiting should be just as strong as that the wish to visit a museum or a monument, because the food communicates much of the history of a territory and cultures that have inhabited it.
Thanks to the navigation on the Brenta, it is also possible to become familiar with the gastronomy of the Riviera del Brenta, based mainly and inevitably on fish cuisine, due to the proximity to the lagoon and the sea and the history connected to the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
The fish and shellfish dishes of the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea are therefore the masters and there are many restaurants and trattorias along the whole of the Brenta Riviera.
We were lucky enough to have the chef of Burchiello Restaurant, renowned fish restaurant of the Buon Ricordo circuit, preparing a selection of cicchetti for us as well as one of the most delicious fish and Prosecco risotto I have ever tasted!
But for those who do not like fish, in the local restaurants there is no shortage of meat dishes and all the products of the land and surrounding countryside.
The cruise on the Brenta along the Riviera del Brenta lasts a full day and the departure time is set at 9 in the morning.
You can book a Cruise Along The Brenta River by contacting San Marco Events and Tours .
San Marco Events and Tours
Tel . +39 041 5138296
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