You may choose to visit the surroundings of the picturesque area of Galzignano Terme (Padua, Veneto) for several reasons … However, I ask that you set aside the Euganean Hills and the Church of Sant’Eusebio and follow me on a discovery of the Monumental Garden of Valsanzibio and Villa Barbarigo. As we head towards Valsanzibio (fraction of Galzignano Terme) I will show you three reasons why this 17th century gem is well worth a visit this summer!
The Monumental Garden of Villa Barbarigo
Villa Barbarigo is a Venetian villa dating back to the seventeenth century (1665-1696). It was commissioned on behalf of the noble Francesco Zuan Barbarigo. We owe the rich symbology of the complex to Gregorio Barbarigo, first-born and cardinal of Padua (later Bishop and Saint). The architect Luigi Bernini was one of the main figures involved in the realization of the project. The Villa and its surroundings, in fact, had to represent in all their grandeur not only the importance of the family, but also the gratitude to Our Lord, for having saved the noble Barbarigo from the Plague. Although the owners of the Villa have changed over time, the project devised by the founders remains almost unchanged. Villa Barbarigo has received important prizes and awards such as “The most beautiful garden in Italy” (2003) and “The third most beautiful garden in Europe” (2007).
The Monumental Garden has about 150,000 square meters and offers its visitors the opportunity to follow a symbolic itinerary, with precise rules, which will take them from the earthly dimension to salvation and purification. However there are some very specific rules to follow!
The path begins at Diane’s Doorway, once the main entrance to the Villa. Behind Diane’s Doorway there are fisheries with fountains and statues. Each of these has mottos engraved on its base. Throughout the garden there are about 70 statues, 16 fountains, 800 trees, waterfalls, streams, small buildings, fountains, and sculptures.
Of particular interest is the labyrinth, about 1.5 km long. At the center we find a tower with a guard that keeps an eye on the brave visitors. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to venture through and is a must-stop!
Following the map, which is usually provided at the entrance, you will find Hermit’s Cave and Rabbit Island, which looks like a small isolated oasis, populated only by rabbits. It is very interesting to discover the meaning hidden behind these two stages, which dwell on human conditions such as solitude and immanence.
Shortly thereafter, you’ll find yourself facing the The Statue of Time, represented by Chrono, and then come the Tricky Fountains. Originally these fountains served as “teasers” to trick the exhausted visitors that it was not over yet! Finally, you find yourself in front of the imposing Steps of the Sonnet, guarded by two beastly statues engraved with Dante’s famous verses. The end of the path is right in front of us: Ecstasy’s Fountain with 8 allegorical statues. Unfortunately, this square isn’t accessible, but you can still enjoy a beautiful view of its interior and the facade of the Villa.
The Garden can be easily visited without a guide, thanks to a map that is provided at the entrance to each visitor. Or by choosing the supplemental ticket, you can choose to take a standard or superior guided tour. I recommend the standard visit to those who already know a little about the history of Villa Barbarigo and want to discover something about the vast symbolism of the Garden. Personally, I found a competent, prepared and very helpful guide. His tour was so engaging, that the time just flew!
“The Doge’s Pic-Nic”
Every Sunday, and on April holidays, the non-Monumental area of the Garden opens to visitors. This event is called the “Doge’s Pic-nic”. The visitor can choose to bring food and drinks from home or, alternatively, can also buy something on-site from the Quality Street Food. The large park gives you the freedom to choose to have lunch on a blanket or on the tree trunks of the Garden. There is also the possibility to reserve benches or tables, for a small fee. What could be more relaxing than a pic-nic on a lazy Sunday?
The Exhibition “Atmosphere of life in the Villa”
Last, but not least, there is another reason to visit Valsanzibio! This year the Garden’s visitors can enjoy the exhibition “Atmospheres of life in the Villa” at Ca’ Martinengo, now home to the Garden Museum. Previously, Ca ‘Martinengo was an ancient hunting lodge of the nineteenth century. It directly overlooked Diana’s Doorway, the ancient entrance by water.
The exhibition, which can be visited on weekends or by reservation, will be open all year. You can admire period costumes, carriages, porcelain and much more which are all owned by the Pizzoni Ardemani family (current owners of the estate). You can also reserve benches or tables and enjoy traditional Venetian dishes.
To wrap it up, the Monumental Garden is a Baroque wonder to be discovered through a multitude of symbols that accompany the visitor from beginning to end.
For more information in English visit the official site: Monumental Garden of Valsanzibio
Hours: Monday to Friday 10: 00-13: 00 and 14:00 – 19.00;
Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10:00 am – 7:00 pm (with continuous opening hours).
The Garden is open from the last weekend of February to the second weekend of December.
Where: Via Diana 2, Valsanzibio (PD)
Availability of unattended parking nearby
Tickets: Adult = € 11.00
Adult group (20+ people) = € 9.00
Children up to 14 years = € 6.50
School groups (reservation required) = € 6.50
photo copyrights: A. Birsa, valsanzibiogiardino.it
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