Nestled in a harmonious Valpolicella vineyard landscape, this villa was built in the mid-16th century. It is famed for its architectural design and ingenious use of water, including caves, fountains and fishponds, as immortalized by 16th-century poet Veronica Franco.
Owing to similarities with Palazzo Te in Mantua and the client’s contacts with the architect, Giulio della Torre is thought to have commissioned Giulio Romano to design the villa. The property stayed in the Della Torre family until the early 19th century. After going into gradual decline, a process accelerated by damage during and after the Second World War, Girolamo Cazzola purchased the property in 1952. He started a programme of wide-ranging restoration work in 1960. In 2008, the Allegrini family took over the property, restoring its architecture and turning the estate into the centrepiece of a prestigious winery. Originally, the gardens had a large “brolo” orchard to the west of the complex, along a wide road leading to the entrance, where water flowed along a channel cut into the wall of the first garden. The complex has a succession of spaces modelled on the template of a Roman domus. The small octagonal church to the left of the first courtyard was designed by Michele Sanmicheli. From here, steps lead to the inner courtyard, a sort of peristiliumwith a central fountain enclosed by a portico. Further down is a garden with a fishpond traversed by a small stone bridge, modelled after Palazzo Te, and then two gardens on either side with two Chamaerops excelsa, offering views out over the main section of the garden, which today is a simple lawn but at one time was a “delightful, flower-filled garden… decorated with lush trees and an evergreen mantle” immortalized by Veronica Franco in her poetry, including a cave-nymphaeum in tuff behind a facade moulded to look like a deformed mask.
Waterworks and Fishpond
The villa and its gardens once drew on a vast water system, of which only a few traces remain. This is, however, sufficient to give us a sense of its compositional value and the role it played in the landscaping, both as an essential decorative element and in everyday use.
Located at the highest point in the entire complex, not far from the villa’s entrance, this space pays tribute to the world of the Ancients, collecting water and featuring a nymphaeum and a head of Jupiter Ammon in the middle of the ceiling.
Below the fishpond terrace, its entrance opening out onto the garden, the grotto’s exterior consists of sponges and tuff rock that create an anthropomorphic motif, picking out the main route through the complex. The cave’s inner walls are to this day decorated with elements from the organic and natural world; they also contain remnants of earthenware piping once used to power the water features.
Rooms on the ground floor feature four extraordinary fireplaces attributed to Bartolomeo Ridolfi. They are decorated with monstrous masks depicting lions, sea monsters and large demonic creatures.