Try my own medicine...

I hired a guide…

Back in January, while studying the calendar towards May and June, busy months for a concierge and travel planner in Italy, I noticed Easter was quite late this year, on the 21st of April. Easter in Catholic Italy is a long holiday weekend: Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pasquetta, on the Monday after. Moving past the anticipated three day marathon of family, eating lamb with artichokes, and hoping for a bit of sunshine, I discovered the two following national Italian holidays, Liberation Day on the 25th of April and May Day on the 1st of May, provided an additional boon of extra days off. Two more long holiday ponte… or, bridges. The Italians are experts, fearless for any excuse or, provocation to construct holiday bridges. And, not just a Friday to Sunday or, a Monday tacked onto a Sunday but, and with no regrets, bridge from a Sunday over to a Wednesday holiday or, skip from a Thursday holiday to a weekend. Does slightly force the concept of a long weekend. No sense in complaining. Block first, plan later, as they always say.

The part of my days in February & March were dedicated in researching and making arrangements for day-trips from Bologna for an American client on her third trip to Italy with Your Italian Concierge. The first thought was to arrange a visit to see a couple of Andrea Palladio’s villas in & around the charming city of Vicenza. A city tour included. Palladio was active there too. An easy day’s jaunt.

The second was the belief in hiring a guide to help illuminate the essence and details of what has to be the Template for palatial residential architecture or, architecture in general, for that matter, especially in Great Britain and the United States: the villas of Andrea Palladio.

No sooner the need discovered than I happened upon Roberta Parlato, a congenial expert on Palladian architecture and beyond onto the cultural panorama of art, architecture and gardens of the Italian region of il Veneto. A large territory. Lake of Garda and Verona across to Venice, and from just above Ferrara… a city actually in the region of Emilia-Romagna… past Padua to the Italian Dolomiti mountains.

Roberta and I exchanged emails and telephone calls for not only a Palladian tour of villas and the city of Vicenza but, a day-trip to Verona, personally, a city always in my heart. I lived & studied Italian there for four splendid months, when I first came to Italy, lo’ those many years ago. Then it occured to me, since making all these plans for my client, why not do tour of my own and with Roberta? Try my own medicine out. Ask her take a party of myself, my companion and friends to see the one Palladian villa I have always wanted to take in but, had not yet had the opportunity to do so, Villa Rotonda. Plus a couple more for added measure. Splendid. Roberta was available for all three.

A few short weeks and I was standing at the gates to Villa Rotonda, also known as Villa Capra, a half an hour early. Gates opened at 10AM. Roberta arrived making us a party of five. There were another six or seven people waiting with us. At opening time, however, we had to have been a hundred, a hundred and fifty persons. Once inside the numbers continued to swell. Eyeing the crowd, Roberta kindly, efficiently gathered us up to follow her through the interior of the villa’s rooms. Palladio’s villa architecture continually plays with a central hall of XL dimensions and ancillary rooms of S, M & L attached. Adequate for a private family. Another story for an invasion of eager and curious tourists. And this is why I… we… enjoyed & valued Roberta so much. She escorted us into a room, explained what was of note and why. Wrapped the tales with lots of history, culture and gossip too. All told simply, clearly and with passion. Roberta replied patiently to all our questions, artfully steered us around people to enjoy the best vantage points and she sought to do the same in each of the spaces, and then, outside to admire the villa’s structure and prospects less encumbered. Effortless. Seamless. And most definitely instructive. Roberta won us over, all day long.

By the end of our Saturday tour, hopes to see just three villas with a pranzo in between, was orchestrated by Roberta’s efforts & knowledge to include five Palladian villas: Villa Rotonda, Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Villa Pojana, Villa Pisani Montagnana, Villa Pisani Bagnolo di Lonigo and one villa designed and built by a post-Palladian architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi, his amazing hill-top villa, Rocca Pisana. Oh, and with a leisurely lunch sipping a chilly white wine and tasting the famous salumeria of Montagnana on its story-book piazza in the shade of a large umbrella.

We were enthralled. Palladio, Scamozzi, the sunny weather too. Doubt we could have done or seen so much without Roberta. She made it happen. An extraordinary experience.

Photos: Villa Rotonda, Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Villa Pojana, my party on the tour, Villa Pisani Montagnana, and Rocca Pisana.

Cover photo: Roberta Parlato on the right speaking with the hostess on the loggia of Villa Pisani Montagnana.