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Villa San Bastiano

villa san bastiano history and culture

The hillside on which San Bastiano stands has been witness to the life of Antonio Fogazzaro, renowned author who lived here at the turn of the 19th century.

Here was his family home and where he created some of his most renowned work; today the villa belongs to his descendants, the Ceschi a Santa Croce family, who built the house on the ruins of the original Villa Fogazzaro, destroyed by the bombings of World War II.

In front of the house lies, peaceful and verdant, the 'Valley of Silence', as Fogazzaro described it, a secluded oasis of calm, in view of which he wrote 'Piccolo Mondo Moderno' published in 1901.

The book leads us through the plains of the Venetian hinterland and the town of Vicenza, bustling background to the tormented life of Piero, son of Franco and Luisa Maironi, unforgettable protagonists of his previous acclaimed work 'Piccolo Mondo Antico', written by Fogazzaro in his beloved house in Oria, on the lake of Lugano.

Just as that villa sits gazing peacefully at the tranquil waters of the lake, Villa San Bastiano seems absorbed in contemplation of the little valley of silence below it: two oasis of peace that have welcomed illustrious guests and discerning travellers for many years.

Fogazzaro married Margherita Di Valmarana, noblewoman from Vicenza and her home, Villa Valmarana, is still today but a few steps from the house, host to many events in the lives of the most prominent players in the history of the city.

In the book it is called Villa Diedo, home to Jeanne Dessalle, beautiful and sophisticated woman, who Piero Maironi falls desperately in love with, a love unfulfilled by his inability to leave his insane wife: their story unfolds in these beautiful places, whose beauty exacerbates the drama.

San Bastiano still gazes at the Valley of Silence and on Villa Valmarana, where Fogazzaro imagined the beautiful Jeanne hosting lavish parties amid the fabulous frescos by the Tiepolos, still admired today by cultured and sensitive tourists. Fogazzaro's books and his world will come alive, as you visit the areas surrounding the Villa, which he loved so much.

Walking in the gardens of San Bastiano one can today, wrapped in the golden silences of the celebrated Venetian sunsets, be transported to the genteel world that inspired the author and lured many travellers, writers, and artists to this historic land.

The Villa San Bastiano, subsequently to the destruction of the original building during WW2, has been host to many illustrious guests who have enjoyed its tranquil beauty and exquisite hospitality.

In 1949 the famous spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí spent, as a guest of the family at their villa in nearby Montegalda and wondering at San Bastiano still in ruins, many days absorbed in the beauty of the venetian countryside finding inspiration for his paintings 'La Madone de Port Ligat', being a fervent admirer of italian art and architecture, form Andrea Palladio to Benvenuto Cellini.

More recently the celebrated concert pianist Geza Anda was a guest at San Bastiano when he came to Vicenza to play at the Teatro Olimpico as did Claudio Scimone, founder of the 'Solisti Veneti' orchestra. Also the Maharaja of Kapurthala who loved to sit with his wife on the cane chairs of the terrace in front of the house while sipping a Bellini cocktail in front of the Silent Valley, after being chauffered on sightseeing tours in the tiny Fiat 500 by his hostess, in marked contrast to the sumptuous carriages he was accustomed to from his royal garage!

The famous british photographer Cecil Beaton also loved sitting in front of the villa admiring the view, but he would choose the steps, informally chatting with fellow guests about art and fashion after lunch.

Then came the turn of Prince Michael of Kent and Victor Gauntlett, co-owner of Aston Martin, who stayed overnight during the 1987 re-edition of the 'Milla Miglia' car endurance race and the Prince remarked on the marmalade that was served to him for breakfast and 'far superior” to the one he was served daily at home!

Renowned ballerinas Dame Margot Fonteyn and Carla Fracci were also guests when they visited Vicenza on tour performing at private receptions and at the Teatro Olimpico.

A touch of Hollywood glamour also arrived with actors Jack Palance, star of high profile films such as Le Mepris, Tango and Cash and Tim Burton's Batman and Albert Finney who loved the tomato risotto served to him and Diana Quick at dinner on the terrace, during a balmy summer evening. Film director Joseph Losey also stayed here during filming of his Don Giovanni opera adaptation.