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Touring the Villas

The villa closest to Venice that's open for tours is the Villa Foscari (Villa La Malcontenta), Via dei Turisti 9, Malcontenta (tel. 041-5470012 or 041-5203966), on Route S11 about 4km (2 1/2 miles) west of where the canal empties into the Venetian Lagoon. It was constructed by Palladio for the Foscari family in 1560. A Foscari wife was exiled here for some alleged misdeed, and the unhappiness surrounding the incident gave the name Malcontenta (unhappy one) to the villa and its village. It's open (Apr-Oct) Tuesday and Saturday 9am to noon, with a 8€ ($10/£5.35) admission. The villa is also open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, by previous reservation (8€ ($10/£5.35).

In Stra, 32km (20 miles) west of Venice on Route S11, stands the Villa Pisani (Villa Nazionale; tel. 049-502074). Built in 1720 as a palatial retreat for Doge Alvise Pisani, it became the Italian home of Napoleon and later served as the initial meeting site of Mussolini and Hitler. Given this historical context, it's no surprise that the villa is the largest and grandest. A reflecting pool out front gives added dimension, and a small army of statues stands guard over the premises. The highlights of a visit are the magnificent Giambattista Tiepolo frescoes, painted on the ballroom ceiling to depict the Glory of the Pisani Family, in which family members are surrounded by angels and saints. The villa is open Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 4pm (until 7pm Apr-Oct). Admission is 5€ ($6.50/£3.35) for both the park and the museum but only 3€ ($3.90/£2) to explore just the park.

There are other villas you can visit along the Riviera, each with a stately private home whose owners appreciate and fiercely protect the unique nature of their property. These structures don't follow the gracefully symmetrical rhythms of Palladio: Each appears to be a larger version of the palazzi lining Venice's Grand Canal. Although most villas welcome the occasional appropriately respectful visitor, do call in advance before you drop in.

These include the Villa Sagredo, Via Sagredo (tel. 049-503174), 1km (1/2 mile) northwest of the hamlet of Vigonovo. In a suitably gnarled garden, it was built on ancient Roman foundations, and the form it has today dates from around 1700, the result of frequent rebuilding. You must reserve in advance, and the owners prefer scheduled visits Tuesday to Friday 5 to 10pm or Saturday and Sunday 2 to around 8pm. A restaurant and a bar serve simple food and drink. Admission is free.

Wine Tasting

Important vineyards in the Veneto include Azienda Vinicola Fratelli Fabiano, Via Verona 6, 37060 Sona, near Verona (tel. 045-6081111), and Fratelli Bolla, Piazza Cittadella 3, 37122 Verona (tel. 045-8670911). Smaller, but well respected because of recent improvements to its vintages, is Nino Franco (known for its sparkling prosecco), in the hamlet of Valdobbiadene, Via Garibaldi 147, 31049 Treviso (tel. 0423-972051). For information on these and the dozens of other producers in the Veneto, contact the Azienda di Promozione Turistica, Via Delgi Alpini no. 9, Piazza Bra Verona, 37121 Verona (tel. 045-8068680). If you plan to tour the countryside and do a little wine tasting and vineyard touring, it's best to make an appointment ahead of time and get detailed directions.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.