In bygone days, travelling by boat was a necessity. It was the easiest way to cover the 30 kilometres separating Venice from Padua, one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned university cities. Later, when locks – one of which was based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci – changed the course of the river, a tranquil canal surrounded by lush vegetation was created along the secondary branch of the Brenta River.

This area was ideal to indulge in the new fashion of ‘Villeggiatura’ – literally holidaying in a villa. Aristocratic families built country estates where they could spend the summer amidst lush green surroundings and spaces designed for partying. This resulted in the Venetian aristocracy competing with each other by building increasingly spectacular, grandiose villas, designed and decorated by several of the country’s most prominent architects and artists.

Nowadays, a leisurely boat tour of the Brenta River is a delightful experience that allows participants to admire these masterpieces of architecture designed centuries ago, that continue to astonish those visiting the area. Unmissable stopovers include Villa Foscari, also known as ‘la Malcontenta’: a stunning mansion built by Andrea Palladio in 1559 and now a UNESCO world heritage site. Other unmissable venues are: the magnificent 18th century Villa Pisani which, in addition to housing a magnificent fresco by Giovan Battista Tiepolo, was so large that it was used as meeting place for numerous heads of state until the Pisani family sold it to Napoleon in 1807 and, finally, Villa Widmann which combines the tradition of Veneto villas with French Rococò architecture and is now the headquarters of the Venetian tourist board.

Day cruises are available from both Venice and Padua. Several tour companies also offer romantic evening cruises. Ask your concierge to arrange the itinerary that suits you best and get ready for an enchanting experience!