Stunning historic castles and gorgeous villas aren’t uncommon in the high-end Italian real estate market. But Villa Cornaro, one of the few remaining homes designed by the legendary architect Andrea Palladio, creates an entirely different level of excitement for fans of classical architecture.
Located in the Venaro region of Italy and designed in 1551 for Giorgio Cornaro, a member of the Venetian upper class, the home is considered “one of the most influential buildings in the world,” according to a New York Times description of the property. Palladio’s significance came from his role as a re-interpreter of classical styles. The Paduan architect’s ornate homes and buildings brought Greek and Roman grace and symmetry into the Renaissance, and serve as ancestors to the grand Neoclassical buildings that grace Western cities.
Villa Cornaro boasts a direct connection to one of the most famous 18th century structures in the United States. The two-story “villa-palace” located on a well-worn rural road, is well-known for its pillared double front porch, or portico, a feature which Thomas Jefferson drew upon when designing Monticello. After appearing in Palladio’s famous book I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture), the home, with its harmonious interior layout and double portico-loggia motif, served as a model for villas across the world, including England’s Marble Hill House.
History, alas, isn’t cheap. Sotheby’s is currently listing the property for $45 million. In addition to the historic home, potential new owners will also take possession of a half-dozen statues of the Cornaro family, which fit into niches in the walls of the grand salon, a well as more than 100 religious frescoes spread across the home which depict scenes from the Old and New Testament.
The current owners, Americans Carl and Sally Gable, paid $2 million for the home in 1989, and have spent decades refurbishing and renovating, including replacing the roof, restoring the faltering southern portico, and connecting the remote villa to water and sewer systems. Their purchase was not without drama, as they needed to wait out the Italian government, which had the right to bid on the property due to its historic value.
“Life is opera, as every Italian knows,” Ms. Gable wrote at the time.