“An environment for the Environment” Exhibition opens at Villa dei Vescovi

A new multimedia space at Villa dei Vescovi in the Euganean Hills narrates the value of landscape in the past, present and future with the narrative voice of Italian actor Marco Paolini.

A sensitive environment, conceived in the 16th century to favour the view of the landscape and still today an emblem of the harmony between human beings and nature: this is Villa dei Vescovi, a FAI property in Luvigliano di Torreglia (PD). Here, where the landscape has always played a leading role, the Foundation is inaugurating a new permanent multimedia space that complements and enriches the current range of visits on offer. It is called “Un ambiente per l’Ambiente” (“An Environment for the Environment”), and it is an immersive video-installation – set up in the basement of the Villa, and entrusted to the voice of Marco Paolini – that FAI is dedicating to the story of the landscape as the outcome of the inextricable interweaving of history and nature.

(The links below will take you to dedicated pages in Italian)
Environment and landscape, according to FAI, are not uncontaminated nature, but the scenario of our history and our lives, for which we are all protagonists and responsible, as in the past, today and for the future, increasingly burdened by the threat of environmental crisis. FAI’s commitment to the environment, at a time in history dominated by the devastating effects of global warming, is reinforced and realised in a pathway of ecological transition that involves all of its properties and activities, and as of today also in a new element of the “Un ambiente per l’Ambiente” (An Environment for the Environment) project, following the one inaugurated at Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan; FAI intends to carry out at least one of these every year, in order to tell the story, from the inside, of the surrounding environment and what the Trust is doing to preserve it, enhance it and promote its protection starting from knowledge, as is its mission.


Villa dei Vescovi is an ideal place to continue the story, because here, for five centuries, the landscape has inevitably overwhelmed the visitor: this is demonstrated by the loggias, with arches framing the surrounding environment, but also by the pictorial decorations, the work of the Flemish artist Lambert Sustris, which ‘break down’ the closed spaces, illusionistically projecting outwards. The insistence on observing what lies beyond the architectural boundaries is evidence of a desire for total immersion in the landscape, here understood not as a portion of nature in which we are passively immersed, but as a product of the determination of human beings: not a painting but an environment, continuously reshaped by our point of view.


But while the Villa highlights the harmony of the mutual influence between people and nature, human intervention in the area in which it stands has not always had such happy outcomes. The model of the Venetian villa, which has enjoyed enormous success over time and around the world, has also been at the origin of a settlement and industrial dispersion that has affected the Euganean Hills, threatened by building speculation or the spread of quarries, but, thanks also to the mobilisation of civil society, now protected by institutions, including the Regional Park.

FAI has been helping to protect this landscape since 2005, i.e. since the heirs of the last owner, Vittorio Olcese, his wife Maria Teresa and son Pierpaolo, donated Villa dei Vescovi to the Foundation in his memory and at his behest. The FAI restored the building and its frescoes, but also the surrounding greenery, i.e. the villa’s brolo, which is now a productive vineyard on the ‘Euganean Hills Wine Route’, with a marasca grove, a pond and even an apiary. Caring for this landscape, enhancing promiscuous crops and ancient techniques, is the best way to pass on its history, but also to contribute to the health of the environment, promoting biodiversity and sustainability, and to preserve its beauty. After all, “This world is beautiful to those who know how to make it beautiful”: this is a quote from Alvise Cornaro – the creator of the Villa’s design, together with architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto – and now also the title chosen for the FAI’s video story, which emphasises the centrality of man in the landscape and his responsibility towards the environment.


Villa dei Vescovi stands on a small knoll at the foot of the Euganean Hills, in Luvigliano di Torreglia, a few kilometres from Padua. Built between 1535 and 1542 on a commission from the then Bishop of Padua Francesco Pisani and designed by Alvise Cornaro, it was built as a holiday residence for the curia of Padua, hence ‘Villa dei Vescovi’. Right from the choice of location, the villa represents the desire to revive in Veneto the model of the suburban villa of ancient Rome: in fact, 16th-century scholars believed that the villa of Titus Livy, a native of ancient Patavium, was located in Luvigliano (whose toponym would therefore refer to the well-known Roman historian). Today, in the eyes of those who observe for the first time its ‘unique panorama’ – as Dino Buzzati described it in 1967 -, Villa dei Vescovi seems designed to extend the meaning of the word ‘landscape’ towards a human practice: a model of relationship with nature in an experience accessible to all.

This is why FAI has created “Un ambiente per l’Ambiente” (An Environment for the Environment): to tell the story of the Villa and its surroundings, and to accompany the visitor towards the reasons that make this place, more than many others, capable of shifting the focus on the importance of landscape: from context to absolute protagonist.

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