Down a walking path from Palladio’s famous La Rotonda, just outside the city of Vicenza, is a jewel of a villa that although may not be as impressive as its better-known neighbor is nonetheless a delight. Although it’s looked over by dwarfs, it’s a far cry from Disney’s Hi Ho.
Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Villa of the Dwarfs) is a whimsical countryside villa near Vincenza that although mentioned in several well known guide books is often missed. Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Villa of the Dwarfs) built by Antonio Muttoni and his son Francesco is actually three buildings: the owner’s residence, a guest house (foresteria) and stables (scuderia). There is a small internal garden and a pagoda in the woods. The walls alongside the Villa are decorated with whimsical figures of dwarfs and there is a legend about the design, reminiscent of Shrek but unfortunately without the happy ending.
According to a local legend the stone statues of the dwarfs on the walls alongside the villa represent servants who were petrified upon seeing the beloved nobleman’s daughter thrown to her death, a result of unrequited love. The villa is across the road and up the hill from Villa Rotonda. It is a fair walk but worth the effort. The inside of the villa is as delightful as the outside. The frescoed walls of the villa are attributed to the father and son Tiepolos and are considered to be among the greatest examples of the fresco art of the 18th century. Be sure to allow enough time to enjoy the lovely garden which adds to the romantic storybook atmosphere.The Valmarana family still lives in the villa so only the villa’s piano nobile is open to the public.