The Castello di Thiene displays many varied characteristics that make it difficult to describe, a unique example in the history of architecture in the Veneto. Called a “castello” (castle) due to its ramparts crowned with merlons and the severe fortified walls that delineate the property, in reality the structure has no military or defensive elements. An imposing quadrilateral edifice flanked by two high towers, made more elegant by the large pointed arches of the ground floor, the refinement of the Gothic windows (including a striking five-pane window on the second level) and the elegance of the chimneys that adorn the highest points of the roof. The comparison to the Fondaco dei Turchi on the Grand Canal in Venice becomes inevitable from an architectural standpoint, as another edifice with a mixed residential-mercantile function. Around the middle of the 15th century Francesco seniore Porto commissioned a new construction project in Thiene, an area in which he owned vast amounts of land, on the foundation of an existing
structure. The clear references to Venetian architecture support the structure’s attribution to Domenico da Venezia, civil engineer for the city of Vicenza, architect of the Duomo and the Palazzo della Ragione. He was tasked with responding to the needs of his patron, creating a complex that would be a center of business activities as well as a place for rest and leisure, much as the architect A. Palladio would later interpret the necessities of the most important
families of Venice.
The Venetian villa found its most complete expression in the 16th century through the works of that famous architect, who was able to synthesize the aesthetic and functional needs of his patrons in a style of villa that remained largely unchanged up until the fall of the Most Serene Republic of Venice in 1797. Palladio however did not invent this concept of the villa, but rather renewed the forms that these countryside residences had already taken over the course of the preceding centuries.
The Castello therefore presents itself as an early model of the eventual developments of the villa in the Veneto region, as a noble residence and a place of refined life and culture in the countryside where the family’s interests lay.
Property of the Porto family for four centuries, in 1816 it passed to the Colleoni-Porto family and in 1918, as an inheritance, to the Thiene family who remain the property’s owners. More than five hundred years of life, history, transformations, modifications and maintenance have passed without ever overlooking or damaging its original character. The interior still preserves original furnishings of the period and a collection of portraits spanning from the 15th to 20th centuries, and the fifteenth-century frescoes of G.B. Zelotti and G.A. Fasolo, apprentices of P. Veronese,
on scenes taken from Roman history. On the upper level is the gallery graced by a remarkable collection of equestrian paintings from the 17th century. Another masterpiece is the stables, built after a design by the architect. F. Muttoni at the beginning of the 18th century.
The gardens have also retained their originality: the magnificent conical magnolia trees, the water-well designed by A. Palladio, the Renaissance grotto designed by C. Sorte – a cartographer, painter and architect who collaborated with Palladio and a magistrate of the Beni Inculti – the splendid pergola and the fifteenth-century ice house. Outside the walls we find the church of the Nativity of the Virgin with its oratory, sacristy and rectory, a little Gothic jewel that
boasts an altarpiece attributed to P. Lombardo. Today the Castello exists in a completely urban setting, at the heart of the historic center of Thiene, of which it is an iconic symbol.