Comune di Brugnera

The History of Villa Varda

For many of those whom have had the opportunity to walk along the paths in the park of Villa Varda, the place resembles a little refuge in paradise, but for many others it is not only a mansion with a beautiful park, for them there is much more to it: a little world of its own full of memories, facts, characters and anecdotes.
The story of the villa and its surroundings dates back to the 15th century, at that time, we can easily imagine it as a vast agriculture and rural area, where very few landowners lived a comfortable life, while others, mostly pheasants lived a life of hard work and struggled to survive. The villa was a humble abode made of clay and straw in a courtyard with a well. It was owned by the clergy and rented to the farmers.
To make life even harder, the 24th of November 1499, the Turks invaded the area, burning and destroying all that was in their way, “while the people in terror fled with their children, the cattle and few belongings” (…fuggivano con i loro figliuoli, bestiame e robe).

In 1550, a nobleman from Parma, Heronymus Mazzolinus Parmenses, purchased vast agricultural properties in the town of Guarda/Varda.

The reasons that induced the Mazzoleni family to leave Parma are unknown, but the political and economical stability guarantied by the loyalty of the Counts of Porcia, who dominated nearby, to the Serenissima Republic of Venice could have played an important role, and not least  the tranquil and enchanting location of the village by the river Livenza . The Mazzoleni family, particularly Cesare, lived here from 1582 to 1682 and the palace was build around 1649. At the time it was a residential retreat and also an important agricultural premise with vast parts of land.

Since then, Villa Varda has always been identified with the villa, the farm and the village. There was a sincere affection for the place, by Cesare, because he built the little chapel and wanted to be buried here.

It was custom in those days that the nobles married only amongst themselves, therefore if there was no heir, like in the case of Cesare, some other noble family with whom he was certainly related would inherit all his possession, and the Mazzoleni’s were in some way related to the Venetian noble family Negri, to the Amalteo of Oderzo and the Counts of Porcia. All these families owned the place at different times, in the beginning under the Venetian Republic, later ruled by the Austrian Empire until all the region  passed in the hands of  France and Napoleon and finally was held in 1866  to the King Savoia of Italy.

The turning point for Villa Varda was in 1867 when Carlo Marco Morpurgo De Nilma bought the place.

Carlo Marco Morpurgo was born in Gorizia in 1826, the family was part of the Jewish Community of Trieste, he was the sixth of a numerous family with ten children and by the age of twenty-three he was already travelling Europe as a trader for the Austrian Empire. He was very successful and, after travelling to Egypt for business, he was able to start his own industry and bank. He was very much appreciated for his vast knowledge, experience and diplomacy, along with his social and humanitarian commitment.

Villa Varda became a meeting place for different cultures, different languages and religions; evidence of this can be found in many oriental style objects, paintings and colonial pieces of furniture. The portraits of C. Marco Morpurgo with his wife on the walls at the entrance of the villa have many details that confirm their familiarity with Egypt and the nearby countries: the pyramids, the Sphinx, an Arabian man and Emma’s oriental jewellery.

When C. M. Morpurgo died, all his properties went to his sole inherit,  the beloved wife Emma.

In 1915 the beginning of the First World War corresponds with the beginning of a tormented period for Villa Varda. In 1918 it becomes the Headquarter of the 23rd Division of the German-Austrian Army and it is from here that the final attack to the Italian front on the river Piave,  was struck.

The damage caused by the war amounts to more than a fourth of the total value of the estate.

When Emma dies, her sister, married to Carlo Marco’s brother, inherits the property and gives it to the son, Mario Morpurgo De Nilma. All the buildings are restored and the complex of Villa Varda is back to its splendour. At his death according to his will, the estate goes to the Bishop of Concordia (1943).

In 1972 it is sold to the Region Friuli Venzia Giulia and finally, after years of abandonment and neglect, in 1999 the Municipality of Brugnera acquires the estate from the Region and brings it back to its magnificence.

Abstrac by Paola Del Ben


The park of Villa Varda assumed the present shape when it was bought in 1867 by Carlo Marco Morpurgo, who first restored the buildings and rearranged the lay out of the landscape according to the English gardening style.

The dominant elements of this park are certainly the linden/lime trees that define geometrically the whole area framing the land and differentiating it from the meadows for agricultural use.

The romantic and picturesque atmosphere of the site is enhanced mainly by the presence of the river Livenza which, in proximity of the villa, forms a creek with a little island. The isle was once used as a dock for the boats connecting the area to Venice.

The 18 hectare park of Villa Varda also includes significant architectonic elements as the orangery, the terrace with balustrade in semiprecious stone, and the neo-Gothic chapel restored at the beginning of the century, the swan-lake and the hill that originally was an ice-box, on top of which in 1932 was built a tower with battlements.

The dense wood, mostly composed of typically local trees, encircles in a unique connecting space, the diverse architectural elements of the park. Unfortunately of the original implant with rare exotic trees, only a few specimens are still in place. Amongst these important for the dimension and botanical rarity are:

the enormous  libocedro (Libocedrus decurrens) in front of the villa. A species originally from the mountains of Oregon and California and introduced in Europe in 1853, therefore this sample is definitely one of the oldest in Italy;

a sofora (Sophora jalonica) placed on the parterre by the river, this species was introduced in Italy in  1747 and in Veneto only in 1812;

some samples of fotina (Photina serrulata) that, being introduced in Europe in 1802 and in Veneto later in 1842,  were a real rarity in the gardens of the last century;
some considerable species of juniper (Juniperus virginiana)

and some Nepalese pine trees (Pinus wallichiana), that testify the botanical experiments, trying to introduce exotic species, carried out in our region at the beginning of the century.

Abstrac by Paola Del Ben