Snippets from a villa’s history
The architectural restoration of Villa Varda has provided the public with a stunning venue for cultural initiatives. However, little can be learned from the empty rooms in the villa about its history and the way people lived within its walls.
The dedicated scholar Corrado Bortolin has remedied this by spending years gathering information and documents about the villa and the families that once lived in it. He put the findings of his research into a book called “Villa Varda dai Mazzoleni a Morpurgo” (“Villa Varda from the Mazzoleni family to the Morpurgo family”), which told the story of the different families that owned the villa over the centuries.
As well as information about Villa Varda, Corrado Bortolin has collected concrete evidence of what life was like in the past, including documents, photographs, postcards, furnishings, and items that belonged to the Morpurgo family. Bought from the current owners or fortuitously found at antiques fairs, they are now part of a collection of 192 items that Corrado Bortolin donated to Brugnera Town Council so that they could be displayed in a permanent exhibition in Villa Varda.
The exhibition in Villa Varda is entitled “Frammenti: storia di una villa” (“Snippets: the history of a villa”) and it will be officially opened at 6:00 pm on Saturday 6 September. It will take up a number of rooms in the western wing and serve as a museum all about the villa and the site where it is located. As well as the items in the collection donated by Corrado Bortolin, the exhibition will feature a series of 14 panels telling the story of the villa and the families that have lived in it. Photographs will be gathered together on a CD showing other items and furnishings that were once found in Villa Varda and are now dispersed across many different locations and collections.
Among those in attendance at the opening will be the writer Anna Maria Breccia Cipolat, who will be presenting her latest book of short stories. It is called “Storie note e storie arcane di ville Friulane” (“Famous and secret stories of Friulian villas”) and one of the tales is set in Villa Varda.
From the 12th century to 1692 | The Origins - The Mazzoleni Family
The place name Varda (which originally took the form Guarda) has Germanic roots and it refers to a watch post, so it is an ideal match for this location. Found on the left bank of a large bend in the meandering Livenza River, it was in the Regolado [Territory] of the Villa di San Cassan, Comitatus Brugnarie, Patria Forum Juli. Its origins have been lost in the mists of time and none of the great deeds or the more mundane everyday trials and tribulations from its early history were written down and recorded for posterity. The first documentary evidence of it dates back to the time when the Counts of Porcia Brugnera were in charge.
Zaccaria de Vidol sold Count Federigo Porcia Brugnera a farmstead or piece of land known as Saccon in the Brugnaria area. The place name referred to the vast plot of low-lying land in the bight in the river that lies south-east of the front driveway of the villa today.
The invading Turks reached Guarda on 24 November and the terrorized people flocked towards the countryside. The smoke from the burning towns could be seen from far away and struck fear into their hearts of everyone there. Meanwhile, the fleeing peasants, with their children, livestock and possessions, came across the people of the towns at the gates and the panic spread even further. Families that were already poor suffered enormously. The chronicler also noted the losses of a certain Gregol da Garda, which included a cart of spilt wine, a full load of victuals, many small and large crops (lost and consumed), some clothes and many furnishings and waste materials.
Guarda was at the heart of complex deals that saw Count Manfredo Porcia take back possession of Guarda from Panfilo de Valvason and his brother and sell it to the illustrious Count Nicolò Collalto for 19 ducats per field, leaving aside the buildings.
Nobil Homo [The Nobleman] Heronymus Mazzolinus Parmenses personally went to the castle, where a notary recorded important real estate deals.
In the records of the counts who were running the villa, there is a mention of improvements to trees, vines and houses for the late Pietro, the brother of Master Pigozzo da Guarda on the property in the above-mentioned location of Guarda in the presence of the Illustrious Mister Ensidio and the Collalto brothers.
A deed records the sale by Hieronymo of the late Daniel da Guarda on behalf of himself and his brother Giacomo and the aforementioned Giacomo’s son Battista to the illustrious Count Ensidio of Collalto of the late Count Nicolò of improvements and work carried out for them on 184 fields in Guarda.
The following marriage contract was registered in the records office of the Avogaria di Comun [Public Prosecutors’ Office] in Venice: Master Bartolamio di Vardi, son of Master Zuani (deceased), pledges to marry his honest and chaste young legitimate daughter Marietta to Master Cesare Mazzoleni, son of Master Zuan Pietro and his worthy bride and wife, as per the wishes of Our Lord God and the Holy Mother Church, with a dowry of 5,000 ducats.
The noble Geronimo Mazzoleni found himself in great economic strife, took out a number of loans and was then sentenced and had his property seized. There are no records of him after this time.
A detailed inventory of the assets of the Luminaria of San Cassiano reveals that the majority of the property lies in the territory of Guarda and the boundaries of the appurtenances, meadows and farmhouses with yards run alongside the Guarda woods, the elm land, the little Guarda woods, the meadow with a well and the strawberry bush. These were all owned by Cesare Mazzoleni de Venetiis, who had married Marietta in Venice in 1566. A detailed survey of the property provides us with a clear picture of the extent of the assets at Villa Varda:
Approximately 50 fields (some arable and some meadows) with a house for my use, at Villa de Guarda in the Brugnera area, in the land of Friuli.
Approximately 30 fields at the aforementioned villa, some arable and some mixed meadows and wetlands with poor soil. They are farmed by Olivo Mian and only wheat can be produced for the owner. Once the crops have been sown, the land offers the equivalent of 16 Venetian fields.
Approximately 32 fields at the aforementioned villa: arable land, meadows, wetlands and river banks. This is land with light, poor soil where little remains once the seeds and other expenses have been deducted. They are farmed by Antonio da Gaiarine and only wheat can be produced for the owner. Once the crops have been sown, the land offers the equivalent of 12 Venetian fields.
Approximately 16 fields at Villa de San Cassan de Livenza in the Brugnera area. They are farmed by Agnolo de Tomolo and only wheat can be produced for the owner. Once the crops have been sown, the land offers the equivalent of seven Venetian fields.
Approximately 35 fields at Villa de Maron in the Brugnera area which are let by Michiel de Trucolo and his wife, paying me the equivalent of 15 Venetian fields of wheat.
Three fields at the aforementioned Villa de Guarda, which are let by Pietro Bruttobon.
In his will, Cesare Mazzoleni stated that he had adopted my grandson Cesaretto, son of the late Fabio Paulini and my late daughter Prudentia […], because after the death of […] his father, I have always kept my grandson Cesaretto in my home and fed, looked after and cared for him like my own, always venerating and loving him as I was chastely urged to do by his Father and Mother, having been made his guardian.
Cesare Paulini inherited ownership of Villa Varda and his mother’s surname. From then on, he signed his name Cesare Mazzoleni.
In July, the notary stated that he had personally gone to the House of the Eminent Cesare Mazzoleni in Villa di Guarda to draw up deeds of sale. One month later, he stated that the nobleman was living there.
At this time Cesare’s property was inherited by his children and in particular by Fabio, who was working as a medical physician in Venice.
Fabio was a very religious person and he was buried in the church that he had built to replace a shrine called the Capitello dela Menegotta. On his tombstone, it says that he died on 30 November 1692 at the age of 57 and that only those who follow the teachings of Hippocrates can be happy.
From 1692 to 1776 | Mazzoleni - Negri
Fabio Mazzoleni died without any direct heirs and left a complex fideicommissum in his will to determine who would inherit his possessions:
At the end of the male line of the House of Negri I want my fideicommissum to go to the House of the Illustrious Master Count Fulvio di Porcia, who is my revered Patron and great friend, or to the House of the Illustrious Oratio Amalteo, who is a gentleman of Oderzo, my revered Patron and a great friend. If the male line of the House of Negri ends in the period between the first day of the month of March and the last day of August, my fideicommissum must go from the first-born son to the first-born son of the House of the Illustrious Porcia and if the male line of the House of Negri ends in the period between the first day of September and the last day of February, it must go from the first-born son to the first-born son of the House of the Illustrious Amalteo, and in the end to the Opera di Pietà [a charitable organization] in Venice.
With the exception of certain bequests and provisions – such as leaving to the servants two bushels of flour with 16 pails of Friulian wine, and 20 ducats to all inhabitants of Friuli who are in the house at the time of my death – the entire inheritance, all of my possessions, are left to my illustrious uncle, Ottavio Negri.
Fabio knew that it was wise to keep his feelings and his interests separate, so he excluded my uncle Master Giovanni Negri not because I am not fond of him but because I know that he is not suited to running and managing things.
There was a matrilineal connection between the Mazzoleni and Negri families. The latter traditionally belonged to the “ministerial class” of the Republic of Venice and held highly prestigious positions such as Secretary of the Senate and Attorney General of the Senate.
Fabio’s uncle Ottavio Negri was no longer young when he inherited the entire Mazzoleni estate on 2 December 1692.
As the heirs to his estate, Ottavio Negri named his son Zanne and beloved grandson Ottavietto. He arranged for Canon Giacinto Sacchetti to do all of the accounts for all of my tenant farmers in Guarda in Friuli, to whom I leave 20 ducats from the credit in their name and who must pray for my soul. The Canon must ensure that they pay all debts that are owed to me.
Ottavio died at Villa Varda on 25 October and was buried in the same tomb as his nephew Fabio in the Oratory of the Beata Vergine del Carmelo.
The estate thus passed into the hands of his son Giovanni, the former Secretary of the Venetian Senate. He spent time there and punctually paid the rates owed to the Archpriest’s Church of San Cassiano.
Giovanni died in Venice on 26 July. By right of primogeniture, his estate was inherited by his son Ottavietto, who signed the documents with the name Fabio Ottavio Mazzoleni Negri.
In a “tax return” presented by Ottavio, the property is described as follows:
For Villa di Guarda in San Cassan di Livenza
Territory of Brugnera Porcia del Friuli
Landlord’s house with approximately two fields and a vegetable garden, also for the use of my house.
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a stone and thatch farmhouse and approximately 80 fields, including approximately 15 meadows given to Zuannne Todaro Sante Zacher. Calculations for the years 1736, 1737 and 1738 completed net of seeds for the landlord’s revenue each year.
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a stone and thatch farmhouse and approximately 20 fields, including approximately two meadows given as above to Giacomo Moro, the revenue from whom is calculated as above.
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a stone and thatch farmhouse and approximately 34 fields, including approximately eight meadows given as above to Dominico Mora, the revenue from whom is calculated as above.
At the aforementioned Villa, a thatched cottage with approximately four fields let to Tizian Mian for 14.5 ducats and three “quarte” of wheat [approximately 70.5 kg in total].
San Cassan di Livenza, Territory of Brugnera
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a thatched farmhouse and approximately 25 fields, including approximately six meadows given as above to Giacomo Biancolin.
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a stone and thatch farmhouse and approximately 20 fields, including approximately two meadows given as above to Giacomo Lazzer.
Villa di Maron in Brugnera
At the aforementioned Villa, property with a thatched farmhouse and approximately 34 fields, including approximately eight meadows given as above to Battista Tisola, the revenue from whom is calculated as above.
At the aforementioned Villa, approximately four fields and a house with walls and a thatched roof let to Angolo Boer for 16 ducats a year.
Under the Jurisdiction of Brugnera, in the location known as “Camol”, property with approximately 22 fields including approximately ten meadows loaned against security to Francesco Urban, the revenue from whom is calculated as above.
An inventory of church property stated that at the Oratory of Guarda there were three glass reliquaries with wooden legs, containing the bones of the Martyred Saints Honestus, Magnus and Pacificus […] which are not put on display for public worship due to a lack of the necessary authentication.
Father Antonio dé Pieri, aged 65, holds services in the Oratory of the Illustrious Master Fabio Ottavio Mazzoleni Negri, where there is a daily mass […] The aforementioned priest regularly holds services in the church in question on Sundays and holidays.
In a detailed annual report, the parish priest noted that there are two Oratories in this Parish, one of which is owned by the Daughter of the late Master Ottavio Negri and dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel […] Mrs Negri is alive, so the daily masses have been suspended for a number of months.
On 11 December Ottavio died in Venice. His two daughters were present and inherited all of his estate except for the Varda property, which was subject to the conditions of the Mazzoleni fideicommissum. Consequently, Villa Varda passed into the hands of the Amalteo family from Oderzo. In his will, Ottavio left to Carlo Vascello, my Agent in Guarda, half a barrel of wine, two bushels of wheat and two bushels of maize a year for the rest of his life, as long as he is in my service at the time of my death. After his death, these goods shall be returned to my estate.
From 1776 to 1867 | Amalteo – Marinoni – Giacomuzzi – Morpurgo
The Mazzoleni fideicommissum establishes that: if the male line of the House of Negri ends in the period between the first day of September and the last day of February, it must go from the first-born son to the first-born son of the House of the Illustrious Amalteo.
As the head of the Amalteo Family, Giambattista Amalteo inherited the Negri estate.
The Counts of Porcia also made a claim to the estate and filed a lawsuit against the Amalteo family. Amalteo’s rights were recognized and so he was able to add a new “fortune” to the properties that his family had owned in the Brugnera countryside for more than a century.
The notary Manzari went to Villa Varda to draw up a purchase deed for land that was being sold by the noble Dall’Acqua family.
Due to a shortage of priests, on 15 July the Bishop issued an edict stating that the daily masses in the Oratory of the Beata Vergine del Carmelo left in a bequest by Fabio Mazzoleni shall be reduced and limited to 230 masses a year, with alms of ten Veneto lire for every mass.
By right of primogeniture, upon the death of Giambattista the family property was inherited by his first-born son Ascanio, known as Mazzoleni.
With a power of attorney drawn up by a notary, Ascanio appointed as his legitimate agent, attorney-in-fact and representative Master Teodoro […], residing in San Cassian di Livenza, who accepts and shall act on behalf of his noble principal.
In the house in Varda, a deed of exchange was drawn up in the name of the Noble Ascanio Fabio Amalteo Mazzoleni, son of the late Giambattista, as the heir to the late Fabio Mazzoleni by right of primogeniture.
On behalf of Amalteo, the agent Antonio Segatto bought “a plot of land situated in Villa Guarda in the location known as ‘el Barbier’ between known boundaries”.
The Bishop of Vittorio Veneto Monsignor Iacopo Monico authorized a further reduction to 154 masses a year due to the increased shortage of priests.
Ascanio died without any direct heirs and his entire estate passed into the hands of the head of the family Giambattista, representing the whole family. Count Porcia acted as the executor of the estate on behalf of his uncles.
The Rev. Orazio Amalteo, who had entered into possession of the Mazzoleni estate with the other members of the Amalteo family, held the aforementioned mass and was given permission to hold the aforementioned masses outside the Guarda Oratory.
Giambattista named Count Paolo Porcia as the heir to all of his estate, except for a few bequests. In particular, he left to his noble nephews Francesco, Carlo, and Gio.Batta Marinoni, sons of the noble Irene Amalteo, sister of the late testator who predeceased him, the Guarda Manor House with all of the surrounding land and fields that are commercially managed by the land agent, the farmhouse kept by Pizzuto Giuseppe, the house where Lazzer Antonio lives, the house where Pegolo Angelo lives and the house where the widow Paludetto lives, the house where Bazzo Antonio lives, the house rented by Gorgazzi Antonio in Ponte di Sopra in Brugnera, the house in Maron where Sebastiano Sonego lives, and the land worked by the aforementioned tenants and sharecroppers, as recorded on the map of Brugnera. In addition, he left them approximately one field of land that was let to Dolfo of Baldin Pasqualino in the Parish of Francenigo and recorded on the associated map, along with the master’s cattle, agricultural equipment and wine vessels, as well as the furniture in the manor house and adjacent buildings.
The Varda land was used as collateral for a loan of 33,650.65 Austrian lire from the Venetian Counts of Papadopoli.
Giambattista died as the last of the line of the noble family from Oderzo and the Varda estate passed into the hands of the Marinoni family not only as his heirs but also in settlement of an old debt of 10,000 Venetian ducats – which had grown to 29,600 Austrian lire – that Amalteo owed to his nephews as the heirs of Mrs Giorgia Marina Marinoni. However, the bequest was subject to many public and private debts and liens […] and it was not worthwhile for the Noble Marinoni Family living far away in Pola to have the bequeathed estate managed, so in December 1852 they decided to transfer the ownership of the property and found a buyer in Mrs Marietta Giacomuzzi-Caine, with whom they established the price and conditions of purchase.
The property was bought for 116,000 Austrian lire by Maria Giacomuzzi-Caine, a wealthy, land-owning Venetian lady. She also had a home in Chiarano, where her sons Vincenzo (1844) and Giacomo Antonio (1847) were born. In addition to the farm land mentioned above, the property that she bought was as follows: the Manor House, Oratory, adjacent buildings, yards, vegetable gardens and surrounding fields that are commercially managed by the land agent Francesco De Marchi, as well as the land worked by tenant farmers and sharecroppers, not to mention the master’s cattle in the landlord’s homes and farmhouses, any horses, livestock and deadstock, agricultural equipment, wine vessels, and all furnishings in the manor house at the time of the Testator’s death.
Mrs Giacomuzzi-Caine found herself facing difficult economic and family circumstances because her husband Giuseppe Caine had fallen seriously ill. After complications arising from a long, agonizing illness from which he had suffered for 14 years, he died in 1872.
Mrs Giacomuzzi started to sell the properties and break up the farm at Villa Varda. De Marchi, who was the land agent under the Amalteo family, took charge of the proceedings, as the property in the District of Sacile in the Municipality of Brugnera […] was put up for public auction due to the failure by Mrs Giacomuzzi to pay the public taxes that she owed.
The sales were soon followed by foreclosure. Due to old and outstanding mortgage debts, but also because she actually put the estate into further, considerable debt, the undersigned receiver Mr. Leone Rocca, son of the late Marco, began execution proceedings […] and all of the assets of the aforementioned Maria were sold at auction over the course of a number of sessions with the magistrate of the Court of Sacile. The property was bought by Commendatore Carlo Marco Morpurgo.
From 1867 to 1941 | Morpurgo de Nilma
After three tax sale auctions, Baron Sir Carlo Marco Morpurgo de Nilma of Trieste (Austria) entered into full, permanent ownership of the Villa Varda estate, which consisted of: the villa, rural annexes, farmhouses and 122 hectares of farm land.
Refurbishment and extension work began on the villa, which was made into a place where the owner could go on holiday and entertain guests. Alongside the renovations, work began on a broad, ambitious project to rationalize, expand and redevelop the farm.
Carlo Marco completed all of the payment procedures and officially became the full, rightful owner of Villa Varda.
The letters “C.M.M.N.” (Carlo Marco Morpurgo Nilma) were printed on the threshold of the dining room, bearing witness to the work done.
Substantial changes were made to the rural and storage buildings near the villa.
Over a period of 30 years, the owner managed to buy 208 extra hectares of land to add to the estate, leaving it with 330 hectares in total.
The farm was divided into sections assigned to 14 families, in proportion with the overall size of the estate and the workforces that they each had at their disposal.
Carlo Marco Morpurgo de Nilma died and his wife Madam Emma Mondolfo inherited the whole of his estate.
A ruling from the court in Pordenone reveals that the Baroness […] left a large guard dog without a muzzle running loose at her house in Varda and in late October the dog bit three men employed by the Baroness. The injured men were admitted to hospital in Padua because there were concerns that the dog might have rabies. Shortly afterwards, the dog was left running loose without a muzzle and it attacked a girl, biting her face, and then repeatedly attacked a boy […] The animal was put down and its head was sent to Padua, where the diagnosis of rabies was confirmed.
The area was invaded by Austrian and German forces during the First World War. The archpriest of San Cassiano di Livenza, Father Giovanni Feltrin, noted down his memories of the first day of the invasion. 7 November, 10:30 am – Austrian and German troops – Violent and threatening. The parish priest and local people were stunned and terrified, but maintained their composure. Due to the proximity of the Livenza River, before the military action the parish priest – deemed a suspicious and dangerous figure – left the presbytery with his family […] during the invasion all of the holy vestments were plundered […] the wardrobe in the sacristy was destroyed and further damage was caused in the Oratory belonging to Morpurgo at Villa Varda. The two bells were also requisitioned.
Already managed by administrators and run by the land agent, the estate in Brugnera, Maron, San Cassiano, Portobuffolè etc., […] with a size of approximately 700 (seven hundred) Treviso fields, is let at a fixed price, not based on the area, of 25,000 lire per year and entrusted to the management of the lawyer Antonio Levada of Oderzo, with the exception of the manor house, the church, the garden, the park and the orchard, […] Mrs de Nilma retains the right to use the stables for six horses […] When the lessor and the members of her family are staying in Varda, the lessee shall ensure that wagons and animals moving to and from the winery and the barn go around the outside or on the vegetable garden side.
The General Staff of the 43rd Schutzen Division under General Urbansky von Ostrimiecs commandeered the villa. The finishing touches were added to the plans for the Austrian attack on the River Piave at this time and the final orders for the assault were sent to Varda […] 8 June […] In the evening the final orders arrived for the big push […] 9 June […] I banned mass from being held to prevent big gatherings of troops […] so I had the division’s chaplain hold mass in the entrance hall [of Villa Varda]. In the afternoon, gas mask drills […] 10 June […] I have a lot of work to do if I am to get things [at Villa Varda] in perfect shape.
The war damage amounted to 281,525 lire, which was 28% of the net declared value of the property.
Madam Emma died and her estate was inherited by her sister Fanny, the widow of her brother-in-law Giacomo Morpurgo.
Madam Fanny reorganized the properties and handed ownership of Villa Varda to her son Mario.
Sir Mario Morpurgo de Nilma renovated and refurbished the Varda complex, giving the site the delightful, heavenly atmosphere that can still be enjoyed today.
“Beautiful, wistful Varda […] slumbering between the bay trees and the roses, with a silvery stretch […] of the Livenza River winding its way around it” regained some of its former splendour and saw regular visits from the Morpurgo family, who came for long stays with relatives and friends.
Sir Mario Morpurgo de Nilma, the last heir in the family line, died in Pordenone Hospital at the age of 74.
In his will, he made the following arrangements: I leave my Varda estate (in the Municipality of Brugnera), as it is at the time of my death, naturally including the villa and all of its furnishings, to the Diocesan Seminary of Concordia-Pordenone, in the person of His Excellency the Bishop of Concordia. I make this provision partly out of profound deference and devoted friendship with the current bishop His Excellency Luigi Paulini, who has always showered me with kindness. I shall leave it to the prudent discretion of the Bishop of Concordia to decide exactly how the bequest described herein shall be used and simply state that I hope it will prove beneficial to activities with the aim of educating Catholic youths. I would like the villa (or an appropriate part of it) to be kept as a summer residence for the Bishop of Concordia. The legatee shall be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Chapel and the Mausoleum, and must ensure that Holy Mass is held in the Chapel on the first Sunday of every month, on the feast days of the Patron Saints St Mark and St Mary of Mount Carmel, as well as the anniversaries of the deaths of all of the people buried in the Mausoleum. As at present, the park of the villa must be opened to the public once a week, either on Sundays or on another day of the legatee’s choice. […] While my sister Matilde is alive, she shall have the right to stay at Villa Varda for as long and as often as she likes every year and the legatee must make a suitable number of rooms and facilities available in the villa, with all of the necessary equipment and furnishings, for my sister and all those who come with her to accompany her or in her service. The villa and the park must be inalienable and they must bear the name “Villa Morpurgo de Nilma”.
From 1941 to 1999 | Seminary – Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Sir Carlo Marco Morpurgo de Nilma’s bequest was received by the seminary. Part of the villa was given in usufruct to his sister Matilde, but it remained unoccupied for most of the year and Matilde’s visits became increasingly rare.
Matilde Morpurgo died. Her funeral was held in the Oratory of the Beata Vergine del Carmelo at Villa Varda and she was laid to rest in the family mausoleum in the park.
The villa was completely abandoned.
The Regional Forestry Commission considered the possibility of buying the furnishings in Villa Morpurgo at Villa Varda.
Livenza Furniture Centre weighed up the possibility of buying the complex.
The Regional Forestry Commission provisionally approved the purchase “as long as the negotiations are conducted successfully and an appropriate price is established”.
The Diocesan Seminary of Concordia-Pordenone sold the property – not including the Mausoleum and the Oratory, which remained in the hands of the Seminary – to the Forestry Commission of the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
A Warrant Officer of the Forestry Corps inspected the park and ascertained that in all of the woodland areas, a total of 53 trees had been felled […] with the permission of the Steward’s Office of the Diocesan Seminary […] as a source of timber for the construction of a stable.
The Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia handed over the property known as “Villa Varda” (covering a total of 17.87.10 hectares) to the Regional Forestry Commission.
The Diocesan Seminary of Concordia-Pordenone gave a number of buildings belonging to the Villa Varda complex to the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in a deal that would take effect on 2 April 1979.
The Forestry Commission of the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia entered into a loan for use agreement with the Municipality of Brugnera so that the property can be used for 19 years […] as a public municipal park and for initiatives that shall be agreed on a case-by-case basis with the Forestry Commission.
The surveyor A. Fazi drew up plans to renovate the tower and provide toilet facilities.
The caretaker’s house was renovated and converted.
The Archaeology Department for Environmental, Architectural, Artistic and Historic Heritage in Trieste classified Villa Varda as a site of historic and artistic interest pursuant to Italian law no. 1089 of 01/06/1939.
Measures were taken to prevent further deterioration in the wooden support structures of the roof and floors, as well as the masonry, decorative paintings and frescoes.
The main Villa Varda building was restored by the architect S. Varnier. The project involved the creation of a conference centre, a museum and permanent exhibitions about forestry activities and wood processing, as well as a restaurant and accommodation for guests.
The Forestry Commission decided to “take action to improve and increase the selection of trees and vegetation in the park, following on from other recent efforts on this front […] 150 trees were planted along with 150 bushes […] A wooden fence was built and the existing one was repaired […] 790 shrubs and trees were trimmed and given NPK fertilizer, the lower branches of 100 trees were pruned, and ordinary maintenance was carried out on the drives and paths.”
An ornithology exhibition was organized by the CICO (Cultural and Ornithological Initiatives Centre) Association.
The architect L. Bertoni oversaw the restoration of the boundary wall and the railings at the main entrance.
The frescoes and the decorative paintings on the walls and ceilings of Villa Varda were restored.
The drives were gravelled, a larch wood walkway was rebuilt and the power and telephone lines were buried underground.
An exhibition entitled “The culture of the villa” was organized.
The architect L. Bertoni oversaw the renovation of the greenhouse and the lighting systems in the park and outside the buildings.
The Province of Pordenone considered the possibility of taking over the ownership of the buildings in the complex.
There was a general overhaul of the roofs, accommodation and stable.
Brugnera Town Council decided to ask the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia to transfer ownership of the buildings to the Municipality of Brugnera for free.
The Forestry Commission set rules that had to be followed when using the Villa Varda Park for recreational, educational and scientific purposes.
The Forestry Commission took a tree census. It reported that the park contained an incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) with a diameter of 4 metres and a height of 29 metres, and a black poplar (Populus nigra) with a diameter of 4.20 metres and an estimated height of 39 metres.
The Forestry Commission handed the buildings in the complex back to the Regional Financial Affairs Department, partly due to plans to transfer them to another body and partly because they no longer had a part to play in the pursuit of the institutional aims of the Forestry Commission, which would continue to manage the Villa Varda Park.
The Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia came to the general conclusion that it was expedient to grant the Municipality of Brugnera free use of the property, with the latter being responsible for management expenses and the cost of ordinary and extraordinary maintenance. The Forestry Commission would continue to be responsible for maintenance of the park, which required regular, expert conservation and maintenance work.
The Forestry Commission carried out an inspection and stated as follows in a detailed report: this office believes that the management allowed the Province of Pordenone to use the aforementioned building for cultural activities, probably on condition that all damage must be avoided […] Nonetheless, during the visit it was noted that all types of maintenance of the most delicate structures of the villa have clearly been neglected […] The paint on the outside doors and windows is in poor shape and flaking […] The staircase needs to be painted and cleaned thoroughly […] In my opinion, the steel tubes used in the exhibition facilities consist of too heavy a load for the upstairs floor […] The frescoes […] have suffered varying degrees of damage due to the lack of care shown when fitting the aforementioned display facilities […] A number of nails have even been put in painted walls […].
Brugnera Town Council drew up the plans for the cycle path between the town hall and the Villa Varda park.
The Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia transferred the Villa Varda Complex to the Municipality of Brugnera for free.
From 1999 to 2008
The Municipality of Brugnera took over Villa Varda. It was required to use it […] for purposes in the public interest and significant cultural events such as exhibitions, conventions, public relations, research conventions, a public library, outdoor film events, theatrical events, premises for cultural associations, an exhibition venue, and a public park.
The Town Council began a comprehensive renovation, conservation and innovation project for the whole complex, in order to preserve its properties and ensure that it could be used for the planned purposes.
All of the inside and outside doors and windows in the main villa were restored.
Extraordinary maintenance procedures were performed and work was done to ensure that the villa met accessibility and health & safety rules. In addition, the façade and balconies were restored.
Work was also done on the building known as the “Caretaker’s House” in order to ensure that it was fit for purpose in its new role as a facility for associations.
Renovation work began on the annex known as the “Canevon”. The architects Carniello and Ruzzane were behind it. The building was converted from a disused stable into a centre for cultural activities.
Villa Varda gained growing prominence as a hub for numerous outstanding events in a broad range of cultural spheres.
Reinforcement work began on the banks of the Livenza River and the islet.
Renovation work began to take place on the annexes known as the “Casa del Gastaldo” (“Land Agent’s House”), “Scuderia” (“Stable”) and “Bacheria” (“Silk Farm”).
Restoration work was carried out on the Oratory of the Beata Vergine del Carmelo.
The Town Council accepted a donation of 192 items that were part of Corrado Bortolin’s collection of records:
- Brugnera Town Council must always keep the items donated and ensure that they all remain together.
- Brugnera Town Council must always keep the items donated on public display in Villa Varda.
- The collection is a single indivisible and inalienable unit.
- A permanent exhibition that is in keeping with current museum standards must go on display by the end of the term of office of the current Town Council.
New car parks and facilities were built in front of the complex.
Following the donation of the Bortolin collection, Brugnera Town Council opened an exhibition in the main Villa Varda building entitled “Frammenti – Storia di una Villa” (“Snippets: The History of a Villa”). Corrado Bortolin curated the exhibition and the texts. The items on display were complemented by panels giving an overview of the history of the complex and a wide, previously unseen selection of images. Great efforts were made to ensure that the exhibition was accessible for all. The texts were provided in traditional form, in large print, in Braille and in audio format. Illustrative relief maps were produced showing the main structures at the Villa Varda complex.
Anyone who would like to make a contribution to the unified “History of Villa Varda” archives and the joint heritage with direct donations or digital/photographic copies can do so by contacting the Town Council (Tel. +39 0434 61 67 11) or Corrado Bortolin (Tel. +39 338 456 345 1 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The Deputy Mayor of Brugnera Marco Bazzo
- The Councillor for Culture Ermes Moras
- The staff of the Technical Department at Brugnera Town Council
- The staff of Brugnera Town Council
The 1692 inventory
Inventory of the property in the Guarda Home of the Eminent Master Fabio Mazzoleni
Starting with the mezzanine floor above the yard, facing south
A bedstead with four green posts that have taken on a golden tinge over the years, with a straw mattress, two pallets, two blankets, a bolster and a coarse blanket on top of it.
Near the bed, a walnut stool.
Above the bed, a wooden cross with an upper section containing many relics behind glass.
Three carved walnut stools with a patina.
An antique walnut table with legs and a drawer.
An old cover on the aforementioned table.
An old walnut table with an octagonal shape.
An old cover on the aforementioned table.
A small, regular walnut table.
Between the two balconies facing south, a depiction of Our Lady of Grace holding Our Lord in her arms, with a golden frame.
Under the Madonna, a painting on paper of the Morea, with a plaster frame.
A painting with a plaster frame and a painting on paper opposite it, showing religious brotherhood.
Above the fireplace, an oblong painting on paper of the city of Constantinople, with a small plaster frame.
Above it, a painting on canvas of Saint Lawrence Justinian with carved Swiss pine flourishes and gilding around the edges.
Two more small paintings on paper showing religious brotherhood, with plaster frames, and one large painting of the aforementioned saint.
Another small painting on paper showing brotherhood in the other corner,
with a small frame.
A painting on canvas in brass hanging from the wall, with an antique golden frame, and a pair of small frames containing depictions of Saint John, the Virgin Mary and Saint Catherine.
A medium-sized painting on canvas with a dark walnut frame, showing the Virgin Mary with Our Lord in her arms.
A painting on canvas in brass, with a portrait of the Madonna and Child in an antique golden frame.
A medium-sized picture on the wall above the bed, showing Our Lord coming down to Earth.
Above the stool, a painting on canvas portraying the Madonna and Child in the arms of
Mary Magdalene, with an antique golden frame that is split in the middle.
Hanging below the aforementioned painting, a painting of Saint Anthony and Our Lord with a plaster frame.
Below that, a small painting with a plaster frame, with a portrait of Our Lady behind glass.
A medium-sized painting on canvas with an antique golden frame, containing a portrait of Our Lord carrying the cross to Calvary.
Above the table, a mirror with a plaster frame.
An indulgence painting on paper, with a plaster frame.
Above the door, a painting on canvas with a golden frame, showing the Virgin Mary.
A walnut support stool.
A fire iron with two brass pommels.
On the mezzanine floor above the vegetable garden
A bedstead in the middle with four posts of different colours, with a few golden streaks and a straw mattress, two pallets, a bolster and two coarse blankets on top of it.
A red woollen blanket on top of it, with a fringe.
Next to the bed, a walnut-coloured plaster stool.
Four matching carved walnut bed warmers.
An antique walnut stool.
A broken walnut stool.
A large wardrobe with four walnut doors. In the drawer, eight old books of accounts belonging to the house.
Three bundles of old lease documents and lots of other loose paperwork.
Three reading books, entitled “Plutarch’s Lives”, “Lenten Readings” and “Lenten Readings for Mass”.
In the second drawer, a large old book.
Two copper pipes, one large and one small.
In the third drawer, two brackets, a chisel and various other pieces of old hardware.
In the fourth drawer, two large chains, two hinges and other pieces of old hardware.
In the corner, a tall iron tripod.
On top of it, a large brass hand wash basin with a matching bucket attached to a bracket above it.
Between the two north-facing balconies, a large walnut half table.
On top of it, an old mirror that has broken into three pieces and been put back together, in a golden frame with a floral pattern.
On top of the mirror, a painting on canvas of one of the family’s ancestors, with a walnut frame.
Behind the door, a wooden hat stand.
Above the door, a framed painting of Saint Francis on canvas.
A small painting on canvas with a close-up portrait of the grandfather of the late, Illustrious Master Fabio, with a dark frame.
Above the stool, a copper picture of the Virgin Annunciate.
A framed painting on canvas at the head of the bed, showing a Tatar shooting arrows.
Above the headboard of the bed, a wide framed painting showing the presentation of Our Lord to the aged Simeon in the temple.
A framed painting on canvas of Saint Anthony.
A long framed portrait on canvas.
Above the fireplace, an oblong portrait on canvas of the late Augusto, the former steward of the house.
Below the fireplace, a fire iron with round brass pommels.
On the mezzanine floor facing west
Above the vegetable garden
A walnut half table between the balconies.
On top of it, a tray with a number of small items around it.
Six antique walnut stools.
Two walnut bed warmers.
An antique fir table with a cover on top of it.
A four-poster bedstead with the odd golden streak in the colour. On top of it, a straw mattress, two pallets, a bolster, two pillows and two blankets.
A walnut stool without a seat.
Five matching portraits on canvas of the father, mother and three children in the Mazzoleni family, with carved stone pine frames with golden outlines.
12 unframed paintings on canvas of the 12 sibyls.
On top of the table, a cover and a painting on canvas of an old man, with a frame with a golden outline.
Hanging above the bed, a portrait of Our Lady with a golden antique frame.
Alongside it, a painting of Our Lord and the Virgin Mary.
By the fireplace, a fire iron.
Eight pewter chamber pots distributed throughout the various rooms.
In the room on the ground floor
By the fire, an antique fir dining table with legs.
Eight old walnut stools.
Four chairs by the fire.
An old leather chair.
Four lamps: one in each corner of the room.
In the kitchen
A long walnut table with legs.
A fir bench to provide seating.
An old fir chest.
A corn leaf stripper.
Three straw-bottomed chairs.
Two alboli (sic) with pagna (sic).
Two matching fir wardrobes next to the wall.
Ten copper pails, including one attached to the well.
A copper pitcher without a lid.
A copper ladle for water.
A brass basin.
A copper basin.
Five copper frying pans of various sizes, with a lid for the largest one.
Two brass-plated copper tubs.
Two more individual brass-plated copper tubs with iron handles.
Two copper ladles.
A copper dripping pan with an iron handle.
A copper salad strainer.
Two small copper boxes: one regular and one with a perforated lid.
Two tin-plated copper saucepans, the larger of which has a lid.
A copper cauldron.
Five iron spits of various sizes.
A pewter cruet stand for oil and vinegar.
A large knife.
Four oil lamps.
Two iron slotted spoons and an iron skimmer.
An old cauldron (kept under the stairs).
A copper cauldron with a capacity of four pailfuls.
A cauldron with a capacity of two pailfuls.
Three frying pans: two new ones and one old one in bad shape.
Two iron frying pan stands.
Four iron grills, including two round ones and one large one.
A chestnut pan.
Four iron fire dogs: two large and two medium.
A copper still with a lead lid.
An iron hook.
Four brass candle sticks and an oil candle.
Two stable lamps.
By the fireplace, the chain of the aforementioned fire iron, a small shovel and an old tripod.
18 enamelled ceramic plates for the table.
Seven medium bowls.
A lower grate.
Two tin funnels for making salami.
Two small pine tables.
Two sieves: one for wheat and one regular.
Two copper teaspoons.
12 brass spoons.
Six iron forks.
Three kitchen stands.
Six terracotta bowls.
Four old mugs in good condition.
Three brass candelabra.
In the upstairs room
Two matching antique fir trunks with feet.
An old fir desk with a drawer.
On top of it, two reading stands.
Above a door, an old painting on canvas of an old man. There are also two more matching ones to go over doors.
Four matching paintings on canvas with carved frames, two of which are hanging on either side of the doorway: one of Lucretia, one of Europa, one of Cleopatra and one of Judith.
Opposite the door to the barn, an old painting of Our Lord on the Cross.
Under the aforementioned painting, a rack holding seven muskets: two with wheels, keys and cartridge holders, three with flints and a cord, and one without a flint.
Above the door to the barn, another devotional painting.
A small stool and two old leather chairs.
In the room above the yard
On the left
A golden iron bedstead with floral, partly golden posts. On top of it, a straw mattress, two pallets, a bolster and a blanket.
A pair of pistols with flints, hanging from a post of the aforementioned bedstead.
A pair of trestles with sides at the foot of the aforementioned bed. On top of them, a straw mattress, two pallets, a bolster and a blanket.
A walnut stool next to the bed.
Three matching walnut bed warmers, with a chamber pot in one of them.
An antique walnut chest with a lock and keys, inside which were the items listed below.
Nine linen sheets and eight cloth sheets.
Five double bedspreads and two sideboard cloths.
Another walnut chest with a lock and keys, inside which were the items listed below:
Four new pillow cases.
Two double bedspreads.
A light cloth straw mattress.
A walnut desk with carved cypress inside.
A plaster wardrobe with three drawers and locks, one of which contained a white altar cloth.
In another drawer, six mass kerchiefs.
Nine altar cloths and other cloths.
One altar frontal.
A light canvas cloth.
In the third drawer, two silver coasters with the Mazzoleni coat of arms.
A silver spittoon.
Nine silver forks and nine matching silver spoons.
A square silver salt cellar with feet.
Six knives with ivory handles.
An empty walnut chest without a lock.
A mirror above the wardrobe, with a golden three-dimensional frame.
Near the bed, two framed pictures with a portrait of Our Lady on one of them and Medico Saremo on the other.
Above the aforementioned mirror, a large framed painting on canvas depicting God.
Facing it, a similar painting showing a hunt.
A painting of Saint Anthony with a pear wood frame over the headboard of the bed.
On top of the stool, a tin holy water bucket.
A framed ivory Christ on the Cross with a velvet background and an ebony frame.
Above it, a painting in an antique frame showing the Nativity of Our Lord with the Adoration of the Magi.
On either side of the aforementioned depiction of Our Lord, two Greek-style paintings of Our Lady and five reliquaries hanging on the wall.
By the fireplace, a fire iron and brass fire dogs with an ash rake.
On top of the wardrobe, a baptismal font.
A cloth morning coat with buttons.
A similar coat made of fabric with cloth strips across it.
Two long purple cloaks, one lined with pine marten fur and one with fox tails.
Four linen top sheets for the bed.
Two top sheets made of fine hemp fabric.
In the bedroom above the vegetable garden
Facing the Livenza
A bedstead with four carved posts featuring golden lines. On top of it, a straw mattress, two pallets, a feather bed, feather bolsters, three cushions, a white padded mattress and a plush mattress.
A plaster stool next to the bed.
An old walnut chest with a lock containing a framed red coral relic of Saint Bartholomew in a case and another case with flowers that is put in the church on feast days.
A chair with a copper chamber pot.
A tin tableware set in a pine case with a lock.
A fire iron.
A matching walnut chest containing a little cloth and hemp thread.
Hemp thread and a couple of sheets.
A fir table for dining by the fire.
An old walnut sideboard where the bread is kept.
On top of the sideboard, seven enamelled ceramic capon plates.
Above the sideboard, a mirror with a plaster frame.
A travel trunk with a padlock.
A close stool.
An iron hook attached to it.
An old pine cupboard for storing bread.
On top of the cupboard, an enamelled ceramic serving plate.
The other bedroom facing the Livenza
Looking out over the vegetable garden
A couple of trestles with a straw mattress and two pallets on top of them, along with two bolsters, two coarse blankets and one regular blanket.
An old stool.
A padded blanket.
A walnut stool with a picture on display on top of it.
Four devotional pictures of saints and a small church holy water bucket.
A fir box containing the items listed below.
A red overcoat to serve as livery for the coachman.
A pair of loose breeches and a matching cloth morning coat.
A pair of loose breeches made from the same fabric.
A pair of trousers and a pair of old socks.
An antique walnut chest with a lock, containing the items listed below.
Eight linen sheets.
14 tow sheets.
White bed blankets, one of which has openwork on it.
A double linen bedspread.
21 fine tow tablecloths.
11 fine tow kitchen tablecloths.
Three fine tow bread cloths.
Nine fine tow hand cloths.
A fir table with an old cover on top of it.
On top of it, an old walnut box.
Next to the wall, an old mirror.
A matching box with a lock (empty).
Two double linen bedspreads.
A pair of boots, hanging on the wall behind the door.
Two rough cloth bags.
Two light shirts and a pair of breeches.
A linen handkerchief with lace.
In the fourth bedroom
Above the courtyard
A green bedstead with four golden posts and one missing pommel. On top of it, a straw mattress, two pallets, a bolster, two pillows and three blankets.
At the foot of the bed, a black pine wardrobe with three drawers.
The bottom and middle drawers are empty. The top one contains a big book with drawings of the building, farmhouses and other properties.
A coloured fir box with no lock, containing 25 enamelled plates of various sizes, including a large checked plate.
An enamelled ceramic fruit bowl with a hole in it and a fruit bowl without a hole in it.
16 enamelled ceramic plates, including some that have been broken and fixed.
An enamelled ceramic salt cellar.
Nine […] plates.
A candle glass.
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 SITE of VILLA VARDA
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