Continued from Page 7 Giorgio Armani. Count Leopoldo’s ballroom floor was recently cracked by an earthquake, Count Alberto merely had a ceiling fall down ‘‘Paf! Just like that’’! Count Alberto sells produce from his orchard, such as cherries, apricots, apples, pears and quinces, whereas Count Leopoldo said: ‘‘I produce nothing, agriculture is finished.’’
We eavesdroppers declared the contest a draw.
Travelling by highways and main roads, the flat landscape of the Veneto can be a dismal procession of halfabandoned industrial estates, suburbanised villages, tin sheds selling furniture or plumbing supplies, and a startling number of McDonald’s.
However, the villas, with fields of grapes or vegetables coming almost up to their walls ( Villa Ca’ Marcello is unusual in having that romantic woodland garden, for most the soil was too rich to waste much land on pleasure gardens) stand in a landscape that has hardly changed.
There are no visitor facilities except a small shop at La Rotonda, but Count Niccolo revealed he is planning to open a cafe and bar in the farm buildings next year. This was news to his neighbour in the villa across the lane, who j ust happens to be his cousin, Countess Carolina Valmarana.
Last year, she opened her own charming bar (open every day even when the house is closed) in the coach house of her beautiful Villa Valmarana, where the principal rooms are completely covered in frescoes by two of the most famous Venetian artists, Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico.
Count Alberto Panssi de Preposulo, a campaigner for organic produce, slow food and eco-tourism, is also the president and powerhouse of the Ville Venete project, driving the others forward by example. His wife helps make the jams and preserves that are sold in their farm shop. He leads tours of his beautiful Villa Tiepolo Passi, including the endless suite of rooms through which he and his four brothers used to race on their bicycles.
Count Alberto also researches ancient recipes, shares a glass of wine with the lodgers, speaks at travel trade shows, and hires local musicians and poets to entertain at the dinners he has launched in one of the estate buildings.
So far, just 50 of the villa owners have joined him, leaving almost 4200 to win over. He is not a man to be daunted by such a statistic. ‘‘There is far to go, but it is well begun.’’