From March to October, it is possible to do a pleasant river cruise Venice to Padua along the Naviglio del Brenta, a canal on the mainland connecting Venice and Padua. In the old days, the craft used to navigate this waterway was a type of boat called burchiello. These boats were made of wood, with an elegant cabin with three or four finely decorated balconies. In the lagoon, they were wind- or oar-driven, while from Fusina to Padua, the boats were pulled by horses. Beginning in the 1960s, this transport tradition reappeared as a tourist service devoted to offering a picturesque route along this beautiful territory and today the boats are modern and equipped with a cabin and a panoramic deck from where passengers can watch the lush countryside with its magnificent villas.
During the 15th – 18th century, the area along the Brenta River known as the Riviera del Brenta became popular as a site where the aristocratic families of Venice built built sumptuous holiday villas. Once the canal was constructed to solve the problem of flooding in these lowlands, the canal also allowed the Venetians to reach the cultivable countryside and became a trade waterway to Padua. Between the 17th and 18th centuries the villas had become the setting for the many parties held in the summer while the importance and fame of the Riviera grew both in Italy and in Europe.
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Today, travelers can enjoy this beautiful ancient tradition through the boat service provided by Il Burchiello with boats going two ways: from Venice to Padua on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and from Padua to Venice on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The cruise lasts from morning to evening with a few stops along the way to visit several of the most famous villas on the route: Villa Foscari, called “La Malcontenta” and designed by Andrea Palladio, Villa Widmann-Foscari, and Villa Pisani (purchased by Napoleon in 1807), the latter boasting a beautiful garden maze. The boats also pass the five locks designed to overcome the different levels of the terrain on which the canal was dug.
The itinerary includes the guided visit to the three villas while the optional lunch is served at the restaurant “Il Burchiello” in Oriago. The tour is priced at €99 and can be booked online. In case you don’t want to spend the whole day onboard, you can buy a half-day cruise from Venice to Oriago (or vice versa) at €65, with the visit to the villa La Malcontenta, or from Padua to Oriago (or vice versa) at €55, with the visit to the villas Widmann and Pisani.
The departing point in Venice is at one of the San Zaccaria docks while in Padua it is at the stairways of the Portello, which is one of the 16th-century gates to the city of Padua where there is also a small river port. The original small port, from which the current name “Portello” originates, was later incorporated into the city walls of Padua and became the gate at the terminus of the waterway route along the Brenta.
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