- Riviera del Brenta
If you visit the Brenta, you may be surprised by how many buildings you see that are as imposing as Venetian palaces with frescoes by the great Venetian painters and surrounded by marvelous gardens. Many of these villas, from the relatively small (Villa Foscarini Rossi at Stra, which now houses a museum of shoes) to the relatively colossal (Villa Pisani at Stra), are open to the public. The exquisite Villa Foscari, nicknamed the “Malcontenta,” designed by Palladio in the style of a Greek temple, is a small jewel set on the lushest greensward.
Battaglia Therme at the Brenta canal Foto @rivieradelbrenta.it
Villa Malcontenta (architect: Andrea Palladio) ©rivieradellabrenta.it
- Shoe Heritage in the Riviera del Brenta © Erla Zwingle, 2018
“Riviera del Brenta” in the Veneto, is the name of the 100-square-mile area surrounding the Brenta canal that flows from Padua to Venice. The small towns here–Strà, Fiesso d’Artico, Fossò, Vigonovo, Vigonza, Noventa Padovana, Saonara–dotting the 25-mile (41 km) stretch of river have made this area, small as it is, the world leader in the production of high-end luxury footwear for men and women. Almost all of the designer-label footwear on the market is designed, made, and marketed here.
In 2013, the Brenta contained 88 footwear factories, 209 manufacturers of footwear components, 31 designers, and 24 commercial firms employing more than 10,000 workers, making some 20,000,000 pairs of shoes per year.
The shoemaking tradition here dates back to the 13th century, with the founding of the confraternity of the Venetian “Calegheri” (shoemakers), and the association of the Brenta master shoemakers still uses the ancient seal of the Venetian Calegheri Guild.
Not coincidentally, perhaps, Venetian tanners had long since left a city that is centered in a brackish lagoon and moved ashore for the Brenta River’s fresh water, an abundance of which was needed for their craft. Though slightly further afield, but still in the Veneto, are the cities of Verona and Vicenza, where the air is still ripe with the stench of the many tanneries at work. Clients, raw material, and craftsmen all on the same patch of land—a solid foundation for future success.
Another reason for the flowering of the Brenta’s shoe industry is industrial. Many of the the calegheri’s heirs stayed in the Brenta area and managed to survive by doing piecework, usually from their homes. But they were skilled and they had taste, the distinguishing marks of Italian shoemakers today.
Today, 95% of the Brenta production is concentrated in the sector of women’s luxury footwear, including shoe factories, manufacturers of accessories, footwear components, pattern-makers, and sales agents. Exports account for approximately 90% of the overall turnover, particularly in the German, French and U.S. markets. Moreover, a large amount of work is carried out under license for major brands, such as LVMH, Armani, and Gucci. So now you know where a lot of those gorgeous items come from.
- Shoe Museum “Museo della Calzatura Rossimoda”, Villa Foscarini, Strà
Villa Foscarini Rossi was a summer residence of the noble Venetian family of Foscarini. The second name, Rossi, belongs to the current owners, holders of the Rossimoda footwear company. It’s a very welcoming place with a huge collection of extravagant shoes. It is located in Stra, 500 metres or so from Villa Pisani, you might want to consider visiting them both on the same day.