• THE BEST-LAID PLANS OF COUNTS & MEN

    20130619_042706Once upon a time, there was a prince…

    Okay, so he wasn’t exactly a prince—he was an Italian count.  Close enough.

    Born in Valdagno, province of Vicenza, Northern Italy, he was the eldest of his many siblings. They lived together in a lovely old mansion surrounded by walls, guards and gates, but they were nice folks who cared about the workers and the residents of the town. The family owned several factories, and management of the family business would eventually fall to the young count.  

    Newly married, he embarked on a plan to build his own mansion where he could live with his bride. The count wished to be close to his family and the factories, yet separate. Accordingly, he chose a tract of land across the river from the family estate.

    Acres and acres of land were purchased to accommodate the grand plan. Elaborate walls went up, and imposing stairs with marble statues and columns were brought in. The main gate was wide enough for a marching band to pass through. Caretakers’ houses were built and the count filled new greenhouses with exotic flora. There were fine stables suitable for thoroughbreds and enormous livestock barns to shelter cows and chickens. Like an Italian fairytale, it magically began to take shape. The well-known architect, Gio Ponti, designed the villa. By the time they broke ground for the residence at the very top of the hill, the spot had been transformed into a luscious paradise. Deep, solid foundations were excavated in the rich soil to support the future multi-level mansion.

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    But, sadly, something went wrong, and this is where the story gets fuzzy.

    The time frame was between 1925 and 1930, yet the local historian assured me the problem had nothing to do with the coming war. The local belief was that it was simply Mother Nature’s way of saying no. The site where the foundations were laid sat directly atop an aquifer, a huge storehouse of water—impossible to build on.

    Work on the count’s dream came to a standstill although the elaborate outbuildings and lush grounds development remained. Eventually, the factories closed. The count’s family moved away. Count Gaetano Marzotto died in 1972. And the bride? Her name was Margherita Lampertico. She was forty-one at the time of her death. They had seven children.

    La Favorita, the name chosen for the hilltop estate, was given to the city of Valdagno and became a public park. The two caretaker buildings are a museum and a bar/gelateria where young mothers sit and chat while their children play nearby. It’s a free Wi-Fi zone, so anyone strolling in the shade of the century-old trees might find themselves in the company of tattooed young people busy with their smart phones or tablets. The remains of the foundations are now covered in moss and ivy. Italians consider ivy a symbol of eternal love.

    I took the picture with my Samsung tablet during my last trip to Italy. Visiting La Favorita still brings me fond memories of childhood outings.

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