Vicenza, altitude [of the villa] 55 m/180 feet above sea level; Via della Rotonda 45; train station at Vicenza 2 km/1.2 miles to the north. By bicycle the villa is easily reached by way of the Vicenza-Noventa Vicentina bike route which follows along Viale Riviera Berica.
The most famous of the Palladio villas was started in 1556 commissioned by the Vicentine ecclesiastic, Paolo Almerico; with Palladio’s death in 1580 it was still incomplete and lacking a roof, which was completed in 1585 by Vincenzo Scamozzi, with a rotund dome, although a little flatter than the original Palladio design; the nickname Rotonda became associated with the entire structure, further emphasized by the centralized symmetry that characterizes the floor plan: the four elevations are virtually identical, each with a pronaos [portico or porch] with six columns.
In presenting this villa in his Second Book of Architecture Palladio justifies this by writing: “…therefore, as it enjoys from every part most beautiful views, some of which are limited, some more extended, and others that terminate with the horizon; there are loggia’s [sic] made in all the four fronts”.
In 1591 the villa passed to the Capra family; in 1911 it became the property of the Valmarana family from Venice; the interior is open to the public between March and October and year round to visit the grounds; more information is available on the official villa website.
Heute besuchte ich das eine halbe Stunde von der Stadt auf einer angenehmen Höhe liegende Prachthaus, die Rotonda genannt. Es ist ein viereckiges Gebäude, das einen runden, von oben erleuchteten Saal in sich schließt. Von allen vier Seiten steigt man auf breiten Treppen hinan und gelangt jedesmal in eine Vorhalle, die von sechs korinthischen Säulen gebildet wird. Vielleicht hat die Baukunst ihren Luxus niemals höher getrieben. Der Raum, den die Treppen und Vorhallen einnehmen, ist viel größer als der des Hauses selbst; denn jede einzelne Seite würde als Ansicht eines Tempels befriedigen. [...]
Dem 22 September 1786. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Italienische Reise.
Today I visited, just a half hour outside the city, a splendid house set on a hill, called la Rotonda. It is a square structure that embodies a circular room illuminated from above. From all four sides one ascends broad staircases and each leads to a porch, formed by six Corinthian columns. Perhaps architecture has never achieved a higher level of magnificence. The space taken up by staircases and porches is much greater than that of the house itself; and each side would look impressive as the facade of a temple. [...]
22 September 1786, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Italian Journey: 1786-1788.