The Veneto by bicycleVenetian Villas
Villa Contarini dei Leoni at Mira (VE)
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Map of the villa and surroundings

Mira, altitude 5 m/16 feet above sea level; train station at Mira 4 km/ 2.5 miles to the north on the Venezia-Padova line. The villa is readily visible from the Ciclabile del Brenta [bicycle route of the Brenta] on the other side of the canal, directly in front of the Mira Lanza chemical plant.

The villa was built in 1558 on behalf of Federico Contarini, Procurator of San Marco, by building over a pre-existing structure; the appearance is reminiscent of a true Venetian palace, with one facade facing the Riviera del Brenta and another facing the countryside.

In 1574 the villa hosted Henry V of Valois, “King of Poland”, who was returning to France to take the throne after the death of his brother Charles IX, an event memorialized in the plaque on the facade of the villa. Henry stayed for some time in Venice, where he was received with great honors, then continued on his way home, where the following year he was crowned King of France as Henry III.

In the eighteenth century the villa passed to the Pisani family which had the rooms frescoed by Giambattista Tiepolo. Some of these frescoes recall the visit of King Henry.

Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century the villa underwent various alterations including the addition of two lions on either side of the entrance, which provided the nickname of the villa − dei Leoni [of the Lions], to distinguish it from other Contarini villas.

In the late nineteenth century, the villa was purchased by a wealthy Frenchman, Edouard André, who had the Tiepolo frescoes and the two lions transported to Paris where they still are today. The lions at the villa have been replaced with two copies.

Today the villa belongs to the municipality of Mira, which uses it occasionally for exhibits and cultural events. The latest renovation occurred in 2008. The park is open to the public and is known as the "giardini pubblici" [public gardens]. Currently (2011), an outbuilding in the garden houses a theater, the “Teatro Villa dei Leoni”.

Latest visit: 2014-07-11

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