Europe19: A week with Monica (Veneto Art Historian)

June 5, 2019 | 2 Comments

I’m in Italy for 6 weeks, teaching four x one week tours – two in Umbria and two in the Veneto. In between Umbria and Veneto tours, Mike and I decided that we needed a week break to rest and recharge our batteries.

I decided to spend my week in Marostica (a small beautiful medieval town in the Veneto region) but I actually didn’t see much of it at all – only doing a few quick sketches like this one from the main piazza of the castle behind…

and this one of the city walls.

I was staying at the lovely Due Mori Hotel – owned by Monica Facchini – the art historian who gives us three amazing guided tours during our Palladian Odysseys. BTW don’t you love the way the hotel opens out directly into the street?

I had great views from my hotel but didn’t sketch them apart from the quick one I did the evening I arrived.

I only know Monica from the guided tours she gives us in the Palladian Odyssey but somehow we just clicked the first time we met. We are both somewhat enthusiastic (an understatement!) about the things we are interested in, and so we had the most incredible week together.

Apart from all the exciting adventures we have had (more about that shortly) we just had the best time chatting non-stop about Palladio, Carlo Scarpa (another favourite architect of mine who worked in this region), history of Venice and the Veneto, history in general as well as running your own business, marketing and social media.

It was a rich week of sharing ideas and experiences, but I still managed to have a little downtime (to catch up on some work) and a few afternoon naps!

Monica is such a great storyteller. She doesn’t just point out things of interest, but she always weaves a fascinating story combining personalities, culture and architecture. She explains the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’.

The Veneto has such a rich history, being an important part of the story of Venice. I’m constantly amazed at the number of connections I can make with other pieces of history in my head and/or my own experiences. Monica’s stories are a big part of this.

She runs private tours for small groups, and I tagged along during the week, sketching at the locations while she ran the tours in Italian. I can’t recommend her highly enough. So if you are thinking of a vacation in Italy, think about coming to the Veneto and check out more about her tours here.

Many times during the week, I was pinching myself because it was just so amazing to have a friend who is really into Palladio as well – and with so much more knowledge. It was incredible to hang out with an historian all week.

So what did we get up to?

Here is a brief summary of our adventures – some of these require a separate article which I will put together at a later stage.


She took me to an amazing printmaking studio – Stamperia d’arte Busato – and I did my first soft-ground etching.

Yesterday Mike and I re-visited Giancarlo in his studio and we are trying to see if we can include a printmaking activity in next year’s Veneto tour. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Join the Palladian Odyssey mailing list if you want to find out more.


For three days only (20-22 May) there was a documentary film on Palladio. So imagine how excited I was to discover that I would be able to see it.

I sketched my way through the whole film (in the dark). This is a good practical use of all those blind contour drawing exercises I teach. It was great that so much of the film consisted of interviewing English speakers (with Italian subtitles) so I was able to follow a lot of it.


Tagging along for a tour of Villa Barbaro.

Was so nice to sketch these buildings without my usual teaching obligations. Here is the Tempietto by Palladio.

And the main villa.


Next we had one hour at the Brion Tomb by Carlo Scarpa. This tomb and complex is considered his masterpiece. (Check out more about Scarpa from last year’s visit to Verona)

The spaces and details are incredible and I felt a little overwhelmed (in a good way) and not sure how to sketch it.

But here are a few of my quick sketches.


That night I had my first (and only) solo dinner of the trip. Sketching is a great way to pass the time when you are dining alone.


Another private tour – this time Palladio’s first villa, Villa Godi.

It’s really beautiful – the photos in the books I own do not do it justice.

I ran around at a crazy pace exploring the villa and doing some very quick sketches.

Just up the road from Villa Godi is a second Palladian Villa – so I ran up the hill and did a quick sketch from the front gate. A crazy non-stop visit!

The lovely couple – Marina and ‘Johnny’ – who allowed me to tag along on their private tours.

They told Monica that they will be back for more tours, but want me to come along too!


After Villa Godi we had a very special visit to another Palladian Villa. I need to write a separate article about this experience, but this is what I wrote at the time on Instagram:

“I had the unbelievable priviledge of a 2.5 hour private tour of Villa Forni Cerato.

It’s the smallest Palladian villa which is currently being renovated. The villa has been set up as a laboratory for architects and Palladian researchers so they can see first hand the renovation and discoveries. And indeed we became part of a new discovery made that day as the wall restorer worked in various parts of the villa.

As I was the first Australian architect to visit, the owner crowned me the Australian Embassador for the villa. What an incredible villa visit – a huge thanks to Mr Boscardin, the owner, Francesca, the Foundation architect and the restoration architect Diego Peruzzo for their time. ”

Learning about all the discoveries they have made so far…

and being part of one that happened during our visit.

They gave me a special gift – their first copy (a prototype) of the Villa’s popup card.

Here is the group from the morning including Marina and Johnny and Monica’s friend Susan.



Two hours in Bassano del Grappa while Monica ran a tour.

I ran around looking for alternative locations for our afternoon workshop here as part of the Veneto Tour. This is a great spot, but not enough shade if it was a hot day. I love the Rhino!

I then did a quick sketch (well the first few steps) to work out what I will do for my demo.

Finally, on the way back to meet up with Monica, I did a street scene sketch of a nice little piazza we used to walk past on the tour.


An hour in Asolo – I decided to take it easy and do one sketch from a cafe.


Canova Museum: Amazing plaster models of his sculptures.

Monica’s private tour for two couples inside the Neoclassical Gypsotheca.

I was more interested in the extension done by Scarpa!

Scarpa’s work is too simple and well designed to be able to sketch easily… but I tried.

Another great morning excursion – I then spent the afternoon working.


Finally evening and morning coffee and then I was on the bus to Vicenza.

This week was such an amazing time of research and development. As a result I’m more inspired to continue with my personal research and more committed to sharing the word about Palladio and how significant he is to the history of western architecture.

A huge thanks and a big hug to Monica for all the fun times, great conversations, private tours and more. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to her later this week on the second Palladian Odyssey Tour.



Leave a Reply