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Venetian Villas: Ca’ Zen

The place where Lord Byron met his secret Italian love

We moved to the mouth of river Po, poetically renamed “Little Mesopotamia”, the area of Polesine. At Taglio di Po, just near the river bank, the structure of a Villa follows the outline of a park. The red walls has been faded by humidity, the house is disguised behind fog and surrounding. Ca’ Zen is not a New Age base, it is a Vila built during the 18th century by the ancient noble Venetian family Zen.

Ca’ Zen has also been influenced by the Anglo-Saxons, not only because the present owner is Irish. The lovestory between Byron and Teresa Gamba took place here: the young and beautiful Teresa was the third wife of Ca’ Zen’s first owner, the Marquis Alessandro Guiccioli. In 1824 Teresa and Byron met in Venice and fell in love, so the Marquis exiled his wife here at Taglio di Po to separate her from her lover. Lord Byron decided to catch up with her, and here he composed some poetries inspired by Teresa and by river Po…

I think we could easily compare Teresa and Maria Adelaide, the young daughter of the present owner. She is beautiful and she rides through the poplars like an Amazon. But Maria Adelaide is also focused in the organization of a Venetian-Anglo-Saxon welcome in the villa and many other initiatives, for example horse trekking in the National Park of river Po delta. The villa is great, both on the outside which is an ancient noble house, but rural at the same time, and the inside with typical English interior design.


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Main pic courtesy of Toprural (Flickr user)


Video full text: Ca’ Zen

This villa has a history –
it’s an eighteenth–century Venetian villa,
once owned by the aristocratic Venetian Zen family.
This villa also has some tales to tell!
At one point it belonged to Count Alessandro Guiccioli,
who married the beautiful Teresa Gamba.
Once, on a visit to Venice, Teresa
met Lord Byron and they fell in love.
The Count found out about this and was very angry.
He exiled Teresa to Ca’ Zen, close to the Po River,
in the middle of the countryside.
But then Lord Byron visited her here too.
This is a very romantic place.

It would seem that it was in this drawing room in Villa Zen that Lord Byron
wrote some of his best poems,
inspired by the beauty of Teresa Gamba.
by Gamba’s legs one might say (Gamba meaning leg in Italian).He was also inspired by the view of the Po.
The river’s bank was once much lower and it was possible to see the great river from here.

So the background is well known.
The Count finds out about his beautiful young wife’s illicit affair with Lord Byron.
He sends her into exile to Ca’ Zen,
and the two write to each other.
Here’s a letter from the diary of Alessandro Guiccioli:
“Dear Teresa, you will rise early at Ca’ Zen,
dress modestly, and instruct the staff,
dine with the farm manager and in the evening will retire early,
without seeing anyone.”
Teresa’s reply was:
“Dear Alessandro, in the morning I will rise at whatever hour I wish at Ca’ Zen,
I will dress as it most satisfies me,
and I will see and dine with whomsoever it pleases me to!”

The villa has a beautiful atmosphere,
a living place, inhabited, real.
Lord Byron is very content there,
because the atmosphere has a touch of Venice and the Po Valley and is a tad Anglo-Saxon.
The current proprietor is a lady of Italian-Irish origins.

What if thy deep and ample stream should be /
A mirror of my heart, where she may read /
The thousand thoughts I now betray to thee/
Wild as thy wave, and headlong as thy speed!

Maria Adelaide is the Lady of the house. Good morning.
Maria Adelaide, known as Myly?
Yes, double-barrelled names are distorted in every way.
As a little girl I couldn’t say Maria Adelaide, so I called myself MyLy.
Your mother is Irish,
and the atmosphere in the villa is very English!
Lord Byron was very comfortable here.
What does he say in the poem?
He writes for his great love, Teresa Gamba,
for the river that flows behind here, and for this house,
where he came to meet Teresa in secret.
He worries a little that the river might interpret
his thoughts towards Teresa.
This despite the husband Alessandro Guicciòli…
His name is actually Alessandro Guìccioli, let’s be mindful of the accent!
He is a marquis not a count.
I’m sorry. That’s two mistakes I’ve made. I’m really not cut out for this.
Guicciòli. No! Guìccioli!
What’s your mare called? Sunlight.
And what’s his name? Eddie, or Edoardo.
Sorry Edoardo, I didn’t want to… That’s done!
Where’s the horn?
This is a really beautiful trekking saddle.
Did you say trekking?
There are plenty of opportunities to go out and about here,
The terrain for trekking is limitless.
One can take beautiful excursions by the river,
and day-long trails.
Or excursions with stopovers in other establishments similar to ours,
that are set up to accommodate both horses and riders.
I don’t know about trekking but a walk round the garden is enough for me!
All I need is four metres for me to be able to say I’ve been to Villa Zen and I’ve ridden a horse!

With our feet now firmly back on the ground,
what else is there to do here, in addition to outings on horseback?
Something less dangerous perhaps?
Polesine and the Po delta are a garden in the midst of these cities of art,
and there are so many things to do.
There’s an enormous area to explore by bicycle,
or in a boat, with the fishermen, in a canoe or on horseback.
The world’s most famous cities of art,
i.e. Venice, Ravenna, Ferrara, Verona
are all an hour away from here.
How lovely. Goodbye!
Adelaide gets back on her horse, and I, on the other hand, continue on,
because this has aroused a yearning for Polesine in me…


Produced in cooperation with the Official Tourist Board

Regione Veneto

Patrizio Roversi

Accidental tourist. His main passions while traveling: anthropology, economy, lifestyle, food and taste

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