Unfinished and bombed.
This is the story of Palazzo Della Torre (sometimes written Dalla Torre), the fourth building in Book II of Andrea Palladio’s Four Books on Architecture. It was commissioned in 1555 by Count Giovanni Battista Della Torre of Verona, Italy, who passed away before the palazzo could be finished. Palladio writes that Della Torre “did complete a large part.” What was built then fell victim to bombings four centuries later.
During World War II Verona was one of the most bombed cities in the area, due to its strategic position and the presence of ministries of the Italian Social Republic.
~ Wikipedia, “History of Verona”
Hidden away at the end of an alley off the ancient Roman road, Corso Porta Borsari, all that remains of Palazzo Della Torre is a courtyard with its surrounding walls.
What I want to know is: which courtyard is it?
I have spent many hours trying to answer this question. The layout of Palazzo Della Torre is a change from Palladio’s three previous palazzo designs of Book II in that it was to have two courtyards with a central hall, about which he writes:
One enters this house from the sides where the corridors are ten feet wide; from there you reach the courtyards, each fifty feet long, and thence an open hall, which has four columns to provide greater stability for the hall above. From this hall one goes to the stairs, which are oval and open in the middle. The courtyards have corridors or balconies around them on the same level as the second-story rooms. The other stairs help to make the whole house more convenient. The arrangement turns out extremely well on this site which is long and narrow and has a main road along one of the minor facades.
Not having any luck identifying the surviving courtyard, I turned to Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi’s book, The Buildings and Designs of Andrea Palladio, for more help. Even though his book was published in 1776, well before World War II, Bertotti Scamozzi was committed to depicting Palladio’s designs in finished form. Therefore, his plan drawing, while showing minor variations to Palladio’s original design, was not any more useful to answering my question.
In both Bertotti Scamozzi’s plan view and Palladio’s section view, one courtyard is shown surrounded by Ionic columns and the other is not. (Could this be another master/guest arrangement like Palazzo Iseppo da Porto?)
Using these details, I compared all of this documentation of what the palazzo was to be with what is left of it today and, for the life of me, I cannot reconcile the two.
The only view of the courtyard is through this portal at the end of the alleyway.
Taking a closer look through the gate, Ionic half-columns line the courtyard wall on the left, with no columns appearing along the back wall.
Another set of Ionic columns line the right wall of the courtyard, again with no columns along the back.
Even with the enlistment of my far more geo-spatially abled husband, I still cannot match up Palladio’s and Bertotti Scamozzi’s drawings with the existing column and courtyard orientations: the two columned walls running the length of the courtyard, the back wall with no columns along one width, the off-centered entrance gate along the other. No matter how many times I rotate the pages, I end up with another Palladian unsolved mystery.
There isn’t much additional information on this palazzo in English, but I was able to “Translate with Bing” a few articles in Italian and learned that the unfinished palazzo was eventually tied-in to existing, adjacent buildings. It even served as a cinema in the 1950’s. Ten years ago, there were development plans to create luxury apartments at the site, incorporating Palladio’s original features. From the current state of things, those plans must have been shattered as well.
Sad to say, but I’ll have to count Palazzo Della Torre as Palladio’s first loss.