Brenta canal, Italy, a popular destination for an Italian river cruise

Photo of Brenta canal (Venice-Veneto region)

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Visit Brenta canal

The Brenta 'canal' is a scenic waterway inland from Venice towards Padua, best known for its scenery and grand villas and popular with those taking a river cruise in north-west Italy. Although man-made, the Brenta is better described as a river than a canal.

The 'River' Brenta, which is 174 kilometres long, was originally constructed to divert the flow of water that was causing too much silting of the lagoon around Venice, threatening to damage transport links.

Its construction and subsequent use as a transportation link dates back to the 16th century, and during the centuries that followed many magnificent villas were built alongside the canal by the gentry who carried out their business along the waterway. It is these villas that now provide the main interest of a visit.

Explore the Brenta Canal

Villa Pisani seen across elegant gardens

The canal is a popular destination with tourists, in particular with those travelling by boat in the region but also as a trip from Venice. Several of the hundred plus impressive villas along the course of the river are open to the public.

The most popular villas with visitors are the very impressive neo-classical Villa Pisani at StrĂ  and the 16th century frescoed Villa Foscari at Malcontenta. Others of note include Villa Widmann and Villa Contarini - and there are numerous others of less renown.

The first two of these, Villa Pisani (also known as the Villa Nazionale) and the 16th century frescoed Villa Foscari, are also easy to reach by car or bus from Venice, or if you have time on your hands and money burning a hole in you pocket you can take one of the organised leisurely cruises along the canal that stops at these. Different companies offer a different selection of villas as stopping points so check before booking if you have a particular villa destination in mind.

The building of the villas spans quite an extensive period from the 16th century to the 19th century. Villa Foscari is perhaps the loveliest example of an earlier villa and Villa Pisani the best example of the later villas. Villa Pisani is very large, and would probably be called a castle anywhere else...

Villa Contarini seen from canal

Note: the organised trips from Il Burchiello start from Saint Mark's Square in Venice and travel upstream as far as Padua. You should reserve in advance, especially if visiting in high season. Price for a trip is around 50-60 euros one way plus admission charges to the villas plus lunch in a restaurant at around 30 euros (optional, bring a picnic if you prefer).

Although expensive they are an excellent way to appreciate the grandeur and location of the villas - and perhaps rather too much over-development along the riverside.

The famous wooden bridge at Bassano-del-Grappa also crosses the Brenta river further upstream, beyond the route covered by the river boats, before the river continues into the mountains.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Venice-Veneto guide.

See also:

Map of Brenta canal and places to visit

Places to visit near Brenta canal

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