Caterina Cornaro’s “Barco”

What I love about the setting of my novel, Lady of Asolo, is that I could visit my locations and dream about what they would have been like half a millennium ago. The story is partly set in Caterina Cornaro’s country estate, which was said, at the start of the Sixteenth Century, to be a place worthy of a King of France.

There were originally three enclosed spaces within an area of about 112 acres. The outer space was reserved for hunting and was filled with wildlife.

A model in the Giorgione Museum, Castelfranco, shows the living quarters and gardens before 1509. All that remains today is part of the east wing.


Here is a painting of what was left of the estate in the 18th Century.


The whole complex, a cross between a castle and a Venetian villa, was a palace of relaxation and delights where Caterina Cornaro welcomed artists, writers, musicians and poets to her court. She considered the castle in Asolo too cramped and crude for a grand lady like herself and was lucky enough to have the money to build her Barco near the village of Altivole.

Barco 2 copy

Partly destroyed by a fire during the sack of Asolo by the League of Cambrai in 1509, the Barco fell into neglect over the centuries. It was owned, for a time, by the Province of Treviso and the exterior was open to the public. Now the property of Benetton, when Victor and I went to visit the ruins, we could only stand and stare through the gate, imagining the hunts, parties, jousts and celebrations that took place here more than five hundred years ago.

Barco 1 copy

10 thoughts on “Caterina Cornaro’s “Barco”

  1. Beautiful buildings! But seems so sad that all that pleasure’s long gone – imagine how awful that must be for visitors with no imagination.


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