Cash-strapped Italian lords give tourists a taste of Luxury
Hundreds of years ago the noble villas of Italy’s aristocratic circles were strictly off-limits for the common people. Today, tourists from around the world can enjoy the rich cavernous ballrooms, photograph rare stucco paintings and pose beside luxurious silk and lace from bygone eras as counts and countesses open their homes for profit.
Around 150 aristocratic families from the Veneto region in Italy have joined the tourist co-operative called Villa Veneto in a bid to preserve their heritage and to profit in the process. The Marcellos, whose roots reach back 2,000 years, are one of those who joined the group.
Jacopo Marcello admitted that the aristocracy’s venture into tourism had a practical aim: ‘We’re not wealthy enough to live in this place as a home. We need this activity to maintain it. Because of our visitors, we’re able to do restorations year by year.’
Ca’Marcello in Veneto, Italy is open to the public
Villa Tiepolo Passi’s Passi de Preposulo, a head of one of Italy’s most respected families, confessed ‘Our money is finished.’ Clad in a dapper smoking jacket, he now welcomes tourists inside his historic home for the basic price of $7.
The counts and countesses know that these historic houses are draining their coffers. Countessa Carolina Valmarana of Villa Valmarana said ‘They’re very expensive and big and old — people don’t want to buy them because they don’t know what to do with them.’
In a bid to please tourists, some of the grand homeowners have also added additional amenities to their homes like café and bars. Many even unlock centuries-old rooms for renters who want a taste of the life of Italy’s aristocracy.
Marcello said that times have changed, and the noble families of today are ‘just part of a big machine and every one of us needs to have a job to have a normal life.
The families say that most of the profits they generate do not line up their pockets, as in olden times. Instead, they are all spent on preserving not just homes but important Italian landmarks of art and history.
‘I’m trying to protect this house, and the richness of our history, our roots, but it’s expensive.’