So much life has passed through here.
Not much is known about the rural court of Piovezzano, commonly known as Ca' dei Frati or Corte Ronzetti. The Padovani family has worked with great care and attention to detail to resurrect the history of this place. To preserve and pass it on. To tell people about it. To explain the value of a place that deserves to be understood and re-lived.
The architectural typology records that of closed courtyards, which were very popular throughout Italy from the Middle Ages. Ca' dei Frati contains all of the typical characteristics of the life of a closed courtyard: the presence of ovens and wells shows the need to provide sustenance for a consistent flow of people and the remains of the surviving vaulted windows - now blocked up evidence of a medieval system - of the outside wall of the complex that rises to the left as you enter, lay testament to it’s defensive role. We can therefore be almost certain that the small house to the north of the manor house dates back to medieval times.
This is also clear from the wall decorations on the facade which date back to the renovation works of the early 20th century and which spectacularly portray brickwork typical of medieval times, with large windows blocked up with a fake wooden system with diagonal supporting beams. Over the centuries, "embellishment" works - first dating back to the 18th and then the 20th century - have been layered upon the original medieval plan. Brugnoli, writing in his volume Pastrengo, stresses how the court would appear to have belonged to the Marinellis, the Caggozzis and then to the Congregation of the Holy See.
Redeemer, the Redemptorists. No documentation has been found regarding the Redemptorists, even though the name Ca' dei Frati is still in use amongst the older population of Pastrengo to indicate the court and this may reasonably attest to the old property or in any case its presence in the court. It can be assumed that the court was therefore supposed to be an independent and selfsufficient place to support community life, with its own chapels, ovens, wells, etc. The Redemptorists would have also been able to use the court as a place of spiritual and meditative retreat, considering its position away and separated from the actual headquarters of the Congregation (the second highest-ranking departments of the Roman Curia - the central administration of the Catholic Church) which, at the time, would have been very busy.
It is unclear how long the Congregation owned the Court, however the last owners, the Ronzettis, definitely lived there in 1932 when the renovation works started - undoubtedly on commission by the Ronzetti family. This is clear from the scroll above the entrance to the manor house overlooking the western courtyard: ANNO DOMINI MXMXXXII In fact it was then that Piero Ronzetti rebuilt the manor house from scratch, without modifying the foundation area, and redecorated the small northern house recalling the so-called "Liberty" movement. Liberty which in the Verona area from the 1930s was given a kind of neo-historical interpretation on a strictly Déco international base, reclaiming the motifs of the classical tradition. In this specific case, the complex in some ways recalls the 18th century as can be seen by the stucco gables above the windows and the large, coarse-grained stucco frames in the form of stylised scrolls that reflect the shapes and forms of the 18th century.
The strong Sanmichelian tradition of the Veronese area has not been overlooked, either, and can be found in the staggered false stone concave cantonals. During the renovations of Ca' Dei Frati, wall painting techniques were used, both inside and out. This technique aimed to return to the Verona tradition that has always used wall painting, not only for its ease of use but also for comodo civitatis. In this sense, the ostentatious nature of the family coat of arms is significant as it almost seems to highlight Piero Ronzetti's new status of land owner.
The same should be said for the interior decorations which include a frieze portraying Pastrengo amongst a flight of angels that can be found under the ceiling in almost every room and in the large oval in the ceiling in the main entrance hall. The 20th century construction commissioned by Ronzetti corresponds to the evolutionary progress of bourgeois residences, which at the beginning of the 1900s saw the construction of the main manor house, which then became a rented home, and finally - mainly for reasons of privacy - an independent home for private use. In this instance we can see a re-creation of the Veneto villa, layered in an already-outlined context.
So many interventions, so much life, so enchanting
In the courtyard we can today still see the signs of its first status as a closed courtyard, characterised by three independent entrances overlooking Via Piovezzano Vecchia. The architectural structure of the courtyard, in fact, was set out so that the three specific areas of use - the houses, rustic annexes and the church - had three independent entrances, all from Via Piovezzano Vecchia, within the urban system. Nonetheless, the three areas are interconnected within the courtyard; in fact, the garden, central courtyard and western courtyard are connected by internal openings along a parallel axis to the road: Via Piovezzano Vecchia. All three entrances to Via Piovezzano Vecchia, which break up the flow of various shopfronts, are similar with their lancet arches with concave stone frames.
The first two have a false earthenware surface in plaster where the texture of the bricks was imprinted in the plaster which was then - while still wet - painted with a red earth. The two external gates have a double gabled roof which protrudes out over the road as wooden eaves. Unlike the other two, the central gate leading to the courtyard is surmounted by a protruding architrave supporting three large stone vases and the rusticated remains of the gate decorated - as per Renaissance models - by an arch portraying the owner's coat of arms; in this case Ronzetti's, depicting an open-winged, crowned dove sitting on a farmer's
carriage. This work dates back to the early 1900s, to be exact 1932 when Piero Ronzetti became owner. This date can be found on a frescoed scroll on the main building overlooking the western courtyard.
The facade is characterised by a masterfully-decorated colourful plaster decoration that deserves to be preserved for eternity. This decoration can be found in regular intervals along the facade in painted backgrounds played like scrolls, which break up the white surface. The central painted background holds a scroll painted with the family coat of arms. The rustification in the building's cantos is unique, characterised by staggered false stone bowls in plaster. The use of wall painting can be found throughout the interiors as well as outside. Just think of the devotion in the painting portraying a Raphaelesque Madonna with Child and, in the background, St John and St Joseph and of the decorative elements such as the 18th century-style scroll inviting devotees to recite the Ave Maria, and the sundial on the front overlooking the internal courtyard. Among the false architectural elements portrayed on the outside of the house mention should be made of the painted window including its white curtain which, together with the real one, form a double-arched window with 18th century wooden fretwork gable - locally known as "gallinella" - which underlines the heritage of the brickwork.
This small house, which testifies to its original medieval plan despite its 20th century highlights, is the only remaining element of the initial construction. In fact, the other buildings that overlook the main interior courtyard are typical of the art movements of the 18th century. The facade of the portico overlooking the entrance gate is more elaborate, with three lancet supporting arches that meet at the giant order made up of pilasters supporting a high moulded frame under the eaves.
This part of the building, though majestic in its appearance, was used as a portico, a type of "covered lawn" where as well as temporarily storing work tools, people would also store the produce from the land and it would have acted as shelter for animals. The cooking area is worthy of attention and also requires a high level of protection. Here you can clearly see two ovens: a small one, probably used for bread and meals, and another larger one, with a majestic vaulted roof, which heated a room above it used to dry clothes and goods.
The original designs suggested that the building at the front was to be identical but, perhaps for economic reasons, it was never finished. The ground floor area was used as a wine cellar, as evident by the two small brick walls on which barrels would be been kept in the past. The terracotta flooring is unique with its central guttering leading to a stone water container, very similar to that described above. To the left of the entrance to this building we find a second room used for working produce from the land, as can be seen from the remains of an olive-press. From here, we can access another, lower room, characterised by a barrel vault ceiling broken up by buttresses supporting sections which break the cellar up into areas for various food products.
Finally, there is the oratory. The oratory presents as a rectangular hall divided up by shade and colour following the artistic movements of the 18th century, with blind inwardly-curving bays broken up by pilasters supporting a high protruding moulded frame on which a cross vault lays with sections at the centre of each wall, characterised by the two doors to the outside, from the internal entrance and the multi-coloured marble altar which, following 18th century Verona tradition is found within a niche, embellished on the bottom by a multi-lined stucco frame which decorates the prestigious 15th century wooden statue of the Virgin on the Throne with Child. The church is lit by lunettes over the two external entrances and the altar. Two oval windows light the small rooms next to the altar which were used as a sacristy and confessional. The bell tower overlooking the courtyard in the centre of the roof over the manor house is rather interesting as it was activated by hand via a pulley placed inside the church. The shapes of the bell tower relate to those of the majestic chimneys built in 18th century style.