Scarpa lined an adjacent exhibition hall with travertine slabs, inserting backlit panels of frosted glass edged in brass as vertical accents. Water is an equally important element in the rear garden, where it flows from a pond scattered with water lilies at one end through a series of hollows, emerging from a spout that pours into a basin.
This tranquil spot feels miraculously far removed from the city’s tourist throngs. But I’m not surprised to see other visitors inspecting the details. One of them, Juan Rivera, is a Washington, D.C., real estate developer who trained as an architect and came to Venice specifically to experience Scarpa’s buildings. “So much comes at you in Venice that’s political or religious,” Rivera says. “Scarpa doesn’t do any of that. He’s simply saying, ‘Look at this—it’s beautiful.’”
With several of Scarpa’s most significant designs waiting for me on the mainland, I head by vaporetto for the Piazzale Roma to pick up a rental car, passing under Calatrava’s glass-and-steel bridge on my way. Any clash between modernity and Venice’s deep-rooted tradition fades as I hurtle in my compact, fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz B 180 across the causeway that links the islands with terra firma, driving then for a while along the Brenta River before taking the autostrada directly into Verona, arriving less than two hours later. Scarpa’s Museo di Castelvecchio is easy to find—it’s in a hulking 14th-century fortress along the Adige River—and after checking into the Hotel Colomba d’Oro, in the city center, and lunching on veal cutlets at the Trattoria I Masenini, I head over to explore.
At the Castelvecchio I reencounter Scarpa’s emphasis on texture and juxtaposition. From 1958 to 1964 he reworked the museum, which displays medieval and Romanesque art and ancient weaponry, to make its history come alive by revealing the layers of the past. He inserted modern windows behind the Gothic arches and laid new carved stone and grooved concrete floors that resemble plush carpets. The interiors have a spare elegance that renders this one of Europe’s most sublime museum buildings.