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Buying in Italy: architectural styles

Ca Del Felze, Venice

If you're dreaming of buying property in Italy, you will not only have to decide on an area, but also on an architectural style.

As building practices evolved and power ebbed and flowed between the Church and the State, so Italian architectural styles developed. The result is one of the most diverse architectural landscapes in the world, with some of its finest buildings, from the Colosseum and the Pantheon in Rome to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence and Milan Cathedral.

Don't know your Baroque from your Venetian Gothic? Here's where to find the best examples of five of Italy's most influential styles, plus examples currently on the market.


The Romanesque period lasted from around 800 AD to 1100 AD. Campaniles, or towers, began to replace domes – The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a good example. This period also featured smaller windows, barrel-vaulted ceilings and rounded arches.

Venice/Venetian Gothic

Italy imported its Gothic style from France in the 12th century and developed a cleaner, less embellished version. Typical of the period are free-standing arches - flying buttresses that allowed exterior walls to be higher - and stained glass windows. Santa Croce in Florence and the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi in Assisi are both examples of Gothic churches.

Much of Venice, most notably the Doge’s Palace, is built in Venetian Gothic style with clear nods to Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Here the emphasis is on graceful buildings with elaborate arches and a far lighter touch than was common in Europe at the time. Venetian Gothic also introduced the large central hall to private homes, which often lead directly to an arched loggia.


From 1400 to 1600, Italian architecture returned to Classical design mixed with an ornate Gothic style. Palazzo Pitti and Santo Spirito in Florence are prime examples of symmetrical Renaissance architecture which typically featured columns and pediments. 


Baroque, incorporating colonnades, domes, chiaroscuro and increasingly embellished interiors, was conceived in Rome around 1600 and exported to most of Europe. St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is typical of this extravagant, grand and heavily dramatic style.The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are two more fine examples.

Genoa Old Port/Post modern

Renzo Piano is one of the Italy's leading post modern architects and best known for his high-tech public buildings (he designed The Shard).

In the Old Port of Genoa, the aquarium, the harbour offices, the Bigo tensile structure, the Bolla, a vast crystal sphere, are all typical of his work.

Further information

For more details on buying property in Italy, contact Savills International Residential.

View property for sale in Italy.


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