In the hereditary dominions of the house of Austria, Bavaria, etc many of the towns are built after the Italian fashion with large piazzas adorned with fountains. The houses have (..) fine fronts and the outside curiously painted. Those of the nobility are done in fresco and adorned in the inside with a great deal of good marble. Most of their rich furniture as well as antique curiosities and cabinets of rarities which hardly a prince or nobleman is without, they have at a vast expence from Italy together with their architects, painters and music and their gardens which are magnificent are laid out in the Italian taste.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
Schonbornsky Palac (XVIIth century) aka Colloredo Palac, today the U.S. Embassy; it has a painted sign to the Italian Hospital of Vlasska in German and Czech
Italska is the name of a large avenue in a late XIXth century part of Prague. It is not however the only street of Prague named after Italy because another street in the historical neighbourhood of Mala Strana is named Vlasska after the old word Vlach which was used to indicate foreigners speaking a language of Latin origin. Walch is the old German word with the same meaning and from it we have Walloon (French-speaking population of Belgium), Walachian (region of Romania) and even Welsh. Old German maps showed Walchland as the name for the Italian peninsula. The use of Walch or Vlach was abandoned in the XVIIIth century. The Italians used to live in Vlasska; the street starts at the market square (Trziste) of Mala Strana near imposing Schonbornsky Palac.
Lobkovicky Palac (today the German Embassy); see Lobkowitz Palace in Vienna
The lesser town is adorned with most of the houses of the nobility. The architecture of that of prince Lobcowitz is very good as likewise of the counts of Webna and Colowrat, of the arch bishop and of the Norbertin monks. (..) The palace of Colloredo and its gardens are admired for neatness. Nugent
Vlasska is in the little valley between the Hradcany and Petrin hills. While Hradcany was highly populated (it is one of the historical quarters of Prague), Petrin was covered by vineyards and by the gardens of some large palaces, the most important being Lobkovicky Palac, built in 1703-1713 by Giovanni Battista Alliprandi from Como.
The Italian Hospital and the Italian Church
The Corticelli threw her arms round my neck, laughing as usual, and her
mother presented me to the worthy man who had accompanied them from
Prague to Metz. He was an Italian named Monti, who had lived for a long
time at Prague, where he taught his native language.
The Memoires of Casanova, by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt. Transl. by Arthur Machen. In this and other passages of his autobiography until 1774, Casanova made reference to Italians living in Prague.
The Italian community was mainly made up of Lombards (including those coming from nearby Italian Switzerland) and they brought to Prague their traditional skills in stone-cutting and plastering. In 1713, with the peace of Utrecht the Duchy of Milan became an Imperial possession and thus Milan and Prague were part of the same multinational empire. The Italians chose to live in Vlasska because it was very near Nerudova street where the nobles had their palaces (see a detail of a portal) and Hradcany which was the centre of political and religious life. The community built its own hospital and church and they both still exist today (the main building of the hospital houses the Italian cultural center).
Italian Monastery of St. Charles Borromeo
In a side street off Vlasska a large monastery was dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, whose family was very prominent in the Duchy of Milan. The family motto Humilitas is still written at its entrance. Also the Lombard church of Rome was dedicated to him as well as a very imposing one in Vienna.
Houses in Vlasska
As to company there is no no town in the empire that has a greater choice. (..) They have a tolerable Italian opera. Nugent
The quality of the buildings in Vlasska is not limited to palaces and large buildings, but it is evident also in more ordinary houses, which were built between the XVIth and XVIIIth century, when the Italian community reached its peak in terms of population and influence.
(left) The upper part of Vlasska; (right-above) Strahov Norbertine Monastery; (right-below) Hradcany
The upper part of Vlasska is a narrow lane with a distinct countryside flavour leading to the Strahov Norbertine Monastery and it offers great views over Hradcany (when the Italians lived in Vlasska the view was slightly different because the two bell towers of the cathedral were added in 1871-1929).
The view over Hradcany shows Schwarzenbersky Palac built in 1563 by Agostino Galli, who lacking the proper stones painted them in order to obtain the bugnato effect of many Florentine palaces and to a lesser extent of some Roman ones, e.g. Palazzo Santacroce. The influence of Italian Renaissance is visible in many parts of Prague. The graffito decoration of palaces and other buildings was very popular in Rome (see Palazzo Istoriato and Palazzo Ricci).
Part of this town is built on a rising ground at the top which stands Upper Prague; here the empress queen has a summer house and a fine old palace. Nugent
Italian influence is most likely due to the Archduke (later on Emperor) Ferdinand who, in 1537, commissioned Paolo della Stella, from Milan, the design of a summer residence for his wife Anne. The small palace is still called by the Italian name of Belveder as it allows great views over Prague, similar to the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
The Italian Chapel in Stare Mesto
The Italian community built at the end of the XVIth century a chapel in the main street (Karlova) of the old town (Stare Mesto). The chapel is still known as Vlasska Kaple. The inscription above the entrance is in Italian and it makes reference to the illustrious Italian community.
Vrtboska garden near Vlasska
Italian taste is evident also in the design of gardens. Vrtboska garden is in the process of being brought back to its XVIIIth century layout, which shows in the use of plants, statues and grottoes the influence of Italian models (the mermaids in the background of this page are part of its decoration).