Dear fellow travellers,
Most of you may have visited or at least heard about the beauties of Venice and Verona, the most famous cities in Veneto. However, this region has much more to offer. If you want to discover other fascinating towns, you’ll be spoilt for choice, and surely you won’t be disappointed.
After introducing you to the Palladian Villas, it’s time to talk about Vicenza, the city that more than any other encloses de spirit and work of the master architect Andrea Palladio.
The best way to visit Vicenza is by splitting the tour into two parts. In the morning you can visit the mansions around town and the Sanctuary. You can go back downtown before lunch and go on with your visit to the historic buildings.
You can reach Vicenza by car or by train; both means of transportation have pros and cons.
Having a car can be useful in the morning, when you need to reach the Villas, and become a burden in the afternoon when you have to park it in an expensive parking lot.
Most of Vicenza’s city centre is enclosed in the pedestrian area. You can leave your car in one of the main parking lots, the Fogazzaro parking (north) or the Canova parking (east).
If you choose to arrive by train, you’ll be forced to use public transport in the morning and walk for a couple of kilometres to reach your destinations. However, you’ll be free to move around town in the afternoon.
You can find plenty of hotels and other facilities for the night. The medium to low range facilities, however, are more expensive than the average. If you have a car, you can choose the Alfa Fiera Hotel. It’s a 4 stars hotel near the city expo. When there aren’t any ongoing exhibition, it only costs 40 euros per night.
Your first stop in your tour of Vicenza is the Berico Mount, the hill overlooking the town, where you can visit the namesake Sanctuary.
The building is the result of two churches united together. The first was a Gothic church built in the Fifteenth century, while the second was a Baroque church built during the Seventeenth century. The interior is quite elegant, with its white marble and golden finish, and it’s worth a visit.
Just outside the Sanctuary, there is a big square from which you can see a beautiful view over Vicenza and the Alps.
The Sanctuary can be easily reached by car. If you need to use public transportation, you have to walk from the railway station uphill to the Sanctuary. The ascent is short, not more than one kilometre, but steep.
After visiting Berico Mount, you can head toward Villa Valmarana ai Nani. It is another kilometre on foot, but this time the path goes downhill. If you are moving by car, you need to proceed along the Bacchiglione river and search for a parking lot. There aren’t many available places. One is the gas station (five spots), another is via della Rotonda. Be careful not to park illegally.
Although Villa Valmarana ai Nani isn’t a Palladian villa, it’s one of the unmissable stops in a tour of Vicenza. The icon of this mansion are the statues of the dwarfs placed over the wall surrounding the property.
The legend has it that the lord of the mansion had a dwarf daughter. He didn’t want her to feel sorry about her condition, so he hired only dwarfs as servants. He managed to hide her condition from her for a long time, but one day a beautiful prince came to the mansion. When she saw the prince, she realised the difference and was so distraught by this discovery that she decided to take her own life. After this desperate action, the dwarfs’ grief was so severe they were petrified. Now they still guard the girl’s eternal sleep.
The mansion is divided into two parts— the main building and the guesthouse. The main building is characterised by the frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo. Each of the four main rooms is decorated with scenes from the Iliad, the Jerusalem Delivered, the Orlando Furioso and the Aeneid. The real masterpiece, however, is the central hall. The scene painted here is the Sacrifice of Iphigenia. If you stand at the centre of the hall, you’ll have the feeling of being in the middle of the action painted on both walls. Every face and gaze is turned toward the spot where the tragic event is taking place.
In the guesthouse, the epic mood is replaced by a different kind of atmosphere. Giandomenico Tiepolo, Giambattista’s son, decorated the rooms with neo-gothic frescoes representing scenes from everyday life.
When you leave Villa Valmarana ai Nani, head on foot toward Villa Almerigo Capra, also known as La Rotonda. La Rotonda is one of the most famous buildings in Veneto and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What makes this mansion important is Andrea Palladio’s design. The building has a square layout, but inside the central hall creates a cross with a circular room at the centre. This project, highly innovative for the time, inspired many other buildings, such as the White House in Washington DC.
Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside La Rotonda; however, you can lift your eyes and admire the triumph of art. The most interesting part is the circular room at the centre, decorated with frescoes from the floor up to the top of the dome. The theme of the paintings is linked to religious motives. The
Once you finish your visit, you can head towards the city centre. If you are on foot, you can take the bus, number 8 or 13.
Touring Vicenza’s historic centre is easy. The main points of interest are located in Corso Andrea Palladio and in the nearby squares and streets.
Corso Andrea Palladio is an elegant pedestrian street. Its origins date back to the Romans. In the following centuries, this street changed a lot and now hosts the main shops and restaurants. The real attractions, however, are the buildings.
Starting from Piazza Castello, you’ll see Porta Castello and the Tower, which are the only remainders of the ancient castle (Fourteenth century).
Walk along the Corso until you meet Thiene Bonin
At the end of Corso Palladio, you can see Chiericati Palace. This building, designed by Andrea Palladio, hosts a museum dedicated to the history of Vicenza between 1500 and 1600 and to its major artists, such as Tintoretto and Veronese.
In front of Chiericati Palace, you can see one of the most famous and important buildings in the area—the Olympic Theatre. This incredible theatre was designed by Andrea Palladio, and it’s the most ancient theatre of the modern era. Describing it with words is difficult. A picture is probably the best way to convey its magnificence.
The most fascinating part, which is challenging to convey both with words and photographs, is the scenography. Designed by Andrea Palladio too, the scenography creates a unique perspectival effect: it seems a street of a hundred meters, while it’s just twelve meters deep.
After visiting the theatre, you can go back along Corso Palladio. If art is your passion, you can stop at the Museum of Leoni Montanari Palace, which hosts an extensive collection of artworks.
The last unmissable stop in your tour of Vicenza is Piazza
However, the beauty of Piazza dei Signori isn’t due only to the Basilica Palladiana. There’s more, such as the Torre Bissara and Torre del Tormento, both built in the twelfth century.
Another notable building is the Palazzo del Capitaniato, designed by Palladio to host the delegate of the Venetian Republica in Vicenza.
There’s only one way to conclude your tour around Vicenza. Stop at the statue of Andrea Palladio to pay your respect to this brilliant architect who revolutionised architecture around the world and left us many buildings that make Veneto unique.
If you plan to stay in Vicenza for dinner, I suggest you the restaurant il Cursore, an excellent trattoria specialised in traditional dishes.
Our tour of Vicenza now really comes to an end, but this region has more to offer. In the next post, we’ll discover the beautiful Padua.
See you soon!