after exploring Vicenza and Padua, it’s now time to talk about a less known but still fascinating area: the territory between Vicenza and Bassano del Grappa.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to split the tour of this area into two parts: the first going from Vicenza to Bassano del Grappa, and the second coming back from Bassano to Vicenza. The first part of the tour covers the eastern road from Vicenza to Bassano, while the next post will be about the western route from Bassano to Vicenza.
If you want to take the entire tour and come full circle, you are going to need more than one day. You should probably head from Vicenza towards Bassano del Grappa, taking an entire day to explore the in-between, spend one night in Bassano and then go back to Vicenza through the alternative road in half a day.
If you prefer to take the tour in one day, you’ll necessarily leave something out of your visits, and you’ll be bound to be in a hurry.
In this post, we’re going to discover:
- Fanzolo di Vedelago
- Bassano del Grappa
Most of the attractions of this tour are somehow connected with Andrea Palladio and its work. However, most of the charm of this area is bound to the fantastic views of the Alps and a few fascinating hamlets and small cities.
Practical tips: where and when to visit
If you want to know more about the best periods to visit this area, read this post: Discovering Andrea Palladio and the Venetian Villas. Since most of the attractions on today’s tour are Palladian Villas, it’s essential to check the single mansions’ websites for the opening days and hours. This way you won’t risk being disappointed at your arrival.
The first stop is Cittadella, in the province of Padua.
This small town has a unique attraction. It’s the only town in all of Europe whose ancient city walls are elliptical. The city centre, surrounded by the walls, is well-finished and charming. The walls were first built during the Middle Ages and are over 15 metres tall. The entire oval of the walls is accessible and walkable, this way you can retrace the steps of an ancient Medieval patrol.
You can climb up the walls from 9 in the morning to early evening, just before sunset, for a 5 euros fee. Along the walk, you’ll be able to admire the beautiful view over the Alps and the hamlet inside the walls.
If you have one day only to complete the entire tour, you can take a turn around the ancient walls by car, so that you can take a few pictures, and then go on towards the next stop.
Fanzolo di Vedelago (TV)
Fanzolo, a hamlet near Vedelago, can boast one of the most famous Palladian Villas: Villa Emo.
Even if the outside of the building is in itself worth a visit, after admiring it from the outside, you can’t miss a tour of the inside.
The ground floor, with its many spacious rooms, is well kept but not particularly interesting, except for a few pieces of furniture. The first floor, however, is going to take your breath away. The rooms are decorated by a cycle of frescoes by Giovanni Battista Zelotti, depicting characters from the ancient mythology such as Venus and Hercules.
As it was customary at that time, the extensive use of trompe l’oeil technique gives the rooms great depth. Moreover, the representation of slender Corinthian columns framing the paintings increases the sense of largeness and the feeling of being outdoors.
Another prestigious Palladian Villa is situated in Maser. Its called Vila Barbaro but is widely known as Villa Maser due to its location.
While Villa Emo, in Fanzolo di Vedelago, represents the canon of Andrea Palladio’s style, Villa Maser marks a turning point in Palladio’s architectural style. Given the consequence and refinement of his customer, Andrea Palladio had to add several details to embellish the outside of the building.
The piano nobile, the floor where the main rooms are situated, is decorated with frescoes by Paolo Veronese and it’s a gem of the period, unmissable stop if you are touring this area.
As it happens in many Palladian Villas, the predominant features are mythological figures and trompe l’oeil effect. However, in this case, Veronese brought it all to a superior level, adding details which enhance the depth of such small spaces.
You should devote the proper amount of time to the visit of the mansion, to enjoy every detail. Don’t forget to admire the ceiling, where the frescoes continue, and the floor, covered in exquisite parquet.
The last element you can’t miss is the nymphaeum, in the garden behind the mansion.
Before leaving Maser, I suggest a quick stop to see the Tempietto Barbaro. You can spot it quite easily, in fact it’s at the feet of the garden of Villa Maser. This small temple is Andrea Palladio’s last work, and it’s innovative as well thanks to the Greek cross plan with a cylinder at its centre.
Before reaching Bassano del Grappa, if you have time, you can stop at Asolo. This small town offers a delightful Medieval hamlet full of points of interest.
Take a stroll along the streets of the ancient hamlet and admire some famous palaces, such as Villa Scotti-Pisani, Casa Eleonora Duse e Palazzo Beltramini.
Before leaving Asolo, don’t forget to visit the Castle. It’s not clear when the castle was built; what it’s sure is its role of great strategic importance since the Roman times. Unfortunately, after its ancient splendour in 1500 due to Caterina Cornaro, the castle fell on hard times. Now it contains a theatre and a restaurant. Anyway, you can climb the tower to admire the beautiful view.
The fortress would be a must visit, but the ongoing restoration work and the fact that it’s open during the weekends only can make the tour quite challenging.
If you only have one day for the whole tour, you should probably skip Asolo and go directly to Bassano del Grappa.
Bassano del Grappa (VI)
With Bassano del Grappa ends the first part of the tour of this area. This town was crucial for Italy during both of the World Wars.
During WWI, Bassano was one of the symbolic places of the resistance and the rebirth of the Italian army. On the Mount Grappa, not far from Bassano, Italian soldiers managed to stop the Austro-Hungarian advance and begin the reconquer of the lost territories.
During WWII, the citizens of Bassano tried to resist the Nazi’s occupation and boycotted them, despite the atrocious reprisals perpetrated by the occupying forces.
After this due foreword, we can talk about Bassano’s beauty. This town, founded around 1000 b.C and thus having centuries of history, has a very peculiar character. Most of the city centre has the features typical of the Middle Ages, embellished by the decorations of the subsequent Venetian domination.
You can tour the city centre starting with the Ezzerini Castle, an impenetrable fortress built by the citizens during 1300.
Then take a stroll along the streets and reach the two charming plazas: Piazza della Libertà and Piazza Garibaldi.
Unfortunately, the town’s main attraction, the Old Bridge (also known as Ponte degli Alpini), at present is not accessible. This famous bridge, designed by Andrea Palladio, is a symbol of the whole Brenta Riviera. Due to the recent storms and waves of bad weather, the bridge suffered severe damage and now is in danger.
If you want to admire it, the best place is the New Bridge (Ponte Nuovo), a bit more down into the valley. From this bridge, you’ll have a beautiful view over the Old Bridge, especially at sunset.
If you decide to split this tour and take it in two days, you can spend the night in one of the many hotels in Bassano del Grappa. I recommend Hotel Brennero. This mid-range facility is near the city centre and has private parking.
For dinner, I recommend the Osteria Terraglio. At first glance, it may seem a simple place, but its menu is very refined and rich in typical dishes.
The first half of our tour is now concluded. In the next post, I’ll tell you about the route going back from Bassano del Grappa to Vicenza.