The region of Veneto is best known for Venice, which is one of the wonders of the world, but visitors to the area would be well and truly advised to experience the other provinces of the region. One of the most beautiful is that of Vicenza. Located between Venice and Verona, Vicenza has a long and glorious history that today combines its ancient past with a modern cosmopolitan feel and a thriving economy.
Vicenza was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 157 BC, but was ravaged by various tribes following its decline. During the Middle Ages, the city became part of the Lombard League and was involved in numerous battles and sieges against the Holy Roman Emperors. In modern history, the city was redeveloped following devastation during WWII and industry became the main economic driving force, but for visitors, Vicenza’s Renaissance attractions are not to be missed.
Piazza dei Signori is the main square within the historic town center of Vicenza. In the center is the impressive Basilica Palladiana and its bell tower. Constructed in the 15th century, this is one of the first examples of a Renaissance structure to feature the Palladian Window design, with the loggia of the Basilica containing a series of ornate arches running along both its sides. Walking through the open arches gives you a chance to admire the architecture up close. Inside the first floor of the basilica is a huge open room with a high vaulted wooden ceiling and arched windows.
Connected to Basilica is Torre Bissara. The 270 foot tall tower is by far the tallest building in Vicenza. Constructed in the 12th century, the tower has stood ever since in its current form. On one face is a beautiful ornate clock with a bright blue dial. It is possible to view the tower up close from the outdoor terrace on top of the Basilica, but unfortunately, you cannot climb to the top of the tower itself.
Within the same complex, make sure to visit the Museo Palladiano. Within the museum you will find an enormous collection of artifacts and relics relating to the basilica, together with detailed displays about its history and construction. Not only can we learn about the significance of the building, but also of renowned architect and genius, Andrea Palladio.
Only a two minute walk away is the Duomo of Vicenza. The cathedral is one of the most important churches in the city and is a fine structure in its own right. The interior is very different from later Renaissance and Baroque designs. Although simple in design, the arches with patterned red and white marble are extremely beautiful and frame the church perfectly. The church is actually built on the remains of three older religious structures. Everything except the front facade has been reconstructed after damage sustained during WWII.
There are other notable buildings surrounding the Piazza dei Signori, including the Loggia del Capitaniato and the Chiesa di San Michele detta dei Servi, but aside from the buildings, there are also cafes and restaurants where you can simply sit and watch the world go by.
Vicenza is one of the areas within the region where Palladio left a wealth a work for generations to admire and the Teatro Olimpico is another of his magnificent creations. This theatre is not like any other you will see. The opulent stage looks more like a palace than the set for a performance. Stone statues, archways and plaster work adorn the facade. Original stage sets are still in place today. Palladio designed the stage to create an optical illusion. Through the careful use of lighting and shadows, he altered the dimensions of the objects so that behind the main façade, as you look through the arches, it appears as if the streets stretch far into the distance.
Located to the south of Vicenza, approximately 15 minutes from the city center is Villa La Rotonda. Set in elaborate and beautiful grounds, you would not think that this structure was originally meant to be the home of a retired Vatican priest. La Rotonda it is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city and is a design of amazing symmetry. Each of the four sides of the house have a portico that mimics the Pantheon in Rome and uniquely, each is approached by its own series of steps. Not simply something to admire from the outside, the interior of the structure is a series of lavishly decorated rooms complete with beautiful frescos and ornate stucco plaster work. This house is one of Palladio’s best-known legacies to the architectural world and has inspired literally thousands subsequent buildings. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 with the “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto”.
Villa Valmarana lies in close proximity to La Rotonda and bears a degree of similarity, but it is one of Palladio’s earlier works. A footpath connects the two villas. It was commissioned by two cousins of the Valmarana family. The layout of the rooms suggest that the design amounted to two separate homes, constructed under the same roof. Make sure to visit the villas when in the province and take note of the stunning grounds, filled with flower gardens and beautifully manicured lawns.
The Corso Andrea Palladio pays homage to the famous architect and is one of the main streets in the historic town center. Along this street, you can find various palaces and structures, some of which were designed by Palladio himself. The most notable structures include the Palazzo del Comune, Palazzo Da Schio, Palazzo Boninand the Palazzo Zileri Dal Verme. The entire area is brimming with beautiful buildings, but the street also contains a great selection of shops and restaurants and is one of the main retail areas in the old town.
At the eastern end of the Corso Andrea Palladio is the stunning Palazzo Chiericati. This structure features a visually stunning façade that has a series of marble columns crowned with statues. Although beautiful in its own right, the main attraction is held within the building – the Museo Civico. The Civic Museum of Vicenza contains a vast collection of archaeological finds, artwork from the city, as well as works from renowned Venetian artists such as Carpaccio, Tiepolo and Veronese.
In the southern part of Vicenza, visitors should head towards Santuario Di Monte Berico. `According to the legend, when the people of Vicenza were suffering from a terrible plague in the 15th century, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a peasant and promised to rid the town of the scourge, if its people would build a church on top of the hill. The plague ended and the grateful people kept their promise, building in church in only three months.
Parco Querini In the northern part of the city is where you will find the Parco Querini, a beautifully maintained and expansive public park. It is a perfect spot to relax and reflect on the all of the beauty found within the Province of Vicenza.