Vicenza is an UNESCO heritage. It was almost entirely built by Andrea Palladio, the genius architect born in Vicenza. Walking through the city you will always have the feeling of living in an interior, in an open-air theatre scene. Let’s discover it together!
If you have some time on your hands, you can first visit Villa la Rotonda, built by Palladio and conceived it as his own villa-temple. In the last years of the 16th century, it was a popular destination for travellers from all over the world.
A few steps away you can visit Villa Valmarana “ai Nani“, a Venetian villa located on the slopes of the hill of San Bastian, an offshoot of the nearby Monte Berico. The villa is famous for the extraordinary cycle of frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico. The frescoes cover mythological and classical themes, with scenes from the Iliad, the Aeneid, mythology, Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.
The nickname “ai Nani”, with which it is known, to differentiate it from the other villas of the same family, is due to the 17 stone sculptures representing the dwarfs, once scattered in the park, then lined up on the wall. Legend has it that the dwarfs were the guardians of an unhappy girl, the daughter of the lord of the villa, suffering from dwarfism and that after her suicide the dwarfs became statues.
I started my visit from the very elegant and refined Piazza dei Signori, a splendid example of Italian square. Dominating the square are two columns, the one with the lion of San Marco and the one with Christ the Redeemer. If the first was built for the submission of the city to the Republic of Venice in 1473, the second was built in honor of the city and its citizens in 1647. In this square you can admire the Basilica of Palladio, the Bissara Tower, the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà and the Church of San Vincenzo.
After taking a few photos in Piazza dei Signori turn your gaze towards the Basilica Palladiana, not a real basilica, but the ancient Palazzo della Ragione. Palladio decided to give it this name to remember that in ancient Rome the term basilica indicated the place where politics and business were managed.
The Basilica was included in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1994. It was built starting from 1546 and cost about 60 thousand ducats: on the ground floor there are many goldsmiths’ stores; a beautiful marble staircase leads to the upper floor, the upper loggia, from which you can access the main hall and the terrace, particularly characteristic thanks to its copper roof with reversed chain.
Another tour of the alleys that surround the Basilica Palladiana and then off to Corso Palladio. The Corso is easy to reach: just take any street from the Basilica and you will easily find it! Corso Palladio is a nice place to go shopping and enjoy a walk among the people of Vicenza. The street is elegant, made of arcades, low houses, wooden shutters. Under the arcades stores, museums, churches, stores that invite you to enter.
Walking on Corso Palladio, in the direction of the Teatro Olimpico, you will find the Church of Santa Corona, which houses Palladio’s tomb.
Among the things to do absolutely if you choose to visit Vicenza in a day is to enter the Teatro Olimpico, a Vicenza attraction that you can not skip. The theater is the oldest permanent indoor theater of the modern age. Needless to say, it was Palladio who designed it in 1580. The first work staged was Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (1585) and today the theatre is still in operation. Next to the entrance you’ll find the information point where you can take brochures and pay for your ticket. I chose the option of a cumulative ticket that with €13 allowed me to visit 4 museums!
During the construction of the theatre Palladio died and Vicenzo Scamozzi was the one entrusted to finish the work. The Olympic proposes a structure applied in Roman theatres, the front scene appears as a triumphal arch and then there’s the representation of the city of Thebes of Seven Streets in twelve metres long. In my opinion, pictures would never fully represent the beauty of this work of art. It was majestic and accurate, a real artwork.
Right next to the Teatro Olimpico you’ll find the Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, planned in 1550. The museum hosts a collection of paintings, sculptures and applied arts from the 1200s to the 2000s – Tintoretto included! The last museum I advice is Galleria d’Italia – Palazzo Leoni Montanari. A seventeenth-century dwelling characterised by an exquisite Baroque interior décor. It houses three permanent collections: Attic and Magna Graecia pottery, Russian icons, and a collection of eighteenth-century Veneto paintings.
I decided to end my day trip at the Sanctuary of Monte Berico. You can reach it easily by car, otherwise you can walk up to the hill under a porch. The Sanctuary was built on the spot where the Virgin is said to have appeared to a peasant woman, back in 1428, when the city was stricken with a devastating plague. Moreover, it is a beautiful view point of the whole city, perfect to enjoy the sunset.