Vicenza, architecture heaven
Founded in the 2nd century BC by Ligurians, it is not before under the Venetian rule (15th-18th) that Vicenza prospered.
The city was widely destroyed during WWII but the restoration works were nicely down.
What to see
Vicenza has a lovely city centre with very little car traffic.
But it is best known for Palladio and his unique architecture work.
Palladio and Palladian architecture
Vicenza and the Palladian villas in Veneto are the results of the work of Andrea Palladio, a Renaissance master’s architectural genius who was inspired by classical architecture. His work was characterized by formal purity, had influences all over the world and gave birth to Palladianism.
Palladio was born in 1508 in Padua, where he studied mathematics, music and philosophy. In his 30s, he made several trips to Rome to study ancient ruins. This deeply influenced his work.
His Four Books of Architecture is an architectural bible.
Named after the master, Corso Palladio is lined up with Palaces not only built by Palladio himself but also by other architects inspired by his drafts.
Corso Palladio starts with Piazza del Castello, where stands the Palazzo Porto, a work by Palladio.
It ends near the Palazzo Chiericati and the Teatro Olimpico.
Now hosting the Civic Museums, the Palazzo Chiericati is a Renaissance palace designed by Andrea Palladio but most probably finished by Carlo Borella during the 17th century.
This architectural masterpiece was the final design by Palladio. It was completed after his death.
Vincenzo Scamozzi designed the beautiful trompe l'œil onstage scenery. The oldest stage set still in existence was installed in 1585 for the first performance held in the theatre.
Wood and stucco imitate marble.
Still in use nowadays, it is one of the 3 remaining Renaissance theatres, the others being the Teatro all'antica in Sabbioneta and the Teatro Farnese in Parma (rebuilt after WWII), both based on the Teatro Olimpico.
The light and show running during guided visits is beautifully done.
Villa La Rotonda
The villa is outside the city so if you really wish to visit, check the opening schedule ahead, especially in winter.
With four loggias with Ionic columns, the villa represents a stage that overlooks and dominates the landscape at 360 degrees.
Recently restored, the Basilica is one of the most important works of Palladio.
The first building was built around 1450. it was redesigned by Palladio. The pre-existing medieval complex was surrounded by two orders of superimposed loggias. The whole complex was completed some 30 years after the death of Palladio.
It hosts the jewels museum which is the first of its kind in Italy and one of the few worldwide to be dedicated exclusively to jewellery.
Loggia del Capitanio
Facing the Basilica, the Palazzo del Capitaniato was designed and built by Andrea Palladio. It is now used by the town council and hosts temporary events.
Designed and built by Palladio, the sumptuous Palazzo Barbaran Da Porto hosts the museum dedicated to the master.
Arco delle Scalette
The Arch of the Stairways is believed to have been designed after a design drawn up by Palladio in the years 1574- 76 within the framework of a unitary plan formulated for the ascent to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Monte Berico.
Alongside the Basilica Palladiana, the Gothic Bissara Tower overlooks Piazza dei Signori and is one of the tallest buildings in Vicenza (82m). It has been rebuilt several times since its creation.
Palazzo di Monte di Pietà
The Palazzo di Monte di Pietà is the oldest monumental complex visible today in Piazza dei Signori. It was built by incorporating pre-existing buildings including the Church of San Vincenzo, dedicated to the patron saint of Vicenza.
Piazza dei Signori
Besides the monuments already mentioned, the main square of Vicenza also hosts two columns with sculptures representing the Lion of St. Mark and Christ the Redeemer.
Piazza delle Erbe
Like many other Italian cities, Vicenza used to have more than a hundred towers. Only a few still exists.
Behind the Basilica, the Torre del Tormento, or Tower of torment, used to be a residence and then a prison, hence its name. It is connected to the Basilica by a passage over an arch.
With 23 buildings designed by Palladio in Vicenza itself, the architect certainly deserves a statue.
The Roman Cathedral was heavily destroyed during WWII and only the original facade survived. The original plans were by Lorenzo of Bologna whilst the cupola was designed by Palladio.
Chiesa di San Giorgio in Gogna
This cute little church is one of the oldest in the city. it is a bit off tracks, behind the train station.
Chiesa di S. Croce in S. Giacomo Maggiore detta dei Carmini
This church is another hidden gem in Vicenza. It has a beautiful outside and a fantastic blue ceiling.
Chiesa di Santa Corona
Beautiful church situated 100m from Corso Palladio. Its entry fee is included in the Vicenza pass.
Tempio di San Lorenzo
This church is one of the most important examples of Venetian architecture blending Cistercian and Romanesque elements.
You cannot really walk along Brenta river in the city, but the view from the bridges is beautiful.
Do not miss the bronze bust of writer, editor and publisher Neri Pozza.
Villa Valmarana ai Nani
The Villa takes its funny name “ai Nani” (which means dwarfs) from the statues of the 17 stone dwarfs on the walls surrounding the house.
Not a Palladio monument but nonetheless a must see in Vicenza, this villa is famous worldwide for its frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, hired in 1757 by Giustino Valmarana.
The villa is still owned and inhabited by the Valmarana family.
The walk to and from the villa is a really nice one.