Located in the Veneto region west of Venice, the city of Vicenza is a confection of marble balustrades, exquisite architecture and luxuriant hillsides. Within the confines of the medieval walls, little evidence remains of the intense bombing raids that nearly destroyed the city during World War II. Now, pleasant wide boulevards and huge piazzas fill with locals during the evening walk, the passeggiata. This is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities, thanks to both a silk trade born in the renaissance along with a burgeoning gold jewelry trade. Designer light fixtures illuminate shop windows along the Corso Andrea Palladio. In the Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza’s main square, the elegant Palladian Basilica lines one side of a sparkling white marble square. This is a lovely, peaceful city.
Vicenza is located an easy one hour train ride west of Venice. If you are traveling by car between Milan and Venice, I highly recommend at least a one night visit to this gorgeous city.
We explore Vicenza during our Northern Italy Tours. While one day might seem sufficient, it is barely enough time to grasp the remarkable history of a city once tied to La Serenissima, Venice. Numerous navigable waterways once connected the trade of Venice directly with Vicenza. Wealthy merchants began building their country homes between city and sea. Italy’s most famous architect of the period, Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), literally built his reputation stone by stone in the hills and along the river near Vicenza.
(A brief mention that Vicenza is now home to a large US Military / NATO base. Without special and appropriate permission, you cannot visit the base, nor should city visitors attempt in any way to photograph the grounds.)
Our guide, Roberta Parlato, (www.robertaparlato.com) is a native with sun streaked blond hair, clear blue eyes and an energy that belies the seeming peace of the city. The enthusiasm she feels for the city and its history is evident. She offers a wide array of tours across the entire Veneto region. We always enjoy our time with her.
Our day in the city begins at the Piazza G. Matteotti, a lovely square that fronts the Palazzo Chiericati, one of Palladio’s masterpieces. The building is now one of the city’s Civic Museums. (www.museicivicivicenza.it/). Roberta leads our small group through the garden of the Teatro Olimpico(www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/), to the theater entrance. The Teatro, built between 1580 and 1585, is the first such building in the world constructed entirely of masonry. The performance season offers a plethora of options for those interested.
The design of the theater is full of “trompe d’oeil”, tricks of the eye. Despite the stage’s restrictive dimensions, it appears that we are looking into a city square off of which six separate streets fade in the distance. Truly remarkable.
After visiting the Teatro, we enjoy a lovely lunch of tramezzini, small flavorful sandwiches. The Bar Opera, located outside the gates of the theater garden, (it-it.facebook.com/pages/OPERA-food-drinks/43623236530) offer delicious and fairly priced meals served in the shade of a gorgeous 16th century loggia. Accompanied by a spritz (white wine mixed with sparkling water), the light lunch is a perfect break during our day.
We take taxis for the easy ten minute transfer to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani. (www.villavalmarana.com/en). Located above the aptly named Valley of Silence, it is a gorgeous villa in a tranquil setting.
Francesco Muttoni built the villa in 1720. The Palazzina (small palace/villa) and the Foresteria (building originally used as a greenhouse and limonaia) contain frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo on the interior walls. The paintings reflect an array of diverse activities, some focused on local farming of the time, others presenting visions of distant lands. The villa decorations are gorgeous and Roberta details some of the most notable frescoes during our visit.
From the Villa Valmarana, we negotiate a narrow, rough, path downhill to one of the most famous Palladian villas in the world, La Rotonda ( www.villalarotonda.it/) Sited on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the villa’s exterior displays the colonnaded style for which Palladio is so famous. His designs influenced buildings as diverse as the US Capital, the White House and Jefferson’s Monticello. His approach to architecture strongly influenced Inigo Jones in London, as well. The villa’s main room is cavernous. Frescoes cover the walls. Views across the city and countryside further underscore the perfect building site for this gorgeous villa.
Located on the Contra’ Santa Corona, named for the nearby Church, the hotel is one of the few located within the city walls. We find that the hotel’s location offers easy access to the city, making for less tiring explorations. Rooms at this very new Relais are large, modern, extremely clean and very comfortable. The staff is accommodating, the breakfast buffet more than sufficient.
For dinner, we recommend clients eat at Malvasia, (www.facebook.com/pages/MALVASIA-IL-RISTORANTE/109028052465997) a fabulous restaurant located a five minute walk from the hotel. Meals of traditional Veneto cuisine, supplemented by more typical Italian dishes, are all prepared with a focus on the freshest ingredients. On Tuesday evenings, jazz enlivens the venue.
Antico Guelfo (www.anticoguelfo.it) is also one of my favorites. Located along the Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, it offers modern, clean interiors and a creative menu at very fair prices. The Guelfo is also an easy five minute walk from the hotel.
Should your time in Italy include a visit to the Veneto region, make a point to stop and enjoy yet one more unique experience in bella Italia!
IF YOU GO:
THEATERS AND MUSEUMS:
Tickets: Euro 8.50 per person
The Teatro is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (last admission: 4.30 p.m.) Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 8
Contrà delle Morette, 5
Tel: 0444 543704
Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, 92
tel 0444 547897
Open March 10 – November 4 (2012 Calendar Year). Tuesdays through Sundays only. Note: Closed Mondays.
10:00 a.m. to 12:30m p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Tickets: Euro 9.00 per person
Villa La Rotonda
Open 14 March to 5 November (2012 Calendar)
Open every day of the week EXCEPT Mondays.
10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Note: You can ONLY visit the itinerior of Villa La Rotonda on Wednesday and Saturday.
Tickets: Euro 5.00 per person (Note: Euro 10.00 per person on Wednesday and Saturday).
Relais Santa Corona
Contrà Santa Corona, 19
36100 Vicenza (Italy)
Phone / Fax 0444 324678