The city of Palladio
Another return to Italy, and once again to the north just after few weeks since the last trip. Somehow, there is always somewhere else to go and visit, non-stop anywhere you go in Italy, and we are happy with every return. Also in few week’s time, there will be more Italian weekend trips to come! For now, let’s fly once again to Verona, but not for revisiting, instead for making it our base airport to reach Vicenza, Padua, Mantua and Sabbioneta. Sounds a lot for just 2 days, however, these are all small cities and visiting 2 each day worked perfectly.
Vicenza, same as all the other places we will visit this weekend, are inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. No surprise! In the country with the most WHS in the world you are never far from one, and for people like us that on top of visiting as much of the world as we can, we are obsessed in being at the most WHS we can, this trips are tick after tick. I can hardly coop with creating the travel guides for every city and place we go yet I try my best, especially after receiving such a good feedback not only from my friends and colleges, but also from 3rd parties as hotels we stay, restaurants we go and other people we engage and we share it with.
Now back to the city, what’s the peculiarity then for being listed UNESCO, and ranking high among the tourists and tour operators who offer continuously day trips from Verona and Venice? Well, it really lies in the middle of both, barely 1 hour distance from any of them, but it’s architecture is the key. Do not expect here Roman ruins or impressive Venetian palaces, but instead, the finest neoclassical architecture of the whole of Italy. You can say such style was born here, and received a name, the Palladian architecture. Not because the resemblance to palaces and as such, palatial architecture; but for the name of its architect, Andrea Palladio.
The architect created something unique in a city that otherwise, would be nothing worth to mention or highlight. His palaces and villas are scattered all over Vicenza, and the Veneto region, and are remarkable works very advance for the era. We are talking about the early 16th century. One of his masterpieces, Villa Capra, known as la Rotonda, has been copied all over the world for its perfect proportions and elegance, and I’m sure you’ve come across a similar construction elsewhere. Now here you have the original.
Through the historic old town, very small and compact, you will come across his works, and the rest of the city’s sights as the Cathedral, churches and charming squares filled with traditional Italian multi-coloured houses. Visiting the entire city is not more than half a day at most. I would not overestimate the time and instead, get in your plans the city of Padua as well on the same day. Yes it’s possible, yes it’s plenty of time and no, you will not be rushing around. And guess what! commuting between both cities by train is only 17 minutes compared to 45 by car or bus. Given the option, I strongly recommend you do both, you won’t regret.
Now something that is great about generally any city in the north of Italy comes towards the afternoon. Dinner time. So while of course you have countless restaurants of any kind anywhere, you also have the “happy hour” places where you buy a drink, and get a food buffet included! They call it apericena. Ok, do not expect having a huge choice of food, but it is great enough. For around 8 Euros for a cocktail as an example, then you can eat until you wish, although the general will be around 10 to 12 Euros. A fantastic alternative to an otherwise expensive business that can be finding a nice restaurant, and a much better way to chill out with friends or rest after a long sightseeing day.
Vicenza’s cuisine as opposed to that of nearby Venice is hearty meats, vegetables and a lot of cheeses. Fish is for Venice. Dishes tend to be simple, not elaborate, yet very tasty and filling. Dishes containing polenta are pretty much a must, and your rare example of a fish dish will be “baccala alla vicentina”, this is, re-hydrated stockfish cooked in milk and served with polenta.
For more information about Vicenza check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Vicenza
Like almost any city in Italy, it is almost impossible to keep listing every sight and every historical building, otherwise we could keep going and going resulting in an unnecessary long list. I will group and list here the major landmarks by area, as for the others, you will see them as you tour the city. “Gladly”, Vicenza has an extremely compact historic centre, not too big and easy to navigate through.
- South and west of the city Surrounding the city are some of the largest gardens and parks, however is home to only some palladian constructions.
-Train station Very austere in design, nothing really worth it, but a great starting point for sightseeing the city.
-Campo Marzio Garden Right at the front of the train station, separating it from the proper medieval historic town.
-Salvi Gardens Following towards the north after Campo Marzio, is this beautiful garden with its monumental Arco del Reseve main gate, and beautiful constructions along the water ponds, notably the 2 palladian lodges, Longhena and Valmarana.
- Historic centre Famous for the large amount of palladian constructions that lead to the inscription of the city as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
-Porta Castello Right by the eastern side of the Salvi Gardens is the main access gate to the old town, flanked by the castle tower at one of the sides. This lead to Corso Andrea Palladio, the main thoroughfare crossing the city west to east.
-Piazza del Castello Right upon entering through the gates is this small square with 2 palladian constructions.
-Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare As you enter the square, on the northwest corner.
-Palazzo Porto At the opposite side of the square, east. Easy to spot as the narrow construction with the big columns built in 1571 by Andrea Palladio, where only this little piece was built from an original larger design.
-Corso Andrea Palladio The main pedestrian street running west to east crossing the entire historic centre, and home to many of the palladian constructions, either directly on this street or the parallel ones.
-Piazza del Duomo Just a block ahead on Corso Palladio, and on the parallel street south of it is one of the two major squares in Vicenza.
-Curia Vescovile Occupying the entire western side of the square.
-Duomo Along the northern side of the square, one of the largest single nave cathedrals in northern Italy. Dating from the 11th century, built on top of one of the earliest buildings from the Roman times.
-Central Post Office Right at the back of the Cathedral, where the Baptistery is.
-Via Cesare Battisti Running perpendicular to Andrea Palladio from the back of the Cathedral, has great palladian mansions.
-Palazzo Valmarana Built by Andrea Palladio in 1565 for the noble Isabella Nogarola Valmarana.
-Palazzo Cordellina On Contrada Riale Street, off Via Casara Battisti.
-Palazzo Repeta Former headquarters of the Bank of Italy branch.
-San Lorenzo Church Dating from 1280, in a mix of Gothic and Lombard Romanesque styles.
-Palazzo Pojana Continuing ahead back on Corso Andrea Palladio. Built in 1540, its arch over the street is of later creation in the late 16th century.
-Palazzo Trissino-Baston The next building, literally after Pojana.
-Contra Porti and Giacomo Zanella Streets Before heading south toward the largest and most important square in Vicenza, take this street north off Corso Andrea Palladio, then the parallel back south to cover the next palaces.
-Palazzo Barbaran da Porto Built between 1570 and 1575 by Palladio for the Vicentine noble Montano Barbarano. It is currently home to the museum of Andrea Palladio. Along Contra Porti.
-Palazzo Porto One of the two palaces in Vicenca commissioned by the noble Iseppo da Porto, in 1544. Along Contra Porti.
-Santo Stefano Church Along Giacomo Zanella street.
-Palazzo Thiene Designed for Marcantonio and Adriano Thiene, is not a work entirely by Andrea Palladio, but a revised construction from Giulio Romano from 1542. Along Giacomo Zanella street.
-Piazza dei Signori From Giacomo Zanella street as you were coming before, you can reach the main square in the straightaway.
-Basilica Palladiana Also known as Palazzo della Ragione, right in the middle of the square, was one of the first works in the career of Andrea Palladio, in a look closer to the Venetian Gothic style than the neoclassical style he would later revolutionize. The Bissara Tower dates from the 13th century and was cleverly implemented in the composition.
-Palazzo del Capitanio Built in 1565 later in the career of Palladio, already in his line of neoclassical style, showcasing the red bricks. A great juxtaposition at the front of the Basilica, along the north face of the square.
-Santa Corona Church Continuing back along Corso Andrea Palladio, towards the easternmost section at the end of the historic town.
-Casa Cogollo Built in 1559 by Palladio, being one of the smallest and simplest buildings he created in the city. It’s at the front of the Santa Corona Church.
-Palazzo Chiericati Dating from 1550 for the Count Girolamo Chiericati, one of the finest buildings by Palladio.
-Teatro Olimpico One of Palladio’s masterpieces. It’s the oldest enclosed theater in the world ever since its construction, and is most noteworthy for its use of Renaissance perspective in a three-dimensional space. The facade is decorated with stone carvings, wooden statues, and painted tromp l’oeil to make it look like a busy street scene.
-Ponte degli Angeli Across the little river, offers a nice scene towards the buildings on both banks, marking also the end of the historic old town towards the new areas.
- Outside of the city Not much left to see once you are outside of the historic core, however, there is the most important building from Andrea Palladio you cannot miss.
-Villa Capra Also known as La Rotonda, designed by Palladio in 1591, it is the architect’s thesis project, and hist masterpiece, containing all of his revolutionary ideas into one perfect and harmonious building which has been copied so many times and inspired other great buildings all over the world.
The nearest airports to Vicenza are Verona 60 kilometres to the west, Bergamo 100 km west and both airports serving Venice, with Treviso 83 km and Marco Polo 80 km to the east. Connecting from any of these airports is easy and straightforward either by buses from the airport terminal or via downtown with buses and trains linking each of them.
Coming overland will probably be the most common way any tourist reach this city, either on any of the multiple day trips from any of the nearby cities such as Verona, Venice or Milan, or as part of a wider tour through the northern region of Italy. The fact is that you do not really need to rent a car in order to move around the region, the railway and bus connections are fantastic, very frequent and reliable. Vicenza lies in the main north line connecting Milan to Venice through the other important cities such as Bergamo, Brescia, Garda, Verona and Padua in between. To the south are frequent trains towards Ferrara and Bologna, and farther northeast to Trieste.
Once in the city, the historic centre is very compact and easy to navigate around. There is no need for taking any public transportation to move around, considering many of the streets are pedestrianised.
Vicenza is a strong tourist centre in northeast Italy, mostly for lying so near super touristy Venice and Verona, just equidistant in between both, therefore needless to say the amount of hotels is really good, of any kind, from the large chains to small family run business and a lot of B&Bs. Prices in the other hand can surprise you, and not in a good way. A nice, good standard hotel will generally be over budget, especially when considering high season months. Our visit was at the brink of the high season, but we could still benefit of lower prices although not by staying overnight in Vicenza nor in Verona, but in the outskirts of Verona where prices were way much lower. Our plan was doing a large tour through different cities counting with our own transport, therefore this worked as the best for us. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Hotel Montemezzi, in Via Verona 92, Vigasio. Only 15 kilometres south from Verona downtown, this 4* property was absolutely perfect. Furthermore even if this is along a road with not much around you, there is a great pizzeria within the building, and another one meters walk, so don’t think at all you will be stranded without food. The room was extremely comfortable and super quiet at night, we had an incredible rest especially when we needed the most after such busy days touring through the cities. The staff was very professional and friendly, and the breakfast although small in choice was well more than enough and great quality. We recommend this hotel to anyone on a tour as was our case, however if you want to be in the city, this will not make too much sense as you depend on your own transport to get here and from here to anywhere.