Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of Italy, in its own province. It’s a medium-sized town that, after the barbarian invasions which repeatedly devastated this part of Italy, became a significant town, ruled at different times by various greater powers. Vicenza was prosperous under Venetian rule and its pride was demonstrated in fine architecture, much of which still survives. Its “unique appearance” largely owing to the work of influential sixteenth-century architect Andrea Palladio, has led to the town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: “City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto”. After Palladio, Vicenza is most famous for its trade in precious metals, it’s also known as the “City of gold”.
It’s a lovely town to visit with a beautiful, compact town centre and attractive villas and viewpoints.
Most of Vicenza’s attractions are clustered closely together inside the old town walls.
What to see:
PIAZZA DEI SIGNORI
Piazza dei Signori is the heart of the town. It is dominated by two of Vicenza’s most striking landmarks, the Basilica Palladiana, the town’s medieval law courts, with an imposing later facade by Palladio, and the adjacent Torre di Piazza, a tall and skinny tower.
The town’s most famous individual sight is the Teatro Olimpico, Palladio’s last work, which was finished by his son and then by Vincenzo Scamozzi. The building was modelled on ancient Roman theatres, with a curved amphitheatre, graded stepped seating and lavish ornamentation. The ticket you’ll buy here entitles you to enter the town’s various civic museums.
Over the road from the Teatro Olimpico is Palazzo Chiericati, which today houses the town’s museum (Museo Civico) and art gallery. The collections here are interesting; art lovers should also pay a visit to the Gothic Church of Santa Corona to see works by Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veronese.
For views over the area, visitors can walk uphill (or take a bus) to the Santuario di Monte Berico, a church built on the site of two apparitions of the Madonna. A long arcaded walkway climbs up the hill, which is useful on a sunny or a rainy day.
The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda. Both of these are in the outskirts of Vicenza and can be reached by bus number 8. They can be combined in a walking excursion with Monte Berico.
Further from town you’ll find a good assortment of villas which are open to the public.