I’m very fond of this city. My family originated from Vicenza, and at some point I lived there. I know the town well, and I was uncertain how to write about Vicenza.
All at once, or in installments?
There is so much to know. Perhaps in installments is a better way to cover the most important things.
In any case to make a first formal presentation; Vicenza is a city in northeastern Italy, in the Veneto region, and with Venice, Padua, Verona, and Treviso is another pearl of this lucky region. Vicenza lays at the feet of the Monte Berico, a series of sweet hills that in summer provide endless walks in cooler climate.
Vicenza is a very thriving and cosmopolitan city, with a rich history and culture, and many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi. With the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, and his renowned Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theater), the “City of Palladio” has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
The city was a de facto Roman centre and was given the name of Vicetia or Vincentia, meaning “victorious“. It is in fact built in Roman style with the two main streets as Cardo and Decumano (Cardo Maximus, the primary north-south road that was the usual main street and decumanus was an east-west-oriented road; as I mentioned already in this story about Poreč ).
In Vicenza Cardo and Decumano are quite visible, being the two main streets of the city: Corso Palladio (decumano) and Corso Fogazzaro (cardo, where the ancient roman street is still visible in some places).
Corso Palladio runs from East-West. We can find the Teatro Olimpico at the very beginning of the street, and on the opposite side Palazzo Chiericati; Designed in 1550 as a noble residence for the Chiericati counts by architect Andrea Palladio and built starting in 1551, it was completed only at the end of the seventeenth century. It is now a museum. Corso Palladio is lined with numerous palazzi, to give proper mention to all it is necessary to make a specific entry for each one.
Piazza Dei Signori
Half way down Corso Palladio, there is Piazza dei Signori, where sits the famous Basilica Palladiana. Contrary to what it is led to believe (and as I wrote here), this building is not a religious building. Built in the 15th century, it was known as the Palazzo della Ragione, as the seat of government and also housed (and still does), a number of shops on the ground floor. This building has been empty and without a purpose for many years. Nowadays however, often hosts exhibitions in its large hall used for civic events.
I think it is worth to mention the Museum of Jewelry on the ground floor. A beautiful little museum with amazing works of art, really worth a visit.
There are numerous caffees in the piazza, including the city Gran Caffe Garibaldi, which sits jus next to the un-finished, but very beautiful Palazzo del Capitaniato, also known as Loggia del Capitanio or Loggia Bernarda, designed by Andrea Palladio in 1565 and built between 1571 and 1572 (Palladio was very ambitious with his plans. This isn’t the only un-finished building. Often they did run out of money!).
Corso Fogazzaro is the quiter street that crosses Corso Palladio. It is full of charm though, with the porticos and a lot of small little stores to look at. Along Corso Fogazzaro we can find prestigious buildings including the Gothic Church of San Lorenzo and the beautiful Palazzo Valmarana-Braga, designed by Palladio in 1565 and built the following year.
It should be mentioned also Contrà Porti, which also crosses Corso Palladio. Here you can admire some of the most sumptuous palaces in Vicenza. Right at the beginning of the road you will find Palazzo Cavalloni-Thiene, in Venetian-Gothic style and the richly decorated Palazzo Thiene with its beautiful frescoed façade. A typical Palladian building is Palazzo Barbaran da Porto with its imposing exterior façade. The beautiful portico of the Palazzo Porto-Breganze, with its series of Gothic windows, is also open to the public. Other buildings in the Contrà Porti are the Palazzo Iseppo da Porto (home of Luigi Da Porto whose story I wrote about here) and the Palazzo Colleoni-Porto, probably the most beautiful palace in the Gothic-Venetian style.
This is just an introduction to Vicenza. A friend of mine described Vicenza as “Venice without the water!” Like Venice, I think it is best to describe the city one this at a time, since so many deserve detailed descriptions.