Vicenza (Part II) the View from the Hills

While in Vicenza one thinks of Palladio’s beautiful Palazzi, and the—in my modest opinion—most beautiful theatre of all times—Teatro Olimpico, and Villa Almerico Capra Valmarana known as La Rotonda. And all that is surely worth the time of tourists, Art lovers, and connoisseurs. 

Monte Berico

However as the season opens up, the temperatures are milder, it is definitely worth walking and seeing Monte Berico. 

It is also the name of one of the most noble residential areas of the city, built on the slopes of the hill in the first half of the twentieth century and made up almost exclusively of villas and single-family dwellings. Opposite the sanctuary stands the Piazzale della Vittoria with a large “balcony” across the city, the northern part of province.

From the heart of the city it is an easy 15 minutes walk to Arco delle Scalette, best known in town as “Porta Monte,” one of the many gates of the city still standing.  

By going up the “scalette,” [little stairs] which is shaded by vegetation and quite pleasant and romantic walk, it leads to the middle of the Arched Walkway that leads to Monte Berico.

The Walkway

This walkway currently connects the city with the Sanctuary of the Madonna. These stairs were designed and built by Francesco Muttoni on March 7, 1746. The total length of the stairs is around 700 meters, consisting of 150 arches, grouped in tens. Each group is divided to symbolize the 15 mysteries and the 150 Hail Marys in the rosary.

If your are a truly believer you shoud do them on your knees! Whatever you are asking for—I’m sure—it will be granted!

It is not an exhausting walk up (if on your feet, not knees 🙂 ), once up, the first sight will be the Church of St. Mary of Mount Berico (Italian: Basilica di S. Maria di Monte Berico) is a Roman Catholic and minor basilica in Vicenza. The church is a Marian shrine, and stands at the top of a hill which overlooks the city.

The Basilica

According to the legend, the Virgin Mary appeared on the hill twice to a peasant worker named Vincenza Pasini; the first time occurred on March 7, 1426, the second on August 1, 1428. At this time in the Veneto, the people and economy had been suffering from a terrible plague for years. The Madonna promised that if the people of Vicenza built a church on the top of the hill she would rid them of the plague. 

Wouldn’t you think that the Virgin Mary would have been even more successful if she had coose to appear to a [let’s say] mason rather than a poor peasant worker, but such is the legend….! The people anyway kept their promise and the church was built.

Although between 1628 and 1629 the plague hit again the population of northern Italy;  Moreover, since 1628, with the death of Vincenzo II Gonzaga, the succession war of Mantua and of the Monferrato began, which saw the displacement of troops across the Alps, coming from infected areas dedicated to looting and violence; their passage accelerated the spread of the pestilence. 

The church is very Baroque and surely worth a visit, it is set just in front of the large Piazzale della Vittoria (Victory Square), which provides pleanty of free parking!

Piazzale della Vittoria

Piazzale della Vittoria is the square in front of the basilica which was dedicated September 23, 1924. It lies at the front of the northern facade and show a full view of the city of Vicenza. A vast circular cement railing circles around this large open balcony, which looks out over the city.

On the top of the railings there are markers that point out the well-known cities and panoramic views. One of the best known views is Monte Grappa. Some other sites that can be viewed are the foothills of the Alps (Dolomites), along with the Lessini hills, Venetian Lagoon, Mount Pasubio, Piave River, and many other sites in the Veneto.

Eating

While there if you worked up an appetite please visit the  Ristorante Sette Santi—located on the left side of the big “piazzale”–which if the weather permits, a lunch “al fresco,” would be really nice. 

From there, after admiring the panorama, one can walk still up hill the see all the villas and beautiful residences. By car instead it is possible to drive to Arcugnano, the next small town, and still admiring the panorama and enjoying refreshing temperatures.

Not too far from the “scalette” walkway, on the left there is a small pathway leading to Villa Valmarana ai Nani [the Villa of the Dwarfs]  and Villa Capra La Rotonda.

Related Story

Vicenza Needs More Than a Day

 

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