What to see in Vicenza

What to see in Vicenza in one day

Today’s idea is to take you for a walk in the capital of the province: Vicenza. When you think of Veneto you immediately imagine it Venezia followed by Verona and Padua. Vicenza, together with Treviso, remains a bit on the sidelines. Not to mention Belluno and Rovigo which not even we Venetians often remember to mention.

Vicenza is a city that I carry in my heart because I spent my high school years there and because I grew up among its streets and learned to love the world. Vicenza has the advantage of not being an immense city and its historic center is full of things that will win you over.

Basilica of Monte Berico

To fully appreciate Vicenza, I invite you to start your visit from above. You don’t have to rent a helicopter or plane or even climb a mountain. To enjoy a view equal to the one shown here in the photo, simply reach the square in front of the Basilica of Monte Berico. Like many buildings you will find around the city, the Basilica is the (late) work of Andrea Palladio, who lived right in the center of Vicenza. His house is now almost a ruin and is abandoned but a plaque commemorates the architect who, perhaps much more than others, made my home province famous. The view from the square is magnificent and, on a beautiful clear day, you will also admire the mountains of the Asiago plateau. You will not be able to get confused when observing the Palladian Basilicawith its copper roof in the shape of an overturned ship.

Be careful: it is not a church. It is a basilica in the ancient Roman sense of the term: a public place for citizen assemblies. Starting right from Mount Berico I invite you to go down the porticoed street which will take you almost to the centre.

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The Historic Center

There are two starting points for seeing the city center at its best: Palazzo Chiericati o Piazza Castello. We now start from the latter. The square and the tower you will see are what remains of a fourteenth-century Vicenza. In fact, the city is as if it were playing hide and seek with the various eras that made it up.

The fourteenth century is represented by the castle door, through which you will find yourself in Palladio Course. This street is the total center of city life and “struscio”. However, it is not a place made up of only shops: there are ancient buildings that recall the flowery Gothic style typical of the Serenissima domination. There are Renaissance facades and those from the 18th century. At every meter you will find a different building, capable of telling you about a different Vicenza. Halfway along the street you will find a small street on the right, near the Palazzo del Comune.

A few steps later you will be in Piazza dei Signori in front of that Basilica with the inverted nave roof that I told you about before. It’s not always open but if it is, come in and admire it. Look at it carefully even from the outside because Mr. Andrea Palladio was one of the first to use “repeating modules” in the Renaissance, creating a rhythm and a sort of dialogue between the constituent elements of a construction.

At the bottom of the square you will find two columns: never pass between the columns of the Very serene! In all the Venetian cities you will hear this legend. Wherever there are the columns of the Serenissima, you must pass on the sides and never in the middle and this is because, at the time of the Republic of Venice, the bodies of those condemned to death were hung between those two columns. When in doubt, better not to push your luck!

The Olympic Theatre

A few steps after the columns, the road will take you to the left; Follow it and return to Corso Palladio and continue. From there you will soon arrive near Palazzo Chiericati, the city’s art gallery and another magnificent masterpiece by Mr. Palladio: the Olympic Theatre.

This is not just a theater. It is the modern transposition of classical theatre. It is the very idea that the Renaissance brings with it and Palladio was able to translate it into bricks, walls and steps. The theater is open to the public (for a fee) and is worth a visit especially for what the stage will show you.

The scenography that eternally reigns on stage is none other than the original scenography designed by Andrea Palladio for the first performance of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. The scene is a perfect example of Renaissance perspective study and represents the seven streets of Thebes, in which the Greek tragedy is set. Even if you don’t like classical theater or architecture, the Olympic Theater is an experience that must be had to touch human genius first-hand.

Palladio everyone copies it and we have it here! Would the White House in Washington or the US Congress be like this if Andrea Palladio had not existed? Probably not. Vicenza is truly a silent city, a sort of sleeping beauty capable of surprising and bewitching. And that’s why I like telling it.

San Michele Bridge

When you have finished with the Theater there are many possibilities and I will point you to one. Go back towards Piazza dei Signori. Nearby there is a small street that will take you to San Michele Bridge. It is here that the Veneto that everyone thinks of shows itself and makes itself seen. It is here that you can recognize the imprint of Venetian domination and that world made of water that is found in every large Venetian city and which is often forgotten.

Vicenza is full of canals that were once navigable and led directly to the Serenissima. Part of this past is visible in Ponte San Michele which, in my personal opinion, remains one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the centre.

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